Reflection and introspection

Effective learning comes not from doing, but from actively reflecting and thinking about what you do.

Job importance

Reflection takes on a whole new significance in your employment after graduation too. In an ever-changing world, and increasingly competitive job market, employees want graduates who can reflect, learn, and apply their learning to real life situations and settings. They want decision makers who can learn from their experiences and creatively translate knowledge into best practice, not those who can regurgitate memorised information.

Reflective learning at university

There are three key areas where you can apply reflective learning skills at university.

Reflection on learning practice

Reflection on your learning practice makes you a more self-aware learner who can look back and learn from mistakes and identify what has been successful for your learning. Reflecting on your learning practice helps you make considered decisions about how to address specific learning needs, moving forward.

  • Recognise your learning style. What works best for you?
  • Identify successes. How can you leverage these moving forward?
  • Identify failures. How might you do things differently?
  • Think about how a particular learning experience makes you feel. Examine your reactions.
  • Recognise that experiences may not be clear cut. Question any assumptions and examine your motives during key learning experiences.
  • Articulate your learning to others. This helps to clarify your own understanding of situations and experiences.
Useful resources for reflective learning

Gibbs’ reflective cycle (as cited in University of Edinburgh, 2019) is a good framework to use for reflection on your learning practice.

You may also like to consider a reflective journal.

Reflective reading

When reading course materials, articles and books, read reflectively. This will help you make meaning of what you are reading.

Ask questions:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the author?
  • How does the material make you feel?
  • What do you find annoying or troublesome? Does it create challenges socially, academically, culturally or emotionally?
  • Did the author miss anything out?
  • What do you find helpful?

What questions does the author leave you with? Question your own assumptions or potential misconceptions.

Consider how what you are reading relates to your own or real-world situations. This is particularly useful for theoretical or difficult concepts as it can really help you understand them.

Reflective writing

Reflective writing is a common assessment task at university.

  • Do not merely describe something.
  • Don’t just write about your feelings in an unstructured way. Have a clear line of thought and use structured analytical reasoning.
  • Outline any expectations or preconceived notions in your introduction and how your thinking may have changed through reflection in your conclusion.
  • Use evidence and examples to back up your reflections.
  • Link your own experiences to your writing.
  • Reflection is a very personal experience. Reveal your personal thoughts and experiences wisely and with due consideration to who will be reading it.
Useful resources for reflective writing

A concept map can help you organize your thoughts and reflections in a logical consistent way, as well as allow you to articulate thought processes and feelings.

Example of reflective writing.

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