Many theories and models exist to help you reflect and learn from your experiences. Two models are outlined below. You may be directed to different models by your tutors.
All models help you go beyond description to ask questions, to inquire into why something happened the way it did, look critically at your own role, and evaluate how you might change your behaviour in the future.
Model 1: Kolb's learning cycle
Kolb's Learning Cycle (1984) has four elements of a loop which you can start at any point, though normally you start with an experience:
Experience: You gave a 10 minute presentation at the end of first semester. You receive low marks for your presentation style.
Observations and reflections: You felt really nervous during the presentation, you spoke fast and your presentation ran over.
Development of ideas: You spoke to another student afterwards who had given a good presentation. They directed you to an online tutorial for dealing with nerves.
Testing ideas in practice: Before your presentation in semester two you did the tutorial and applied some of the principles. You practised in advance and developed note cards.
Model 2: Reflection IN action and reflection ON action
Schön (1991) developed a theory that there are two types of reflection, one during and one after an activity or event:
|Reflection in action
||Reflection on action
- Thinking on your feet
- Thinking about what to do next
- Acting straight away
- Thinking about something that has happened
- Thinking what you would do differently next time
- Taking your time
Example using Schön's model
Reflection in action
- You are in a lecture and keep being distracted by thinking about what to have for lunch!
- You want to get the most from the lecture so need to find a way to help you focus.
- You decide to start making some notes of the key points.
Reflection on action
- You notice that sometimes after a lecture you can’t remember what was covered.
- You find out about the lecture topic in advance and write down some questions you want answered.
- You make notes during the lecture to help you focus.
- You arrange to go for a coffee after the lecture and talk with your peers about what was presented, to help you understand and form your own opinions.
- You file your lecture notes and any handouts.
When you write reflectively, use the three W's:
Who was involved?
- So what? (interpretation)
What is most important / interesting / relevant / useful aspect of the event, idea or situation?
How can it be explained?
How is it similar to/different from others?
What have I learned?
How can it be applied in the future?
Visit section 1.5 Critical Reflections for more guidance on getting started with writing critical reflections.