Thanks for your interesting question "what is reflection?" There is a lot to say about reflection and learning. Here I will leave aside discussing what reflection is and just say that conversation and dialogue with one's self or with another by asking and responding to questions is one way to prompt reflection. The following list of questions may be useful, I didn't write this list and unfortunately I can't remember where I originally found it.
Questions for critical reflections
The following types of questions and scenarios are useful guidelines for developing critical reflection skills.
• Ask yourself why something happened, or why it did not happen.
• Ask yourself what worked well, what worked badly and what could be improved next time?
• Consider issues, events etc. from different perspectives.
• Identify hidden assumptions and stereotypes in people's attitudes and behaviours e.g. cultural or religious.
• Be aware that everyone has a perspective. How does yours differ from or complement. others.
• Look at something from an opposite point of view to challenge it.
Critical reflections can also be structured upon David Kolb's learning styles theory (1984), which identifies a four stage learning cycle. The stages are:
• Concrete Experience — describing the concrete experience
• Reflective Observation — thinking about the experience
• Abstract Conceptualization — generalising from experience and linking theory with practice
• Active Experimentation — planning for the future.
By posing questions and exploring your answers and how these may change over time, you are able to evidence your learning journey.
Before the action
The "a" questions lead to practice. The "b" questions lead to theory:
1a What do I think are the salient features of the situation that I face?
1b Why do I think those are the salient features? What evidence do I have for this belief?
2a If I am correct about the situation, what outcomes do I believe are desirable?
2b Why do I think those outcomes are desirable in that situation?
3a If I am correct about the situation and the desirability of the outcomes, what actions do I think will give me the outcomes?
3b Why do I think those actions will deliver those outcomes in that situation?
After the action
0a Did I get the outcomes that I want? Or, more realistically, what were the outcomes that I got, and how well do these accord with those I sought?
0b To the extent that I got them, do I still want them? Why, or why not?
0c To the extent that I didn't get them, why not?
This final question then returns in more details to the earlier planning questions:
1a In what ways was I mistaken about the situation?
1b Which of my assumptions about the situation misled me?
1c What have I learned? What different conclusions will I reach about similar situations in future?
2a In what ways was I mistaken about the desirability of the pursued outcomes?
2b Which of my reasons for favouring those outcomes misled me?
2c What have I learned? What outcomes will I try to pursue when next I'm in such a situation?
And notice that 3a takes a somewhat different tack:
3a Did I succeed in carrying out the planned actions? If not, what prevented or discouraged me? What have I learned about myself, my skills, my attitudes, and so on?
3b If I did carry out the actions, in what ways was I mistaken about the effect they would have? Which of my assumptions about the actions misled me?
3c What have I learned? What actions will I try next time I am pursuing similar outcomes in a similar situation.
Luke Feast, Ph.D. | Senior Lecturer | Industrial Design | School of Art and Design | Auckland University of Technology | New Zealand | Email [log in to unmask]
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