Reflective Learning

There are a variety of ways to think about reflective learning.
  1. As a teaching/learning strategy to use with students
  2. As a categorization of students' preferred learning style, most frequently contrasting active learning and reflective learning.
  3. As a personal professional development technique to improve teaching practice, sometimes called Reflective Practice

Using Reflection to Help Students Learn

Reflection has been regarded an important component of learning for a very long time. No less than John Dewey said "We do not learn from experience . . . we learn from reflecting on experience.” (note- still looking for exact source) His work considers reflection an important component in creating new knowledge. Often times, action and reflection together are considered critical components in creating meaning, or as TAP Into Learningsays - "Action + Reflection = Learning".

Several different models of learning incorporate reflection. David Kolb includes "observation and reflection" as the second step in his model of experiential learning.
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Reflection is one of eight standards in the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice. In fact, in the National Youth Leadership Council's "Research Supports the Fourth “R” — Reflection" says that students who used reflection "experienced healthier school climates, more success in school, and increased self-efficacy"
  • :43% who used reflection vs. 22% who did not said they had a teacher they could go to if they needed help as opposed to 22% of those who didn't use reflection
  • 83% vs 68% said their experience improved their ability to help others.

In her book called "Cultivating Student Reflection", Katie Charner-Laird calls reflection "the mind's strongest glue" for making connections to understand virtually any subject matter.

Characteristics of Reflective Learners

According to San Francisco State University, "reflective learners prefer to think about new information first before acting on it. They often prefer to think through problems first on their own rather than discussing it in groups. Sitting through lectures can be difficult for reflective learners who often like to have some time out to think through new information." Reflective learning blends well with the infusion of technology into education. Progressive education movements and leaders in business and industry often state the methods in which students are learning today does not prepare them for what the workforce now demands. 21st Century learning is more collaborative, with an emphasis on quick retrieval of information. Today's student is accustomed to receiving information rapidly, with much researching pointing to new brain patterns and ways of learning.

Katie Ash's article "High School Students Want More Tech, Fewer Lectures "(2012) points to a survey revealing that "high school students in the U.S. want more technology in classrooms, as well as more hands-on projects and one-on-one tutoring, but less lectures, according to a new survey called "Learn Now, Lecture Later" from CDW-G, a company that provides technology to the government, education, and healthcare industries". Sixty-nine percent of the students surveyed wanted more technology in the classroom, with specific request for tablets, smartphones and recorded lectures. In the article, the teachers surveyed agreed that these changes are important, but cited access to technology for the classroom and a lack of professional development as major deterrents.

Reflective Practice: Personal Professional Development

Reflection is an important tool for teachers to better understand their own teaching practices.
To determine your own “Reflective Practices”, the ALPS, Active Learning Practice for Schools, designed a reflection tool to assess you own teaching and thinking.

The ALPS is “an electronic community dedicated to the improvement and advancement of educational instruction and practice”. They created an on-line collaborative environment where teachers and administrators from around the world can work with educational researchers, professors, and curriculum designers at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and Project Zero.

The tool can be accessed here:

How to create a "Reflective Learning" Environment:

Reflective Teaching, Reflective Learning: How to Develop Critically Engaged Readers, Writers, and Speakers (2005) offers teachers different strategies to get the students to take ownership of their learning. Some strategies include moving from teacher directed to small group to independent activity and using small group activities to give students ownership of their work.
According to McCann et al, "Underlying all these principles is the idea that when students interpret data for themselves, they learn strategies that they can apply to a wide variety of materials that become more and more complex. Learning the strategies requires real discus- sions during which students debate their ideas with each other."

Tips from a teacher for making reflective blogs successful:
1. Focus of process as well as content. Think and reflect on the learning process.
2. Focus on learning, not on teaching.
3. Always know why. Be clear in how every task will enhance learning.
4. Allow time.
5. Make feedback meaningful.
6. Model.

Quotes about Reflection in Learning

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest."

"Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him."
John Locke

"A battle lost or won is easily described, understood, and appreciated, but the moral growth of a great nation requires reflection, as well as observation, to appreciate it."
Frederick Douglass

As learners we are constantly constructing, revising, and reconstructing our knowledge and beliefs to create a new framework of understanding. Reflection is the engine that drives this process.”
Paolo Freire

"A little reflection will show us that every belief, even the simplest and most fundamental, goes beyond experience when regarded as a guide to our actions."
William Kingdon Clifford , 19th Century Philosopher

"Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action."
Peter Drucker

"Reflection is indicative of deep learning, and where teaching and learning activities such as reflection are missing… only surface learning can result."
James Biggs in 1999 Teaching for Quality Learning at University