Diffracting Reflection: A Move beyond Reflective Practice

Veronica Ann Mitchell


Reflective practice has become a core component in higher education studies. In the health sciences, reflective tasks are required throughout the undergraduate programmes, yet many students struggle to find value in these tasks for their present and future professional practice. Benefits that can be derived from the process are undermined by this lack of motivation for reflective engagement. Concern around the static, contained, individualist nature of reflections that often face judgement through assessment can be addressed by opening up the process to generate new potentials. In this paper, I draw on new materialism and the Baradian (2007) philosophy of diffraction to move beyond the reflective practices of representation and sameness by affirmatively working with/through differences. I refer to data collected in an ethics approved research study at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, to explain a context of unjust practices in which students learn. I demonstrate how students’ reflective texts shared online on the Google Drive platform can be productive and transformative material forces that enact new knowledge, valued by students. The apparatus of text-students-events is put to work creating new possibilities to enable a socially just pedagogy in medical education. 


reflection; socially just pedagogy; diffraction; Barad; new materialism; affect; medical education; obstetrics

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