Reflective thinking and writing

How to think reflectively

Schön's model

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.