Improved levels of critical reflection in Pharmacy Technician student work-placement assessments through emphasising graduate attributes

Julie Dunne


This study investigated the effect of activities to promote awareness of specific prioritised graduate attributes on the quality of reflection displayed in work-placement reflective blog assessments for Pharmacy-technician students. Previous related research showed an increased tendency to frame placement experiences in terms of graduate attributes when they are made more explicit in the curriculum. Now, a thematic analysis of reflective writing from control and research groups, using a priori codes of ‘reflection’ and ‘graduate attributes’ explored the impact on the depth of critical reflection, and its relationship to explicit discussion of graduate attributes. The findings show an improvement in the quality of reflection, with significantly higher levels of critical reflection in the research group (37%), compared to the control group (20%), and lower levels of the non-reflective categories of thinking such as thoughtful action. Furthermore, in 62% of research group cases, there is overlap between critical reflection references and explicit graduate attributes references. Overall, the quality of reflective writing has improved through framing experiences in terms both of graduate attributes, as well as core theoretical knowledge, leading to increased focus on personal development and consequences for future action.


Graduate attributes, Work-placement, Reflective assessment, Thematic analysis, Critical reflection.

Full Text:



Baldwin, M. (2012). Participatory action research. London: SAGE.

Bell, A., Kelton, J., McDonagh, N., Mladenovic, R., & Morrison, K. (2010). A critical evaluation of the usefulness of a coding scheme to categorise levels of reflective thinking. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(7), 797-815. doi:10.1080/02602938.2010.488795

Boud, D. J., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (1985). Reflection: Turning Experience Into Learning: Kogan Page.

Chretien, K., Goldman, E., & Faselis, C. (2008). The reflective writing class blog: using technology to promote reflection and professional development. J Gen Intern Med, 23(12), 2066-2070. doi:10.1007/s11606-008-0796-5

DIT. (2014). DIT Graduate Attributes. Retrieved from

Dunne, J. (2017). Work placement reflective assessments and employability enhanced through highlighting graduate attributes. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability.

Dunne, J., & Ryan, S. M. (2016). Enhancing Professional Development and Supporting Students on Work-Placement by Peer-Peer Learning Using an Online Reflective Blog Assessment. Irish Journal of Academic Practice, 5(1), 1-25.

European-Commission. (2009a). Bologna Process information site. Retrieved from

European-Commission. (2009b). ECTS Users Guide. Retrieved from doi:10.2766/88064

Hillage, J., & Pollard, E. (1998). Employability: developing a framework for policy analysis. Retrieved from London:

Hughes, C., & Barrie, S. C. (2010). Influences on the assessment of graduate attributes in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35, 325-334.

King, N. (2014). Template Analysis. Retrieved from

Kori, K., Pedaste, M., Leijen, A., & Mäeots, M. (2014). Supporting reflection in technology-enhanced learning. Educational Research Review, 11, 45-55.

Nicol, D. (2010). The foundation for Graduate Attributes: developing self-regulation through self and peer assessment. Retrieved from Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education:

Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (2008). The Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice (2 ed.). London: Sage.

Ryan, M. (2011). Conceptualising and teaching discursive and performative reflection in higher education. Studies in Continuing Education, 34(2), 207-223. doi:10.1080/0158037X.2011.611799

Sin, S., & McGuigan, N. (2013). Fit for Purpose: A Framework for Developing and Assessing Complex Graduate Attributes in a Changing Higher Education Environment. Accounting Education, 22(6), 522-543. doi:10.1080/09639284.2013.847320

Smith, K., Clegg, S., Lawrence, E., & Todd, M. J. (2007). The challenges of reflection: students learning from work placements. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 44(2), 131-141.

Stracke, E., & Kumar, V. (2014). Realising graduate attributes in the research degree: the role of peer support groups. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(6), 616-629. doi:10.1080/13562517.2014.901955

Treleaven, L., & Voola, R. (2008). Integrating the development of graduate attributes through constructive alignment. Journal of Marketing Education, 30(2), 160-173.

Wallman, A., Kettis Lindblad, A., Hall, S., Lundmark, A., & Ring, L. (2008). A Categorization Scheme for Assessing Pharmacy Students’ Levels of Reflection During Internships. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 72(1), Article 05.

Wong, F. K. Y., Kember, D., Chung, L. Y. F., & Yan, L. (1995). Assessing the level of student reflection from reflective journals. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 22(1), 48-57. doi:10.1111/1365-2648.ep8542692



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License | ISSN 1838-3815