An Investigation into the Contents and Aspects of College Students’ Reflective thoughts during Field Experience Description of concrete experiences

Jul. 01, 2015

Source: Innovations in Education and Teaching International, Vol. 52, No. 3, 322–334, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, the researchers designed and implemented a field experience course based on an experiential teaching method (Boud, Cohen, & Walker, 1993). In addition, the study investigated college students’ reflective thoughts and learning aspects.


The participants were 13 students in a child-and-family-related majorsin Taiwan, who participated in a college field experience course.
The data of this study were collected from three sources:
(1) a learning profile questionnaire completed by students at the beginning of the course that identified the individual background, learning status and learning expectation of each participant, (2) the six reflection reports and the two group reports produced by each of the 13 students during the semester for a total of 78 individual reports and 26 group reports, and
(3) a 60-min semi-structured interview conducted with each participant at the end of the training course.

Findings and discussion

Based on the learning profile questionnaires, the researcher discovered that the preferred learning methods of the participants were generally passive. Students chose institution visits and experiences most often, while personal reflection and discussion were least favoured.
Description of concrete experiences
Students’ reflections on experiences contained descriptions of the features of institutions, skills and attitudes of relevant professions. Such finding demonstrated that field experience can help students understand and describe professional organisations .

Reflective observation
In addition to descriptions of concrete experience acquired during the course, the students also observed the process of self-construction and personal growth . The students could utilise previous experiences to tackle contextual problems when faced with a new experience. They did so in the following four ways:
(1) Understanding the diversity of future paths: Students discovered that prior to this course, their ideas about future careers were either absent or ill-formed. Nevertheless, they were able to identify a diverse array of possible future careers during reflection.

(2) Discovering the change in personal understandings of professions: Students realised that their understanding of work has changed, including both the nature of work and various work environments.

(3) Discovering previously unnoticed work attitudes: Students were previously unaware of some of these attitudes, such as knowing one’s and others’ personal pasts, continuously seeking knowledge and developing a distinct attitude toward one’s first job.

(4) Observing factors that promote good teamwork: The students observed the challenges posed by teamwork and also reflected on their understandings toward each other.

Abstract conceptualization
The findings demonstrated that learners are able to acquire reflective learning by providing proper guidance. This ability to form new concepts is seen in the following ways:

(1) Stronger sense of future career paths: Students reflected on and explained their choices of potential future employment.

(2) The introduction of the 4F model shaped students’ perspectives: The descriptions of the reality, emotional reaction, discovery and implication in students’ reflective work led them to develop an awareness of different perspectives. During reflection, students moved beyond simple description of experience or narration of sensation. This also suggested that teachers could leverage students’ initial behaviour to promote their interest of and learning through reflection.

(3) What is ‘seen’ does not necessarily ‘come to mind’: Students became aware that sharing by different groups could introduce new perspectives of which they were previously unaware. Students also discovered that different people could hold different feelings and engage in different learning experiences even within the same context.

Active experimentation
This study elucidated two themes of students’ activities that resulted from the learning experiences build into the training course. It also indicated that the students could meet challenges in their reflection or some concepts might not be immediately developed into action.

The students did not lack the ability to reflectively evaluate experience seen as reflective challenges in previous studies, but rather lacked the ability to plan activities that were closely related to ‘abstract conceptualisation’ and to conduct post-experiment. The plans that students formed from two concepts, ‘stronger sense of future career paths’ and ‘what is seen does not necessarily come to mind’, were as the following two. However, the researcher found that these plans were not connected to the concept ‘The 4F model shaped students’ perspectives’:

(1) More precise selection of courses: Students discovered the diversity of future paths, changed their understanding toward professional work and formed stronger senses of future paths. They developed a strategy to fulfil their future goals.

(2) Future sharing of more accurate institutional internal information with juniors: Students reflected that learning was acquired from the different views shared by the groups and different sharing methods.


This study suggested that the concepts established through the experiences do not necessarily develop immediately into active experimentation.
These results also presented the challenges faced by students during the process of reflection. Because students’ contents of reflective thoughts were relatively lacking in the aspect of active experimentation, the current study recommended that for future design, educators could focus on how to provide learning experiences that bridge reflection to action for students.
Finally, in this study, these students were more expressive in each group and were seen as information-rich participants.


Boud, D., Cohen, R., & Walker, D. (1993). Understanding learning from experience. In D. Boud, R. Cohe, & D. Walker (Eds.), Using experience for learning (pp. 1–17). Buckingham: SRHE & Open University Press.

Updated: Feb. 01, 2017