This page focuses on the element ‘reflection’. It provides a description of the element, highlights its relevance, and provides examples of reflection in the curriculum. Description Regular opportunities for students to reflect on and articulate their learning and development, and to plan further growth and learning opportunities. Relevance to student development, employability and careers While the term and definition used may vary between disciplines, reflection is critical to students’ current and future employability, and valuable in general. Reflection can support students in: deepening their learning and development; making their skills and learning explicit; communicating their strengths and abilities; and analysing their own actions and thinking, identifying areas of development. Tips and things to consider Below you will find some key tips and guidance to consider when incorporating reflection into the curriculum. Some of the tips below are particularly important if you choose to assess reflection. Practical tips Definitions Always share what you mean by reflection with your students. Ensure everyone holds a similar understanding and be ready to tackle misconceptions or differences. Potentially use a definition like this one from our Reflection Toolkit: 'Reflection is the conscious examination of past experiences, thoughts and ways of doing things. Its goal is to surface learning about oneself and the situation, and to bring meaning to it in order to inform the present and the future. It challenges the status quo of practice, thoughts and assumptions and may therefore inform our decisions, actions, attitudes, beliefs and understanding about ourselves' The Reflection Toolkit Clear guidance and support Many students have never engaged in structured reflection before coming to university, therefore ensure you provide clear guidance and support. You might even want to designate some time to provide examples of reflection and have students practise during contact hours. Communicate the value When facilitating reflection, make sure you communicate the value of the activity to the learners; doing this can help boost students’ motivation and engagement. Clarity rather than vagueness Unsuccessful reflective assignments often come from students not fully understanding reflection or what they are being asked to do; without this they are likely to simply guess! Having clear expectations and guidance can ensure students reflect in ways that are appropriate for your context. Choose the right approach Reflective tasks can take many forms, for example essays, blogs, free and structured conversations, and even creative activities. Make sure that you pick an approach that aligns appropriately with your teaching methods, assessments and learning outcomes. Scaffolding It can be helpful to give students a series of reflective prompts to guide and help focus their reflections. These could specifically target the course and/or touch on wider aspects like Personal Development Planning (PDP) Think about disclosure Keep a balance between how many people will see/hear the reflections and how much personal disclosure is required to do well in the task. For effective reflection, you want people to feel comfortable in what and how they share. What output are you looking for? Reflection is a process; but when doing assignments you need to decide if you want to see the details of the reflective process itself, or the outcomes from that process as evidence that reflection has happened, for example the student’s conclusions. Both hold merit, but being clear in what you need to see and communicating this to your students is essential. Do you want to assess the reflection? Share your marking criteria with the students. Complementing this with an assessment rubric will communicate what good reflection looks like in your context. For example, this might include levels of criticality, structure and language. Students are likely to complete their reflective assignments with you as the intended audience, so by providing criteria you are using this tends to encourage appropriate reflections. For more information and guidance on any of these points, including examples, see the Reflection Toolkit. Reflection Toolkit Examples of practice in the University of Edinburgh There is diverse practice across the University that can be used to stimulate thinking about what is possible in your setting. Below is a link to a range of relevant practice from the Teaching Matters blog. The examples come from multiple parts of the student experience and relate either partially or substantially to this element. New articles are automatically added so check back in the future to discover some of the latest practice. Teaching Matters: relevant articles Further reading and external perspectives The references below provide some background on this element as well as some of the external drivers and motivations for including it. Overview These references highlight how the Scottish Government sees reflection as an important skill in its plan to develop a highly-skilled workforce, as well as being essential to personal development planning, which the QAA highlights as vital in higher education. These external drivers for incorporating reflection into student life at university are presented together with a range of studies evidencing positive effects of using reflection in university contexts and beyond. Further