Reflection is an everyday process. We reflect on a range of everyday problems and situations all the time: What went well? What didn’t? Why? How do I feel about it?
We don’t usually follow a formula for this, it just happens as feelings, thoughts and emotions about something gradually ‘surface’. We might choose to do something differently, or not, as a result of reflecting, but reflection is essentially a kind of loose processing of thoughts and feelings about an incident, a meeting, a day – any event or experience at all. Reflection can be a more structured way of processing in order to deal with a problem. This type of reflection may take place when we have had time to stand back from something, or talk it through, as in: ‘On reflection, I think you might be right’, or ‘On second thoughts, I realised he was more upset than me.’
If we consciously reflect, maybe as part of our work or family role, there tends to be a rough process of ‘How did it go? What went well? Why? What didn’t? Why? What next?’ Examples might be of a football coach reflecting after a match, a teacher reflecting on a lesson, or simply a parent thinking about how best to deal with a teenager. In this kind of reflection, the aim is to look carefully at what happened, sort out what is really going on and explore in depth, in order to improve, or change something for next time. This brief guide will look at what is meant by reflection, suggest forms of structured reflection to improve the way you learn, and also outline how to use a model of reflection to structure a reflective assignment
Key elements of reflection
Reflection is a type of thinking associated with deep thought, aimed at achieving better understanding. It contains a mixture of elements: 1. Making sense of experience
We don’t always learn from experiences. Reflection is where we analyse experience, actively attempting to ‘make sense’ or find the meaning in it.
2. ‘Standing back’
It can be hard to reflect when we are caught up in an activity. ‘Standing back’ gives a better view or perspective on an experience, issue or action.
Reflection involves ‘going over’ something, often several times, in order to get a broad view and check nothing is missed
4. Deeper honesty
Reflection is associated with ‘striving after truth’. Through reflection, we can acknowledge things that we find difficult to admit in the normal course of events.
5. ‘Weighing up’
Reflection involves being even-handed, or balanced in judgement. This means taking everything into account, not just the most obvious.
Reflection can bring greater clarity, like seeing events reflected in a mirror. This can help at any stage of planning, carrying out and reviewing activities.
Reflection is about learning and understanding on a deeper level. This includes gaining valuable insights that cannot be just ‘taught’.
8. Making judgements
Reflection involves an element of drawing conclusions in order to move on, change or develop an approach, strategy or activity.
Reflection and learning
Reflecting on your learning, and as part of your learning, can help you take an objective view of your progress and see what is going well and what needs working on. Whatever form your reflection takes, it should initially involve you examining your feelings about an experience, then identifying areas to develop and starting to think about ways to do this.
Regular or daily reflection
Regular reflection helps after an ‘event’ such as a presentation, completing an essay, or just a difficult day. Using a few basic questions as a framework, like the ones below, can help you structure your own reflections about how you are doing.
How did it go? How do I feel about it?
What went well, or OK? Why?
What was not so good? Why?
How could this have been done differently?
What should I change or work on for next...