A great deal of your time at university will be spent thinking; thinking about what people have said, what you have read, what you yourself are thinking and how your thinking has changed. It is generally believed that the thinking process involves two aspects: reflective thinking and critical thinking. They are not separate processes; rather, they are closely connected (Brookfield 1987).
Figure 1: The Thinking Process (adapted from Mezirow 1990, Schon 1987, Brookfield 1987)
- a form of personal response to experiences, situations, events or new information.
- a 'processing' phase where thinking and learning take place.
There is neither a right nor a wrong way of reflective thinking, there are just questions to explore.
Figure 1 shows that the reflective thinking process starts with you. Before you can begin to assess the words and ideas of others, you need to pause and identify and examine your own thoughts.
Doing this involves revisiting your prior experience and knowledge of the topic you are exploring. It also involves considering how and why you think the way you do. The examination of your beliefs, values, attitudes and assumptions forms the foundation of your understanding.
Reflective thinking demands that you recognise that you bring valuable knowledge to every experience. It helps you therefore to recognise and clarify the important connections between what you already know and what you are learning. It is a way of helping you to become an active, aware and critical learner.
Reflective writing is:
- your response to experiences, opinions, events or new information
- your response to thoughts and feelings
- a way of thinking to explore your learning
- an opportunity to gain self-knowledge
- a way to achieve clarity and better understanding of what you are learning
- a chance to develop and reinforce writing skills
- a way of making meaning out of what you study
Reflective writing is not:
- just conveying information, instruction or argument
- pure description, though there may be descriptive elements
- straightforward decision or judgement (e.g. about whether something is right or wrong, good or bad)
- simple problem-solving
- a summary of course notes
- a standard university essay
See next: How do I write reflectively?
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Students are an intrinsic part of the information sharing process. They can reflect on their learning and be involved in a number of ways.
Student-led conferences are an increasingly common way for schools to carry out some of their information sharing with parents. They give students an opportunity to share with their growth as a learner with their parents. Find out more about student-led conferences below:
Student reflection in written reports
Students can reflect on their learning as part of the school’s written reporting process. Students could write a letter to their parents or complete a template to insert into the report.
The letter or template could include some reflection stems such as:
- I feel good about…
- I used to… but now I…
- Two things I will remember about what I have learnt over the last 6 months are…
- A strategy that really helped me learn better is…
- If I could do something again differently, I would…
- One thing I will remember to do in the future is…
- One thing I really want to learn is...
Students could complete six-monthly self-assessments that are related to their important learning goals. They could develop criteria with the teacher and then assess themselves at two time points using a tool such as the one below.
These assessments could also be shared with parents during student-led conferences, through portfolios or through inserting them into written reports.
Download a template of this diagram here.
Template Student self assessment of learning dispositions (Word 2007 78 KB)
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Effective reporting involves each child in taking increasing responsibility for his or her own learning. Students need to be clear about: what they have learnt, which learning strategies were successful, what they need to focus on next and why it is important. (Principle 4)