reading Reference Description Scottish Government (2018). Enterprise and Skills Board: strategic plan. 17 October, 2018 Enterprise and Skills Board Skills Development Scotland (2018). Skills 4.0: A skills model to drive Scotland’s future. February 2018. Skills 4.0 Taken together these two plans show part of the external drivers and expectation to develop reflective graduates. The strategic plan from the Scottish Government sets out a goal to drive productivity and inclusive growth in all parts of Scotland and part of the plan is to ‘[d]efine the meta-skills for use in future skills provision’ (p.10). SDS's paper presents a model of these skills aiming to enable individuals to excel in the future, and recommends that education providers embed the development of these skills. Reflection is heavily featured in this plan. Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2009). Personal development planning: guidance for institutional policy and practice in higher education QAA on reflective learning QAA sets out in its Quality Code that providers of higher education should create places for personal and professional development. As a part of this delivery, QAA highlights the importance of embedding PDP into the university experience and links PDP with reflection. Moon, J.A. (2004). Reflection and employability. Published by Advance HE as a part of their Learning and Employability Series. Discussion about the link between reflection and employability. Reflection is put in the context of creating more meaningful learning and seen as paramount in the process of developing professional practice that is relevant for both students in vocational and non-vocational contexts. Gardner, F. (2009). Affirming values: using critical reflection to explore meaning and professional practice. Reflective Practice, 10(2), 179-190. This paper presents a piece of qualitative research that found reflection leading to increased job satisfaction. Specifically, when working in changing environments with unclear tasks, reflection can be used to identify one's own values and how the work links to these. This process was seen to ultimately lead to increased job satisfaction. Sargeant, J.M., Mann, K.V., Van der Vleuten, C.P., & Metsemakers, J.F. (2009). Reflection: a link between receiving and using assessment feedback. Advancement in Health Science Education, 14, 399-400. Qualitative research showing that when receiving feedback, particularly negative feedback, reflection can support acceptance and implementation of this feedback. Wegner, J, Turcic II, S.M., & Hohner, G. (2015, June 14-17). Learning from experiences: examining self-reflection in engineering design courses. Paper presented at the 122nd ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, WA. The authors describe a reflective assignment asking students to contextualise how their university experience helped them transition into the professional world by reflecting on transformational experiences and the skills developed. McCrindle, A. R. & Christensen, C. A. (1995). The impact of learning journals on metacognitive and cognitive processes and learning performance. Learning and Instruction, 5, 167–185. This study finds that students who completed learning journals (reflection) compared to scientific reports were seen to have a better understanding of their learning process, more frequently used metacognitive strategies in their evaluation of learning, and ultimately scored higher in the final exam of a first-year biology course. Tsingos-Lucas, C., Bosnic-Anticevich, S., Schneider, C.R., & Smith, L. (2017). Using reflective writing as a predictor of academic success in different assessment formats. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 81(1), 1-8. A large-scale (N=264) correlational study finding that reflective writing ability positively correlated with academic achievement – the study suggests that reflection can be valuable, however does not suggest causal relationship between reflecting and higher grades. Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C., & Norman, M.K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching, Chapter 7. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. This chapter discusses how students have to develop metacognitive skills in order to evaluate and refine their learning approaches. The quote below shows a clear link to reflection as it is defined above. Chapter 7 goes into further detail and provides the research supporting this quote. ‘Learners may engage in a variety of metacognitive processes to monitor and control their learning — assessing the task at hand, evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses, planning their approach, applying and monitoring various strategies, and reflecting on the degree to which their current approach is working. Unfortunately, students tend not to engage in these processes naturally. When students develop the skills to engage these processes, they gain intellectual habits that not only improve their performance but also their effectiveness as learners' (p.6-7). Lastly, reflection is recognised as an important skill/process in a range of professional accreditations – for example the Edinburgh Teaching Award (Fellowship to Advance HE), CMALT, and CILIP to mention a few held by staff at the University. Moreover, reflection is seen as core to professional practice in a range of vocational and non-vocational disciplines.