BACKGROUND: A variety of teaching and learning techniques intended to engage students in reflection are either in use or are being developed in medical and dental education. In line with evidence-based practice in education, research is needed to appraise the utility and effectiveness of these techniques, so that they may be used with confidence.
AIM: To assess whether students completing a 'reflective' learning activity based on a structured worksheet really were reflecting.
METHOD: A qualitative, multi-method approach was taken. Worksheets completed by students were examined for evidence of reflection by researchers using two sets of criteria for the assessment of reflection derived from the literature, and by peer judges using their own criteria. The opinions of students completing the activity, regarding its acceptability and utility, were elicited by a questionnaire incorporating a 5-point Likert scale.
RESULTS: Results from all methods suggest that students completing the activity were reflecting. Students' opinions of the activity were mainly positive.
CONCLUSION: The methods employed may be of use to educators wishing to appraise reflective learning activities or, possibly, to assess student reflection.
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