Teamwork Feedback via Reflective Journals

Photo of a journal opened to a blank page with a pencil resting on top.

by Kristen Mosley

“A critical reflection process that generates, deepens, and documents learning does not occur automatically – rather, it must be carefully and intentionally designed.”1

Rounding out the recent series on peer feedback, today’s topic will shift to our final iteration: peer feedback for self and teammates via reflective journaling. As previously discussed, student feedback is a critical aspect of students’ growth trajectories and is composed of the ability to accept, reflect on, and act upon input received. One way that feedback can be particularly helpful in course construction is by incorporating this process within student teamwork assignments.

In a study of 173 undergraduates, Hoo and colleagues2 examined how the use of ongoing, reflective journaling might help students negotiate self- and peer-provided feedback while working in teams. Students in the study were tasked with journaling at three time points during their teamwork module. Each journal entry was completed within one week of providing and receiving teammate feedback (via rating scales and open-ended comments), and student journals were graded for completion rather than content. In this way, students were encouraged to remain honest and open in their reflections and freely discuss ways in which they may have failed or could improve upon prior performance.

The impetus for this study was the reality that while knowledge of teamwork competencies (e.g., conflict management, collaborative problem-solving, communication, goal setting and performance management, and planning and task coordination) is certainly powerful information for students to acquire, the application and reflection of such competencies poses a much different, and arguably greater, learning opportunity. Key results include:

1. Over time, students’ self- and peer-evaluated teamwork competency scores increased significantly, reflecting measurable growth after reflective journaling on feedback.

2. The correlations between students’ self- and peer-evaluations also significantly increased in strength over time, suggesting the feedback and reflective journaling processes strengthened students’ feedback abilities such that their own and others’ evaluations more closely aligned.

3. Despite cluster analysis revealing two distinct groups of students at the first time point (students with significantly high vs. low competency rankings), both groups demonstrated teamwork competency improvement over time with reflective journaling.

4. However, students’ journal entries between the two groups reflected qualitatively different entries. Whereas students who were ranked higher in teamwork competencies consistently recorded positive affect, greater awareness of performance in teamwork, and explicit goal setting, the journals of students who ranked lower in teamwork competencies were characterized by less positive affect, decreased awareness of teamwork performance, and minimal mention of goal intentions.2

Reflection supports students in distilling “rational knowledge from the mess of human experience.”3 The latest posts on feedback in the classroom have illustrated how this tool can be a viable means of supporting students. We hope you’ll consider one of the many ways you can incorporate feedback in your course, and, as always, we’re here to collaborate and support any instructional adjustments you’d like to make.

1. Ash, S. L. & Clayton, P. H. (2009). Generating, deepening, and documenting learning: The power of critical reflection in applied learning. Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education, 1(1), 25-48.

2. Hoo, H.-T., Tan, K., & Deneen, C. (2020). Negotiating self- and peer-feedback with the use of reflective journals: An analysis of undergraduates’ engagement with feedback. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 45(3), 431-446.

3. Jordi, R. (2011). Reframing the concept of reflection: Consciousness, experiential learning, and reflective learning practices. Adult Education Quarterly, 61(2), 181-197.

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