Archived Material (Reflection)

Reflection - reflective thinking and writing - is an important part of university life and work. As Plato said, 'The life without examination is no life.' The ability to reflect on your experience and knowledge, and use that to make improvements, is a key part of your university-level thinking and your subsequent working life.

How to think reflectively

Schön's model


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Schön (1991) presented the concept of 'reflection in action' and 'reflection on action':

Reflection in action Reflection on action
  • Experiencing
  • 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

Schön's theory is that there are two types of reflection, one during and one after an activity or event.

Example of 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.

You can put these models into practice through your reflective writing.