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Traces of self: online reflective practices and performances in higher education

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    Rights statement: This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article submitted for consideration in Teaching in Higher Education. Copyright Taylor & Francis; Teaching in Higher Education is available online at http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/13562517.2011.530753 Ross, J. (2011). Traces of self: online reflective practices and performances in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(1), 113-126

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-126
Number of pages14
JournalTeaching in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


This paper explores issues emerging from the question of how students and teachers negotiate issues of identity, authenticity, ownership, privacy and performativity in high-stakes online reflection in higher education. I examine in particular the notion of traces as both inscriptions and archives. Working online amplifies the destabilising and disturbing effects of compulsory reflection, and the combination greatly complicates the humanist notions that legitimise their use: that there is a 'true self' which can be revealed, understood, recorded, improved or liberated through the process of writing about thoughts and experiences. Online reflective practices are implemented without acknowledgement of the difference being online makes, and issues of power in high-stakes reflection are disguised or ignored. These practices normalise surveillance of students' emotional and developmental expression, and produce rituals of confession and compliance.

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