Reflective learning

Being a reflective learner allows you to step back from what you are learning and develop your critical thinking skills by analysing your experience and improving on your future performance.

Reflective learning is active learning

I kept a learning journal throughout my undergraduate degree reflecting on anything encountered during my studies I found particularly thought-provoking. When it came to applying for Honours, I had an extensive list of interesting topics to choose from.

Ari Moore -  Senior Writing Mentor

Being a reflective learner involves making your learning a more conscious process. It helps you to become an active learner by asking questions and thinking critically about your own ideas. This can be a private process that you undertake as one of your own personal study strategies, or it may be part of your formal assessment. You may find there are unexpected rewards in consciously reflecting on your learning.  The reflective process can help you find out things you had not considered before and you may even find that your academic writing improves.

Benefits of reflecting on your learning

  • Examine what you have learned and how you have learned it.
  • Demonstrate how your thinking grows and develops over time
  • Assist with making connections between what you already know and what you are learning
  • Help you learn from mistakes by identifying how you would do things differently next time
  • Encourage you to become a reflective practitioner in your future career.

There are many levels of reflection. As you progress through your studies, you will develop your reflective practice and gradually learn to reflect at a deeper, more critical level. It is a useful to keep in mind that reflecting critically is an extension of critical thinking.

What should I reflect on?

So what should you reflect on during your studies? Anything and everything! Reflecting on your experiences allows you to discover more about what you are learning and how you learn (the reflective process).

You can reflect on:

  • how and when you learn best
  • what it is that drives your learning and what you are passionate about
  • your progress in an area of study over time
  • your process in solving a difficult problem in your academic work
  • your reactions to the texts you are reading
  • what your essay title means and how to go about writing it
  • feedback on your assessments and how to improve
  • group work tasks and seminar discussions
  • your own values, preferences and biases, and how this might impact your own writing
  • what is difficult at the moment and why? What is the next step? Who or what can help me here?

Start reflecting

There is no right or wrong way to reflect on your learning. Once you begin to reflect regularly you can review what you need to do and take steps to progress your own learning.  One suggestion is to keep a learning journal to help you develop a regular, informal habit of reflecting on your learning experience. Use these question prompts to get started on your reflections. For further ideas download the guide 'Reflecting on your learning'.

Questions to get you started:

  • What happened during that event or experience? And why did it happen?
  • What was my role in the event? And why did I adopt that particular role?
  • What were my feelings during that experience? And why did I feel that way?
  • What were my thoughts during that experience? And why did I think that way?
  • How do I interpret what I experienced or observed?
  • What might this experience mean in the context of my course?
  • What other perspectives, theories or concepts could be applied to interpret the situation?
  • How can I learn from this experience?

Other reflection tools:

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