Reflection is an approach that encourages deep thinking by an individual about their existing knowledge and capabilities, how it has been supported or challenged by new learning and experience, and the identification of strengths to promote and weaknesses/limitations to address. While most people have an instinctive reflective process that we use to learn from our actions, a structured and systematic approach to reflection is an extremely useful academic and professional skill. Structured reflection can be a very challenging activity for some people and it is therefore important that the students understand the purpose of reflection and how it can benefit their learning and professional development, otherwise some students may be reluctant to take part in the activity.

Suggested Room Configurations

Reflection is usually a personal and solitary activity, which means that the configuration of the space is generally less important than for other activities. However, as it requires time and space for contemplation, a layout such as that of the traditional classroom may help reduce distractions and encourage greater concentration.

Alternatively, encouraging students to make use of nearby informal and break-out spaces for the activity can lead to deeper reflection by enabling the students to move somewhere more comfortable or private. For many people this can be more conducive to reflection and contemplation than being in a more formal classroom environment surrounded by peers.

Potential Supporting Technology

As reflection in typically a very personal process, different people are likely to find specific technologies particularly suited to their needs. However, there are some technologies that are generally seen as being highly appropriate for reflective activities.

Audio and Video are extremely useful for capturing ‘in the moment’ reflections, such as thoughts prompted during a learning activity or teaching session. Many students already own a device that can be used to record these reflections, such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop. The students could simply keep these recordings on their devices or upload them from the device to other systems for further use or distribution.

ePortfolios, particularly those such as PebblePad that place a specific emphasis on reflection, are a good way to collate pieces of work and reflections into a cohesive whole. Drawing together these resources in a single place makes it easier to take a holistic view of learning and development and see progression. These tools often have built-in ways to promote and support structured reflection that can enhance the benefit of the process and encourage deeper learning. Audio and video reflections can be stored in the ePortfolio and used to support written reflections.

Mind maps provide a method for students to think about their learning and make connections between different aspects of their learning. Electronic mind maps have the main benefit over paper-based ones that it is relatively straightforward to attach other resources to items in the diagram, such as examples of work, multimedia files or even other mind maps. This means that the diagram can be used as a multi-dimensional presentation of a large body of reflections in a variety of formats.

Further Resources

Reflection: An Approach to Teaching and Learning