1.6 Learning Through Reflection

What is Reflection?

You may have noticed that many of the activities ask you to think about things you have already done, like reading a particular part of the course. “Thinking back” in this way is a vital component of reflection.

Reflection is one of those things that is both really simple and quite complex. It’s simple because, like learning, we all do it—it’s really nothing more than thinking back over something that you or someone else has done. You may be doing that because it was really pleasant or because it was particularly unpleasant. So you may be reflecting on something because of the emotions that are attached to it. 

Reflection can also serve as a guide for future action. You may think back over something to try and make sure something similar happens next time—for example, you may reflect back to when you had an enjoyable meal in a restaurant. This reflection might encourage you to go back to that restaurant.Alternately, you may reflect to make sure the same thing does not happen again—if the food was cold and the waiter was rude, thinking back to that time might make you eat at home that evening!

Reflection at Work

People in many different careers are expected to be reflective about their work.  Doctors, social workers, nurses, and teachers are all supposed to be reflective practitioners. This means that they are supposed to learn from what went well and from their mistakes to ensure that they become better and better at what they do.

The need for such reflection is not confined to high-status careers. Would you like have your car fixed by a mechanic you know never reflected back about whether they had tightened all the wheel nuts?

We bet you’ve reflected already.

Our basic starting point is that everyone reflects—the world is not divided up into amazing people who reflect and the rest of the world. You might even have reflected on what you have read so far, for example by trying to puzzle out whether any of what you have read applies to you.

Why is reflection great?

It means that we are able to get so much more out of the experiences we have and it means that we have much more say about what happens to us. If you’ve had a great vacation with your family or friends, thinking back over it means that the vacation doesn’t completely end when you arrive back home.

Reflection can also put you in a better position to decide whether you want to repeat an experience. That vacation may have been good but you may reflect that you want to do something different next time.

1.5.2 Using the PROMPT checklist

1.6.1 Introducing the Learning Journal