A common student query…What should I reflect on?

This is probably the most common question my students ask…

Reflective analyses form an part of their course work and they may be quite disillusioned with ‘reflecting’ when all they want to, from their perspective, is to ‘do’/ ‘to create’/ ‘to make’. They may just resist reflection and this can be a difficult concept for them to handle, particularly if it seems as though it is imposed upon them.

Reflection is NOT a passive undertaking. It does not mean we sit back and simply observe the world going by. My experience however tells me that in general, this is what students think it means. And here lies our first problem. Reflection is different from just having an opinion. It requires knowledge of context and an assimilation of different kinds of knowledge. It also is not an adjunct to another activity – it is a way to engage with materials/thoughts etc.

I often remind students that reflection is challenging because it’s active – it is like your own personal conscience – and if done properly, it can give you deep insight about the kind of practitioner you are. Reflection is a brave undertaking, or at least, it should be. Just because we ask students to write it down, it does not mean that it is separate from practice. This is probably the most difficult thing for students to get their head around.

There’s lot of definitions of reflection out there, and Schon in generally considered to be a pioneer in this area. He distinguished between two processes – reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. (Schon 1983:54) Jennifer Moon calls it “a professionalized form of ‘reflective learning'”. (Moon 2004: 80) I especially like Moon’s observation that “we all reflect” (2004:1) because it suggests that reflection is an adaptable and useful teaching tool. I will return to this observation in a later post.

But since I’m writing my own thoughts on it here, I wanted to provide my own personal view on it because it will inform all of my writing, thinking and ways of managing my experience. For me, to reflect means

1) to digest

2) to think

3) to position

4) to contextualise

5) to understand and reformulate

6) to critique

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