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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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1 What is reflection?

As a term used in academic and professional contexts, ‘reflection’ broadly encompasses ‘reflective thinking’, ‘reflective learning’, and ‘reflective practice’. As you will recall from Session 1, the ability to demonstrate self-direction, reflect on your own progress as a learner, to continue to advance your own knowledge and understanding and develop new skills to a high level, are all key postgraduate requirements.

You will be responsible for your own development as an autonomous learner, by thinking about what you do well, what you need to improve, and setting your priorities. Reflection therefore plays a crucial role in your learning and self-development at Master’s level. However, all too often, the assumption is that reflection is a ‘skill’ that is acquired automatically during a degree. As with other areas of competence, you need to be actively aware of, to develop, and practice the habit of reflection, until it becomes almost second nature. Successful professionals from all walks of life (including academics!) actively engage in reflective thinking, reflective learning and reflective practice in their everyday activities. Life experiences such as a marriage, divorce, bereavement, the loss of a job or start of a new career, often act as a prompt for reflection, but how often do you actively engage in reflection for learning, and for professional development? Let’s pause to consider these concepts a little further.

Activity 1 Reflection as a process

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

Based on your own knowledge and experience, what would you say the process of ‘reflection’ typically involves? Focus on the process, not the outcome at this stage.

Note down your own thoughts; you may find it helpful to list these.

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Here are some thoughts on this. These are not exclusive – you may have noted others.

The process (‘reflection’) might typically involve:

  • thinking with a purpose
  • introspection (looking within oneself, examining one’s conscious thoughts and feelings)
  • questioning and probing
  • evaluating prior knowledge, beliefs, assumptions or learned experience
  • making judgements and drawing conclusions.