Reflective learning skills
‘It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated. And it is generalisations that allow new situations to be tackled effectively.’ (Gibbs 1988)
Reflective learning skills are often called upon as part of a practice-based assignment, project or work-placement.
Reflection is also a key element in Personal Development Planning.
Developing your skills of reflection enhances your learning experience, and reflection is increasingly used by employers in CPD (Continuning Professional Development) programmes, to enhance the performance of their employees. It involves stepping back from an event or experience to analyse it from different perspectives, with a view to improving future performance.
A simple but effective way of getting to grips with the idea of reflection is to set 10 minutes aside each week to write a Learning Log - every Friday afternoon, for example. A learning log is a bit like a diary or portfolio, but it has set headings that encourage you to record key events/experiences since the last log, your reactions to them, and then reflect on them to draw out conclusions about what happened and determine any subsequent actions you should take.
Here are four things to record in a simple Learning Log :
- the experience/situation/event
- your initial reactions to it
- what you did
- what you learned from the experience/situation/event
Tips for using Learning Logs
- Make sure you keep your learning logs in a file or folder, so you can reflect on them again at a later stage. Reflection is better if it is a cumulative process.
- They may be very useful when compiling a Personal Development Plan or C.V., preparing for an interview, or for informing future assessment strategies based on your performance so far.
- Your perspectives change over time. What is really interesting is to go back and look at your observations once the dust has settled. You may identify patterns of thinking or behaviour, or come to different conclusions with the benefit of hindsight.
Reflection doesn’t have to be done on your own in a darkened room! Talking over a situation or experience with someone can be an excellent way of starting to reflect – distancing yourself from it a little, breaking it down, looking at it from a different perspective, analysing what happened and why, and deciding how you would handle it differently next time.