Portfolio education encourages us to make sense of what we are learning and to put our learning within the context of where we are now and where we want to be. One of the ways to achieve this is through a learning narrative.
While you are developing your portfolio, you will hear your teachers and classmates talk about reflective narratives. The Student Guide refers to "reflective learning". This may sound strange, even scary and many people have difficulty starting the process. However, just like any new skill you learn the more practice you get the easier it becomes. In this case, it may not be as strange or scary as you think.
What is reflection?
A reflective narrative is a thought, idea or opinion formed as a result of your thinking about yourself. Reflective learning often happens as a result of answering the question "Why?" For example, someone asks you "What do you want to be?" You reply "A welder!" The same person asks: "Why do you want to be a welder?" You reply…
Just think about looking in a mirror. You know that when you look in the mirror you see your reflection. This is a picture of your external self or your physical being. Through reflective narratives, your mirror is a little different – it is your internal self. You are using your mind or your thoughts to learn more about yourself as a person. For example, why you do the things you do, what makes you happy or sad, how do you learn new skills, what causes you problems in learning new skills, and so on.
Remember only a small part of your learning occurs in the classroom. You gain knowledge and new skills on the basketball team, working at a fast food outlet, baby-sitting, etc. These skills make up the picture of who you are, and are transferable to other settings.
How do I start?
The best way to start is to start small and to start with things that you are most comfortable with. For example, take a moment to think about the following:
1. Why did you choose to take a particular program at NSCC?
2. What knowledge, skills and abilities do you bring with you to NSCC?
3. What do you hope to do after you graduate from NSCC?
4. Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Now, once you have thought about these questions, you can:
• jot down your thoughts on a piece of paper;
• tell someone else;
• record your key points on a cassette tape; or
• even draw a picture.
Congratulations! You have just gone through the reflective process.
If you get in the habit of thinking about all that you have learned and how that learning connects, it will become much easier to put your thoughts on paper. Ask yourself these questions:
1. What did I learn today?
2. What mistakes did I make?
3. How did I correct my mistakes?
4. What topic did I find most difficult to understand and why?
5. What topic did I find easiest to understand and why?
6. How did I work with my other classmates?
7. How does this connect with your past experience?
8. Any other questions you may have.
Or you might draw a picture of something you worked on today. Use a few words to describe the experience.
These are all examples of how you can reflect and learn more about yourself. This is the beginning of an incredible journey. It is a part of what we call "portfolio learning". (MacLean, n.d., pp. 1-3)
For examples of learning narratives, click on Learning Narratives and scroll down to page 4)