To encourage students to reflect on the learning material and connect it to their own experience


  Title of testing project:  The course on:  Social work and the System theory.

Name educator:  Lina Sumskaite

Name partner organisation: Vilnius University


Description of the course:

The course title is “Social work and the System theory”. The aim of the course is to introduce students with the System theory and its use in social work. Students should learn to solve social problems using systemic approach. The lectures of the course were given by assoc. prof. Birute Svedaite-Sakalauske, and I was leading seminars of the course.

Aim of testing project:

The focus of the testing project was to enhance students’ reflecting capacities by creating a reflective atmosphere. Students had to learn system theory not only theoretically but also to deepen their understanding of the theory use in the daily life and future professional life. Students had to enter seminars compulsory. If they skipped some seminars, they had to answer questions in a written form and send by e-mail. One article on reflection and social work was given during last seminar. Students had to read it during seminar and discuss.


Date(s) of the testing project: ___7 September – 14 December 2015_

Target group:_students of social work, 3rd year of bachelor studies_              

Number of participants:_37, splited in two groups of 19 and 18 students , attending seminars every second week_____

Nationality of the participants:_ Lithuanian, German (1 student)_________

Sex of the participants: females­­­­­­­­­­__32____  man­­­__5____

Age of the participants:__21__ to__25____

Amount of meetings with the learners:_7 seminars with each group _____

A Number of people reflecting:   Solo (1 person) Small group

(< 20 people)


 Large group

(> 20 people)


B The way(s) of sharing:


Discussing articles on system theory and discussing them during seminars.
Non-verbal:   Pictures /


Drawing a family diagram of learners own family


reading at home and some in the class


One game on getting new identity and stepping forward, if they could  positively  answer to questions.



 Other forms of expression


Digital:   Padlet


  Social media   Digital diary


C Place of reflection (where)  Indoors

at classroom

  Outdoors   On-line


D. Steps taken to implement

How did you organize your testing project (or to put it differently: as this is a testing project for experimenting, what will be different comparing to the same course you run the previous time)?

This course was a new one for me. I had seminars with the same students’ group in previous years on other course and I noticed that these students need to be encouraged to express their opinion about learning material. I organized more discussions in small groups of 2-4 students before asking their personal views and understanding in a bigger group.

The students had to read 3 articles on meaning, system theory and social work written by Harald Wagner, professor of Dresden University. They were written in Lithuanian. Students had to draw a family diagram of 3 generations of their own family and to bring it to seminar. During seminar they had to discuss one or two selected family diagrams in small groups of 4-5 students, what they got to know about their family, what repeating life patterns they notice etc.

I also tried introductory and closing questions about their feelings before and after seminars such as: telling, with what color or temperature they could describe their mood before seminar and after. Seminars were on Mondays at 9 o’clock in the morning, so it was a good method to start a week. My aim was to create a reflective atmosphere in the classroom.

Before each seminar I prepared questions about the material they red and their daily experience. At the end of semester I found an article about reflection and social work, written by assoc. prof. Birute Svedaite – Sakalauske, who had lectures for students and I gave them her article to read, even she hadn’t given it on previous years, when she led seminars by herself.

E. Your assessment of the outcome

In general, how do you look at the results of your testing project?

I think, I succeeded to encourage students to reflect on the learning material and connect it to their own experience. The readings were about meaning of life and the role of social work. Students wrote in their feedback sheets that small groups work was succesfull, it incouraged to deepen the understanding of the reading material. Creating their family diagrams and discussing them during seminars was the most interesting exercise for students. They got to know their own family stories and heard about other students families more. It was interesting for them to get to know more about their classmates. Body movement exersice was  remembered of  most of the students. Most of the students wrote that seminars were interesting.

F  Connecting with principles: which principle(s) were you taking into consideration mostly when facilitating reflection with learners? Please add 2 sentences about how you were translating the principle into practice. For more information: see postings on principles.



Raising awareness within learners to ‘own’ their learning in personally meaningful way

Splitting group in small groups of 2-4 students. I asked questions from their own experience. For example, what conversations they found meaningful, have they experienced crises in their life, what phases they recognize from the article in their experience.


Developing a relationship between educator and learners based on trust, openness, empathy, honesty, dialogue and feedback

Introducing questions at the beginning of seminars such as: “what color or what temperature would describe your mood this morning”, and summarizing questions at the end of seminar such as “please say one thing, which you take out from the seminar” or “how you would describe your mood after seminar”.

Sharing my own experience on some questions. For example, students asked, what conversations I find meaningful. I tried to explain, how my understanding has changed with my experience and meeting new people. If students had less what to say on the topic, I tried to give examples from my knowing and experience.

The exercise to gather demographic and relationships information about family members and sharing it with classmates deepened empathy feelings of students to each other. I haven’t evaluated the family diagrams and haven’t gathered and analyzed them, so they felt free to share so much private information as they felt safe to share with each other . Students were encouraged to ask each other in a sensitive manner, to keep in mind that some information about family can be painful. After discussions in small groups, there was a discussion, how it would be to be in a client position and to be asked personal questions about family. We talked also, how it was to gather the information about their own family and how it changed their perception of their family.


Co-creating the reflective process



Managing the steering paradox of intrinsic learning processes



Creating the right reflective attention of learners



Slowing down and value moments of not-knowing,

Not rushing to begin reflecting group discussions. When I saw that students still discuss in the small groups I added some time by saying that the time is going to the end, but still 5-10 minutes they have. I waited for answers a little bit longe than usual. I asked which group wants to start. I let students to comment or aske quesions first, and I asked questiosn afterwards.

Sharing not knowing moments. Some concepts from articles such as “contingency” I couldn’t explain in the seminar and I answered that I have to search for the description later. I asked also if my explanation was clear enough and if not I admitted that I have to clear the concept for myself. I had to admit that I’m studying too. As this course was new for me, I entered lectures and was sitting with students during lectures together.


Deepening your questions progressively



Recalling that reflection can never be imposed, only kindly invited.



Always considering reflection as a broad and deepening process, that should be holistic.



Being careful how to asses reflection (or not at all)

During these seminars I had to assure that everybody would read articles and participate in seminars. Those who skipped seminars, had to read articles anyway and to answer questions in a written form and send by e-mail, but there were no evaluating points  for seminars.  Students were evaluated by lecture only during exam.