Reflection

One thing that students often don’t realise before coming to university is that you are now in charge of your own learning. To become an autonomous learner it is important to reflect upon your journey so that you know what you do well and what it is you need to improve on. See our video with advice on the importance of reflection for your learning:

The following advice has been written by Jasmine Grayling, a student at the University of Brighton who shares her experiences about what reflection is, why it is important and how to go about it:

What is reflection?

Being reflective requires us to consciously consider our experiences, actions, feelings and to respond to these by analysing them in order to learn from them. The typical process for this is to ask ourselves what we did, how we did it, and what we learnt from it.

Why reflect?

Being reflective provides us with an opportunity to learn and develop as individuals and learners. By reaching deeper and analysing our experiences we can consider further what we could do better or differently, and also come to terms with what lessons we have learnt along the way. Reflection has shown to improve a students performance and enable them to study more effectively. For more information, read this academic article on how reflection benefits learning.

What will I be reflecting on?

The following is a list of the main aspects you are likely to reflect upon in your time at university

  • your feelings about the course, lecturers, other students and your progress
  • the parts you find difficult and challenging
  • how your attitude and motivation has changed or developed
  • the way you approach tasks
  • what you have learnt about yourself
  • ideas that come from your studies
  • how your studies relate to real life and perhaps future career ideas
How do I become reflective?

To develop as a learner, we think it is important to consider the following aspects reflectively

  • how motivated you are and your dedication to your studies
  • the development in your attitude and ideas
  • whether your current learning techniques are effective
  • which skills should be used for different assignments
  • what it is that’s hindering your learning
  • what gaps are in your knowledge

The easiest way to do this is to keep a journal of your thoughts that you can reflect upon afterwards. You will also probably be given self-evaluation tasks to do throughout your course, which are great for assessing what you need to work on. As well as this, some courses recommend keeping an online portfolio with your reflections for future employers, this can be a great thing as it shows your progress throughout your time at university and gives a real sense of what have you learnt and how you have developed as a person as well as a learner.

How can I write reflectively?

Further to thinking reflectively, it is important to write these ideas down. The act of writing things down helps you to clarify your thoughts and emotions, as well as enabling you to work out the best strategies for focusing further development.

It’s important to remember that reflection is for your benefit, and that the more honest with yourself you are, the more you are likely to develop.

For a comprehensive introduction to how to write reflectively, see the University of Reading pages

What about blogs and portfolios?

Blog

Using a blog (short for web log) can be useful to aid reflection as they are free, people can comment on what you have been doing and you can send it to tutors or potential employers. However, consider that what you write is public and you should be aware of the identity you are creating for yourself. There are a number of blog software provides including:

  • Blogger – one of the most popular free blogging systems available now owned by Google.
  • WordPress – an alternative free blogging system.
  • LiveJournal – encourages smaller, bitesize reflection
  • Audioboo – record and upload your audio reflections

E-portfolio

An online e-portfolio provides a more sophisticated showcase of your work and achievements that you can show to tutors or future employers via a web link.

The University of Brighton subscribes to an e-portfolio system called PebblePad.

These tips have been informed by the following guide:

Cottrell, S. (2003) The Study Skills Handbook (2nd ed), Hampshire: Palgrave Mcmillan

YouTube video on ‘what is the purpose of reflective practice?’