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Curtin University

Reflective learning

Reflection is an inter-subjective process that promotes deeper learning; it involves consciously thinking about and analysing what one has done (or is doing). In higher education settings it provides a framework for developing professionals as lifelong learners who are committed to continuous improvement of their practice.

There are many theories explaining what reflection is and why it is so important in higher education. Schon (1983) and Kolb (1984) are two leading theorists on reflection. Schon defined reflective practice as two capabilities

  1. reflecting in action whilst doing something, and
  2. reflecting on action (after an action has been done).

Kolb produced a cyclical model for reflective practice where individuals learn from experience.

Benefits of reflective learning

Reflective learning enables learners to activate prior knowledge, and to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct their knowledge. In doing so, several benefits accrue, including:

  • Learning from experience
  • Developing meta-cognitive skills
  • Developing the skills of professional practice
  • Exercising responsibility for their own learning (and actions)
  • Building capacity to restructure / reframe knowledge
  • Continual improvements in practice

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