Looking back on our past experiences and analysing them so we can learn from them in the future is a vital part of learning generally. The reflective process is also an essential part of professional development in many professions such as Education and Healthcare. More university courses and work experience placements now involve some form of reflective assignment to demonstrate this valuable life skill. 

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources. 

What is reflection?

Reflecting on an event involves more than just describing what happened. It involves thinking about possible reasons why it happened, drawing some conclusions from this, and deciding what you will do differently next time. See this video explaining what reflection is and how to get the balance right without describing too much:

Benefits of reflecting

For reflection to be effective we have to be honest, and genuinely examine our own beliefs and assumptions. Authentic reflection involves a process of self-discovery and allows us to change what we do for the better. This is why it can be an uncomfortable process, but one that comes with many benefits. See this guide for more on why it is good to reflect:

Choosing what to reflect upon

The first step in reflection is identifying the experience you want to reflect upon and why. Choose an event that has significance for you, perhaps it puzzled you or made you stop and think. See this guide for more on selecting an incident for reflection:

Reflective frameworks

Reflective frameworks provide a structure and logical process to help us think through an event, as we might not have fully understood it at the time. Most frameworks lead us through what happened, why it happened, and what to do next. Look at these links explaining some of the common reflective frameworks:

Language of reflection

Reflection uses the first person ‘I’ and discusses your emotions. However, you still need to be specific and formal. Instead of vague comments like ‘My presentation went well and I felt pleased’, say why it went well and what specifically you felt pleased about. For more on the writing style of reflection, see the University of Edinburgh resource below:

Linking theory and practice

Most reflective writing asks you to compare your experiences to best practice or explain them using academic theories to help understand what happened and why. The video below looks at how to integrate theory and your experience which are both valid, but different, forms of evidence:

Notes and planning

Because reflective writing is about experiences we’ve had, the temptation is to jump in and start writing, but this can lead to a lot of descriptive ‘telling the whole story’. Good reflective writing needs careful thought both at the time and when writing it up. Capture your initial impressions in a journal or notes, and then use planning strategies to select the key learning points you want to focus on.