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What is Reflection?
Reflection is the act of thinking critically about an experience in order to gain greater clarity or understanding. This process of evaluating our actions helps us learn from our experiences and deepens our understanding of the world.
Reflection is a critical component of experiential learning. When you reflect, you should not merely summarize the activities you completed and opinions formed. Rather, your reflection should be thoughtful, integrative, and substantive and share what you learned. Whenever possible, provide specific examples from your experiences that support your thoughts.
Reflection provides an opportunity to analyze our thoughts, behaviors, and actions to gain a better understanding of ourselves and the world. We can isolate instances in which we were successful or we need to improve and learn from these experiences. Reflection also allows us to make connections between academic classes, experiences, and other aspects of our lives.
On a very practical level, reflection helps us synthesize and articulate our learning. This is especially important when interviewing and writing applications for graduate school, jobs, internships, or nationally competitive awards/scholarships.
How do I Reflect?
The University Honors Program encourages students to use a very basic model: What? So What? Now What?
As with anything, some people find reflection very easy whereas other need a bit more practice. Here are several brainstorming activities that can help you get started:
Alternative Forms of Reflection
Although a written journal is very common form of reflection, there are many other ways you can reflect. It is less important which format you use and more important that you are pushing yourself to balance sharing details with big picture take-aways. By answering all three reflective questions (what? so what? now what?), you are more likely to complete a thoughtful, integrated reflection.
If the format for reflection you choose is not written, you must include 2-3 paragraphs explaining what you created and how it explains the what? so what? and now what? of an experience.
References & Resources
Bringle, R.G., & Hatcher, J.A. (1996) Reflection activities for the college classroom. Paper presented at the National Gathering, June 21, 1996.
Learning Development with Plymouth University—Reflection. Retrieved from http://www.learningdevelopment.plymouth.ac.uk/
Moon, J. (2004) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.
Reed, J & Koliba, C. (1997) Facilitating reflection – manual for leaders and educators. Retrieved from http://www.uvm.edu/~dewey/reflection_manual
Schön, D. (1991) The Reflective Practitioner. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.