When students are asked to write an account reflecting on a work placement or internship, they have the opportunity to consider their period of work experience from a number of perspectives. For example, they could concentrate on the skills they developed or honed during the placement, which aspects of the role they found challenging, how they believe they benefited from the placement experience, the contribution they feel they made to the host organisation, the ways in which they applied learning from their studies to the workplace, and/or how the placement has influenced their thinking about their future career. However, the reality is that assessors are often left lamenting the quality of the reflective accounts produced by students. A common criticism is that students tend to be descriptive rather than analytical, focusing more on documenting the tasks they undertook while on placement, or simply listing skills without providing clear supporting evidence of how they were developed. It seems students often struggle with making links between their placements and other aspects of their studies and personal development. With a view to providing students with guidance and support to enhance their reflective practice and writing skills, a structured approach to compiling a reflective account of a placement or internship experience is underway. This approach concentrates on direction of thinking and on providing guidance on making links between work, study, career plans and so on. An overview of this structured approach is presented in the paper. It is anticipated that it will make an important contribution to helping students make greater sense of their work placement experiences in the wider context of their own development and preparation for graduate employment. The research presented in this paper forms part of a wider study on developing student skills in reflection.
FULFORD, H. and CARGILL, E. 2016. The direction of reflection: helping students make sense of work placements. In Siva-Jothy, D. (ed.) Proceedings of the 23rd ASET annual conference: placement and employability professionals, 6-8 September 2016, York, UK. Sheffield: ASET [online], pages 84-92. Available from: http://www.asetonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2016-ASET-Conference-Proceedings.pdf