Self Reflection
A toolkit to support students, educators and professionals to engage in meaningful reflection on experiences for employability development
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What is self-reflection?


Self-reflection is the “capacity to analyse every event/situation in which you have been involved, evaluate how you acted in it, then decide what you have learned about yourself that you can take forward to be more effective in the future” (McCulloch & Reid 2015, p. 186).

If you think about reflection as going over something in your mind, you are “observing, remembering and re-running your own actions after something has occurred” (McCulloch & Reid 2015, p. 130).

Self-reflection is about learning from or ‘making sense’ of experiences.

The purpose of reflection is to examine our actions, thoughts and experiences and to ask ourselves why these things happened, or why we behaved the way we did, as a form of self-improvement, and to use this understanding to guide our behaviour (decisions, attitudes, actions) in the future.

Since the reflection is about what you did in certain situations, it is self-reflection. The main purpose is to consider your reactions and responses to situations and how you use them to determine your actions (and reactions) in the future to affect a positive outcome or achieve set goals.

Learning should be a transformative process. You should expect to change the way you understand yourself and how you interact with others as a result of this learning. This transformation often happens when you have experienced something for the first time, or you’ve had to deal with something that challenges you or your previous ways of doing or thinking.

Employability has been defined for us in past years by a number of researchers.  The most quoted and adapted definition comes from the eminent employability expert Mantz Yorke who described employability as:  a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy (Yorke 2004, p. 6). 

Employability is a big deal for university students.  Many spend a lot of time, and sometimes money, engaging in activities to put on their resume, and hoping that this list of experiences will, all by itself, communicate to employers that they have the ‘skills, understandings and personal attributes’ that Yorke talks about.

However experiences alone do not provide you with enhanced employability – it is the learning from the experience that will lead to employability development. 

In the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey, “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Self-reflection is the vehicle for extracting learning from the experience.

By reflecting on experiences through an employability lens it is possible to identify ways that you have behaved and capabilities that you have developed, that are particularly useful in work environments, and which are highly valued by employers.

While self-reflection can be used for many purposes, this toolkit focuses on using self-reflection to determine employability development from experiences.

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