Supporting reflective learning with online tools

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingsScientificpeer-review


Reflection in education means that the students are encouraged to become consciously aware of their actions during their studies in order to develop their self-knowledge and deepen their learning. There seems to be consensus on the importance of reflection in higher education. Reflective learning should become an integral part of one’s behaviour, motivated by the learner’s own interest. Whether the method is reflective writing or discussion, it requires a lot of resources and may become laborious for the teacher. Learning diaries need to be read, and students expect individual feedback.
In this paper results and experiences using different ways to support reflection in two courses at two technical schools of Aalto University are presented. We will explore, first, how to support students' reflective learning in a time-saving way, and second, ways of using self and peer assessment and "digitalized learning diaries" such as web questionnaires. In the first course students wrote three learning diaries. To decrease the work load of the teachers, student peer-assessment has been used for assessment and feedback of the learning diaries. We conducted a survey to evaluate how students see the suitability and value of peer- and self-assessment, as well as other experiments aimed at facilitating reflective thinking such as web tools (surveys, questionnaires). In the second course it was tested if reflection could be invoked using a series of prompting questions in a form of a questionnaire. A total of three questionnaires were carried out during the course. Also the students' view to reflection was asked.
Based on the surveys it can be said that structured learning diaries or questionnaires cannot replace the reflective writing in higher education but they can provide variation in the set of tools to support reflective thinking. The usefulness of questionnaires and questionnaire-type learning diaries is highly dependent on students’ own attitude to reflection.
Using the web-based tools, the teacher can choose whether to use only questionnaires, structured learning diaries, free-format learning diaries, or any combination of these, depending on the requirements of the course or a single particular task. This study shows that there is need for such flexibility.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Conference SEFI 2016
Subtitle of host publicationEngineering Education on Top of the World: Industry University Cooperation
PublisherSociété européenne pour la formation des ingénieurs
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9782873520144
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA4 Conference publication
EventAnnual Conference of the European Society for Engineering Education - Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland
Duration: 12 Sept 201615 Sept 2016
Conference number: 44


ConferenceAnnual Conference of the European Society for Engineering Education
Abbreviated titleSEFI
Internet address


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