Teaching Matters

Reflective practice

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Teaching Matters 2017 | Presentation Details | 28 NovemberNov 2017


Reflective practice: key to enhancing online learning and dementia care practice for students at Foundation level in the Bachelor of Dementia Care


Sunny Jang, Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre
Hoang Nguyen, Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre


Curriculum Design for Degrees of Difference

Presentation Type

Showcase Presentation


Social Sciences 210




The Bachelor of Dementia Care (BDC) at the University of Tasmania is a fully online course designed to develop specialised knowledge and skills to improve the quality of life for people with dementia. CAD001 Learning Online in Health Studies is a Foundation unit that equips students with fundamental technology and academic skills to prepare them for their degree studies. At the start of Semesters 1 and 2 in 2017, students enrolled in CAD001 were invited to complete a survey about their backgrounds and aspirations to inform us of how to ensure the program addresses students’ learning needs and expectations. According to the findings of the survey, most students enrolled in CAD001 are non-traditional learners who are mature-aged, new to online or university study, working full or part-time, and have experience of, or are currently involved in, working with or caring for someone with dementia. The findings help to explain the high attrition rates among foundation students in the BDC as they tend to face significant challenges, especially being exposed to a new learning environment. For these beginning BDC students categorised as at-risk adult learners, reflection upon their own learning experiences is recognised as potentially beneficial for both their ongoing study and care practice (Rogan & Wyllie, 2003; Grellier, Fisher & McKay, 2008; Bogo et al. 2016).

In CAD001, reflective practice is incorporated into the whole process of experientially-based learning in an online learning context. Specifically, Gibbs’ reflective model (Gibbs, 1988) is chosen as a learning tool for students to reflect in a more structured manner, and also used as a teaching approach to systematic, structured feedback which prompts further development of students’ reflective practice (Quinton & Smallbone, 2010). In preparation for the reflective essay on their professional practice in dementia care, a reflection exercise is designed for students to experiment with reflecting on their learning experiences as a new student to online learning, as opposed to the traditional face-to-face classroom. Students are given prompts derived from Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle to facilitate their reflection process. The whole reflection exercise helps them engage in online discussions and learning processes from the beginning of a semester; and familiarises themselves with the Gibbs’ reflective model to be well prepared for the reflective essay assessment task. Using the online discussion forum as a social learning space also allows students to receive timely feedback from their teacher and peers on discussion posts (Saltz, Hiltz, Turoff & Passerini, 2007). The teaching and learning materials together with the reflection exercise, aligned with intended learning outcomes, supports the universal design for the learning framework that acknowledges individual learning speeds and accessibilities (Rose & Meyer, 2002).

In CAD001, reflective practice has been proven to be a good practice for students, the instructor and course designer. Online courses are increasing rapidly to create more opportunities for adult learners to extend their education. It is expected that more and more matured-aged people will be able to join online university courses with their unique learning needs and experiences. Therefore, it is crucial to design a course where real-life experiences are used as a basis for new learning. This will ensure that students can engage in deep, active, and authentic learning, which can be beneficial personally, academically, and professionally.


Bogo, M., Lee, B., McKee, E., Baird, S. L., & Ramjattan, R. (2016). Field instructors’ perceptions of foundation year students’ readiness to engage in field education. Social Work Education, 35(2), 204-214. doi:10.1080/02615479.2015.1123689

Grellier, J., Fisher, D., & McKay, J. (2008, January). Encouraging a reflective approach to learning as a means of strengthening academic and work place learning. Teaching and Learning Forum, Paper presented at the 17th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Perth: Curtin University of Technology. Retrieved from http://otl.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2008/contents-all.html

Rogan, F., & Wyllie, A. (2003). Engaging undergraduate nursing students in the care of elderly residents in Australian nursing homes. Nurse Education Practice, 3(2), 95-103.

Gibbs. G. (1988). Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods, London, UK: Oxford Further Education Unit.

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