What is reflective learning?

Reflective learning is the process of thinking critically about your learning – both about what you are learning and about your learning process.

Some examples of reflective learning:

  • looking at an overview of the topic to be covered in class, thinking about what you might learn in class, and formulating questions about the topic.
  • talking about a topic covered in class with other students and discussing how you see the topic from your perspective.
  • looking through topics to be covered in an exam, assessing which you need to know more about, and focusing your efforts on those topics.
  • reading through feedback from an assignment and planning improvements you can make for future assessments.

Types of Reflective Learning

Reflecting on the learning content

Thinking about the learning content from your perspective can deepen your understanding of the material and your ability to apply your new knowledge in real situations.

Reflecting on the learning process.

Reflecting on your learning process can improve your learning experience. Having an awareness of your study goals and of your study practices and how well they are helping you attain your goals, enables you to focus on what is important and make improvements in your study habits.

Why is reflection important in learning?

Reflection helps you improve your learning. It encourages you to take control of your learning process and to learn from your mistakes.

When you regularly reflect on your learning, you will have a better awareness of your progress and improved confidence in what you have learned.

Reflecting on the learning content gives you a deeper understanding, and a better ability to apply what you have learned.

Reflection encourages you to actively engage with the learning material, to be a producer of knowledge, not just a consumer!

How to include reflection in your study practices

Make reflection a regular habit. It takes time to develop your reflective skills.

A learning journal is a helpful tool to encourage regular reflection. Use the prompt questions below to get you started in your reflective thinking. Try to fill in your journal daily – perhaps after each class. Most journals are written, but you can use video or audio recordings.

Reflection doesn’t have to be a solitary process – discussing your learning with others is also useful.

Prompts for Reflective Thinking

Use the following questions to guide your reflective thinking.

Reflecting on the topic being learned:

  • Why is this topic important?
  • What did you find most interesting about this topic?
  • What did you already know? What is new information?
  • How does this topic relate to your experience?
  • What other perspective can you bring to this topic, from your own experience? How might others see this topic differently?
  • What was most difficult about this topic for you?
  • What do you need to learn more about?
  • How might you apply this information in the future?

Reflecting on your learning

  • What is your learning goal?
  • How will you know when you have achieved your learning goal?
  • How far are you towards achieving your learning goal?
  • What can you do to further your progress towards your learning goal?
  • If you have achieved your learning goal, what is your next goal?
Reflecting on your learning assessments

When you receive an assignment or test back, don’t just look at your grade – look for feedback on your learning, to see where you can improve.

  • Did my grade meet my expectations? Why? Why not?
  • What areas did I do well in? Think in terms of topics, as well as skills.
  • Where can I improve?
  • How can I make those improvements?

What’s Next?