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How reflective is the academic essay?

Maclellan, Effie (2004) How reflective is the academic essay? Studies in Higher Education, 29 (1). pp. 75-89. ISSN 0307-5079

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the extent of reflection in academic essays. Forty essays, all previously deemed to be of merit quality, were analysed in terms of three elements of reflection - how the educational issue is conceptualized; what the issue means for practice; how practice might be changed to resolve the problematic. Each element was then assigned one of four levels of reflection - technical, descriptive, dialogical and critical. The main finding was that most of the elements were either at a descriptive level of reflection (which the literature argues is not difficult to achieve) or at a dialogical level (which recognizes that knowledge is not certain but does not tease out the relative merits of differing views). These different levels of reflection are seen as adevelopmental stages (from naïve to sophisticated) in gaining control over the process of co-ordinating extant understanding and new evidence