Reflecting back on your last assignment or a recent seminar can help you improve and develop academically.

Learning at Lincoln - Close-up of a notepad, with the word 'Notes' written next to a fountain pen.

Reflection is a key element of the learning process. It involves the processes of examining an event or an experience; looking back, thinking about what happened, why it happened, and considering whether you would do anything differently next time.

The cycle of learning

The questioning aspect of reflection is similar to the questioning process in critical thinking which includes asking questions such as Why? Who? What? Where? When? How? What if? What next? Where keeping a reflective log or diary is specifically part of your course you may find the process referred to as ‘critical reflective practice’.

Kolb (1984) suggested a learning cycle which can be portrayed visually as in in the diagram below. The cycle shows the important role reflection plays in the learning process:

Cycle diagram of, Have an experience, Reflect on the experience, Learn from the experience, Try out what you have learned.

  • Have an experience
  • Reflect on the experience
  • Learn from the experience
  • Try out what you have learned
  • Repeat…

When you have undertaken any kind of learning activity for example attending a lecture, seminar or tutorial, reading and taking notes or writing an assignment, it can be useful to take the time to reflect. It might help to ask yourself some questions, for example:

  • What do I know now that I did not know before?
  • How can I use what I have learned in a different context?
  • What will I do differently next time?
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