Learning how to reflect on your experiences and developing a habit of doing so, can have a profound impact on your learning. This page will explain what reflection is and how to approach it.
Self-reflection and reflective practice is not just used in academia, but in many areas of working life. A good example is in the military who routinely conduct after-action reviews (AARs). Here there are four key questions: what did we set out to do, what actually happened, why did it happen and what will we do next time.
The reflective cycle below is very similar but provides additional prompts to encourage deeper reflection.
Below are suggestions to think about for each of the six stages. It is useful to consider each of these in turn: what happened, what were you thinking and feeling, what was good and bad about the experience, what sense can you make of the situation, what else could you have done, and if it rose again what would you do.
Download the ‘six stages of reflection’ template HERE
Capturing ongoing self-reflections
It is a typical mistake of many that reflection can be something you simply think about without the need to write it down. Unfortunately whilst the process of thinking is clearly valuable our brains cannot hold these feelings for prolonged periods. It is therefore most beneficial if a Log and/or Diary is kept.
Log – written during the experience
Diary – written after the experience
capture – analyse – draw conclusions – create action plan
There are two approaches to reflection:
- reflection ‘in’ action – thinking while doing.
- reflection ‘on’ action – after the event thinking.
For both it is helpful to capture reflective thoughts as soon as possible. You may be happy doing this in a notebook, however as you explore the Project Based Learning Toolkit, you may find other tools you can use.
Critical self-reflection is the ‘assessment of the way one has posed problems and of one’s own meaning perspectives’ (Mezirow and Associates, 1990:xvi).
Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods.
Mezirow and Associates (1990) Fostering Critical Reflection: A Guide to Transformaive and Emancipatory Learning. San Franscico: Jossey-Bass.
Schon, D. A. (1991) The Reflective Practitioner How Professionals Think in Action. Aldershot: Avebury.