A positive by-product of engaging in the reflective process is that it can help you grow in self-confidence. Some of the other areas of self-change could include:
- gaining control over your own thoughts and emotions, especially when confronted by others and new situations
- developing deeper insights
- make more informed judgements
- monitoring your own performance
- gauging not only your progress, but also your speed of change
- tapping into your true motivations for doing something (e.g. examining your commitment to others)
- establishing your learning preferences and thinking styles
- developing a realistic image of yourself.
Therefore, whether you are examining yourself or your academic work, you need the ability to stand back and see the broader picture.
Reflection is an important skill as it enables us to look at past events and make the most of those experiences. This helps us to identify what went really well so we can keep doing it, what didn't go so well and if there is anything you would do differently in future.
Do not fall into the trap of focusing on the past. The most important part of reflection is looking forward to future events. This helps us use knowledge gained from our previous experiences to keep doing the things that have worked previously, or to try new things when things have not gone so well in the past.
What does reflection involve?
At the heart of reflection is critical thinking. In short, this means you must 'question' everything about your experiences, about what you are felt and with what you read. For an assignment, you need to use evidence-based research or theories by academic writers alongside your personal experience. If you wish to succeed at university, you have to start thinking and writing in an academic manner. The core themes you must consider are:
- objectivity (stand back, be factual and do not take sides)
- detachment (avoid emotional responses)
- theories / models / concepts (abstract ideas)
- compare and contrast (relative thinking)
- judge evidence based upon reliable research (facts, not feelings)
- methodologies (quantitative v. qualitative)
- experimental approaches (empirical approach).
This is where and why your reflective writing comes into its own. The more your reflective writing includes critical and analytical questioning, the more beneficial it will be for your academic achievements and future prospects. In order to take an objective, balanced stance, you need to reflect carefully upon the evidence you have reviewed in the academic literature and adopt an analytical approach to experimental results. That is, question everything. Critical thinking and reflective writing go hand-in-hand. If you do not develop your critical thinking skills it can bring your grades down so it is an important aspect of reflection to develop.
Reflective thinking and writing involve a large element of self-discovery. Cottrell (2010) pointed out that the reflective process is challenging. This is because we do not always like to discover the truth about ourselves and the things we most need to know can be the hardest to hear. It takes time and practice for anyone to develop good reflective skills. You should not be discouraged if the process of reflection does not come naturally or quickly. If you do face up to difficult aspects of our approach to learning (e.g. not being organised) then there will be great benefits.