UOW logo
UOW logo

Teaching reflective practice

Effective learning requires the learner to acquire new knowledge but also be aware of the connections of this knowledge to other areas of life, work and study. The connections between ‘what I have learnt here’ and ‘what this means for me beyond here’ is described as a process of knowledge transfer (Bransford & Schwartz, 1999).

Why use reflection in my subject?

Reflective practice has been identified as a strategy that can provide direct support for knowledge transfer. Reflection is an important tool for learning and personal growth, as it guides individuals to identify what they have learned, what they could have done differently, and consider how they could apply that knowledge to future experiences. This has been described as fostering the conditions for knowledge transfer (Ellmers 2015). Through reflection, individuals can better understand their own values, beliefs, and assumptions, and how these influence their behaviours and decision-making.

Reflection can occur in various ways – one might spontaneously reflect during an event by having an “a-ha!’ moment, it may occur following an event when promoted by a peer in a conversation, or it may be triggered some time afterwards when recalling an event and how it relates to what is happening at the present time. These types of reflection are crucial to learning and are informal, spontaneous and unplanned.

However, the kind of deep learning that will facilitate knowledge transfer requires more than relying on happenstance. Therefore, structured, planned and formal reflection is an important practice that educators can adopt to increase student learning of their discipline, skills, self and the world of work.

To improve levels of expertise, it is important students transfer their knowledge between projects, across subjects and into their future careers. The challenge, however, is how to analyse and articulate the knowledge gained through projects/subjects in ways that support transfer. It is an educator’s role to foster these reflective conditions.

To best foster conditions for learning transfer, educators are encouraged to employ structured reflection in their curriculum (Dean et al., 2012). In structured reflection, a specific framework or set of questions is used to guide the reflection process. Structured reflection guides students to improve learning from projects or class activities and helps link learning between subjects and across a program of study.


What is reflection? 

Click to expand the following headings to view their definitions.

Reflection can be described as a higher-order mental process of making meaning from an experience, with the aim to explicitly engage with the thinking and understandings implicit in the activity of learning. Reflection enables new insights, perspectives, and understandings by examining the experience from multiple angles, considering one's own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and exploring how the experience has impacted oneself and others.
Structured reflection is a method or process of thinking about and analysing an experience in a systematic and organised way. It involves using a specific framework or set of questions to guide the reflection process, rather than simply thinking about the experience in an unstructured or random way. Structured reflection is often used in educational and professional settings as a tool for learning and professional development. It can be used to help individuals identify their strengths and weaknesses, develop new insights and perspectives, and plan for future action.
Reflection-in-action involves thinking about an experience while it is happening, in order to adapt to changing circumstances and improve one's performance. Reflection-in-action is often triggered by surprise or an unexpected event. It is particularly useful in situations where there is uncertainty or ambiguity, as it allows individuals to respond to new information and adjust their actions in real-time. It involves being aware of one's own thought processes and decision-making, and actively engaging in a process of self-regulation and adjustment of actions to adapt to the situation. The term was coined through the work of Donald Schon (1983).
Reflection-on-action, well-known through Schon’s work (1983; 1987), is a form of reflection that involves thinking about an experience after it has occurred, in order to gain new insights and perspectives. It is a process of revisiting an experience that has already happened, reflecting on it, and drawing conclusions about what was learned from the experience to inform future actions.
Critical reflection is the critique of the presuppositions on which beliefs have been built and that leads to a transformation of perspective. Critical reflection is distinguished as moving beyond reflection, to not only learn about the activity but also effect change in beliefs. Through critical reflection, learners challenge their thinking about an experience, event or project by questioning their approach, motivations and insights in an analytical manner.


Contact Learning, Teaching & Curriculum

Request support

Contribute to the Hub

Provide feedback

UOW logo
Aboriginal flagTorres Strait Islander flag
On the lands that we study, we walk, and we live, we acknowledge and respect the traditional custodians and cultural knowledge holders of these lands.
Copyright © 2023 University of Wollongong
CRICOS Provider No: 00102E | Privacy & cookie usage | Copyright & disclaimer