5.3 Being reflective
Thinking about what works for you – and what doesn’t – can help you to make the most of the time you have available for study. It can help you to become an independent learner, able to critically engage with your learning tasks.
Reflection is part of everyday life – “why was my training run so slow today?”, “why did my cake not turn out as expected”, “I completed this task much faster than usual, how did I manage that?”. As you reflect on such matters, you will become aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You can learn from mistakes (and avoid them in future) and maximise your successes (so that you can repeat them).
Being a reflective learner works in a similar way but is a more formal, deliberate process. You are consciously focussing on your learning with a view to improving it – making your learning efficient and effective. This more formal approach, outlined in the interactive figure below, can seem a little unnatural at times and, like many good habits, can take time to establish. Learning does not happen in a void, you will bring your own experiences, understanding and assumptions into the process. Active reflection helps you to make sense of your learning.
Reflective learning is also not a ‘one off’ process and so by keeping a record you will be able to look back on past events. This record might take a variety of forms: a list of bullet points, flowing prose, a handwritten journal, an online blog, a document on your computer, a voice-recording on your phone; whatever approach works for you. Some people find it useful to reflect daily, others reflect only on critical activities or timepoints, for example, reflecting on how you attacked the first assignment on a module, or how you prepared for an exam.
The interactive figure below outlines the steps in the cyclic process using clickable buttons.