By Alvin Nichols,2014-07-06 13:14
7 views 0

    Guide for Busy Academics No. 4

    Learning through reflection

     knowledge. Consciously or unconsciously we 1. Introduction put into the reflection process thoughts, ideas,

     experience, knowledge, theory and we may Personal development planning (PDP) can seek new information. We draw out of it involve different forms of reflection and something that accords with the purpose for reflective learning. Much has been written and which we reflected or new prompts for further said about reflection in recent times, but it reflection. On this basis, a simple definition of remains a somewhat mysterious activity or is reflection might be:

    it a capacity? This guide provides an

    introduction to reflection and reflective learning Reflection is a form of mental processing that in support of the development of PDP within HE. we use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some

     anticipated outcome. It is applied to gain a

     better understanding of relatively complicated 2. What is reflection? or unstructured ideas and is largely based on

     the reprocessing of knowledge, understanding A ‘common-sense’ approach to reflection and possibly emotions that we already possess. suggests that it lies somewhere around the

    notion of learning. We reflect on something in Reflection has a role in:

    order to consider it in more detail eg ‘Let me ; academic and non-academic learning reflect on that for a moment’. Usually we reflect ; self development

    because we have a purpose for reflecting a ; critical review

    goal to reach. Sometimes we find ourselves ; considering our own processes of mental ‘being reflective’ and out of that ‘being reflective’, functioning something ‘pops up’. Then there has been no ; decision-making conscious purpose as such but there is a ; emancipation and empowerment and so on. useful outcome and there may have been a subconscious purpose. It is also apparent that There is a close relationship between reflection we reflect on things that are relatively and emotion or feelings and many would complicated. We do not reflect on a simple suggest that the use of reflection in academic addition sum or the route to the corner shop. contexts provides an appropriate channel for We reflect on things for which there is not an exploration or expression of this human function. obvious or immediate solution. Often the latter Self-awareness and control of emotions is an will be instigated by or associated with a range important factor in academic performance and of feelings and the experience of such reflection PDP provides opportunities for emotional may be emotional or spiritual. The experience engagement with subject learning. may be pleasurable or uncomfortable. 3. Reflection and learning Reflection is not just an ‘add-on-extra’ to Generally reflection is a means of working on academic learning, but it is an essential what we know already and it generates new component of good quality learning and the The Higher Education Academy 1 Guide for Busy Academics No.4 Learning through reflection 28/11/05

    representation of that learning. Reflection students more conscious of it so that it can seems to be a part of the kinds of learning in become an integral part of their approach to which learners try to understand material that learning. There are many vehicles for reflective they encounter and to relate it to what they learning in the curriculum:

    already knew. Relating new material to what

    one knows already may mean reflecting on ; learning journals, logs etc

    what one knows and modifying it (deep ; the use of portfolios

    approach). Reflection does not seem to have a ; reflection on work experiences

    role in the learning in which learners try just to ; reflection on placement experiences retain new information without creating deep beyond the deliberate curriculum links with the new ideas (surface approach). ; in the context of peer and self assessment Reflection will also be involved in the process of ; in the context of careers work, counselling representing learning when, for example, a or student or personal development work. learner’s understanding is tested in a format that demands reprocessing of the ideas (eg an essay). It is less or uninvolved in an approach 5. Reflection as a strategy for student learning that requires reiteration of the responses in the same format as the original knowledge. So There are some things to think about when reflection is a fundamental feature of a deeper asking students to reflect. Some academic approach to learning. colleagues may not understand what place reflective activities have within the curriculum. In addition to being a part of good quality learning, reflection also supports learning by Some students will not understand what you providing the right conditions for learning. For want them to do. They will be unused to being example: asked to process information that is not from a book or given by a lecturer and they may be ; being reflective slows down learning, uneasy about the use of the first person in an because it requires time for a learner to academic context. reprocess ideas. ; it enables learners to feel that they ‘own’ Formalising reflection has other implications their knowledge and understanding that need to be taken into account. When, in the because they have been a part of its context of every-day life, we reflect on creation. something, there is no need to explain the ; ability in reflection often implies ability in subject matter of the reflection. In the formal

    metacognition where the learner is able to situation, some kind of description of the issue /

    consider his/her own learning behaviour, event (etc) will be required and is likely to

    metacognitive ability is associated with become part of the reflective process. The

    effective learning. description is important, but it may also become ; material on which we reflect is relatively a ‘sticking point’ in the activity in that there are

    complicated or unstructured material. It many reports of students who do not seem able,

    challenges learners and when they are without help, to deepen their reflection beyond

    challenged, they gain greater abilities in the descriptive account. A means of

    dealing with difficult material of learning. overcoming this seems to be to introduce

     reflection as a two-part process. Initially

     students are helped to understand what they 4. Reflection and PDP should do in a reflective task. Later, when they

     are at least managing descriptive reflection, Reflective learning will already be incidental in they are helped to deepen their reflection to the academic activities of most students but levels from which greater value will develop. A deliberate strategies for its use will make

    The Higher Education Academy 2 Guide for Busy Academics No.4 Learning through reflection 28/11/05

series of exercises will help with both of these


6. Assessment

    The issue of assessment of reflection needs careful thought. The most important decision is whether or not to assess it, and if the latter, how you will ensure that students engage in the task. If you are going to assess it the following points may be helpful:

    ; Express the role of reflection in the learning

    outcomes for the module or the programme

    outcomes for the programme (in the

    programme specification)

    ; Think about the purpose of reflection and

    the purpose will guide the writing of learning

    outcomes and will be a basis for writing

    assessment criteria

    ; Think about your strategy for assessment

    before you give the work to students and tell

    them not only that the work will be assessed,

    but how it will be assessed, ie the criteria

    that will be used

    ; Think, in particular, about whether you are

    concerned with developing students’ ability

    to reflect or the product of the reflection. If it

    is the latter, then you can assess by many of

    the standard means essay, examination


    ; If you are concerned about students

    learning to reflect then you will need to

    assess their ability to reflect and to think

    about the criteria that express this. You may

    need to think about the depth of the

    reflective activity, for example.

    ; Provide students with examples of reflective

    writing and encourage them to evaluate

    what learning is being gained through the


     Jenny Moon, University of Exeter

    See also:

    Reflection in Higher Education Learning

    Jenny Moon, University of Exeter

    The Higher Education Academy 3 Guide for Busy Academics No.4 Learning through reflection 28/11/05

Report this document

For any questions or suggestions please email