Should I use reflection in my activity?
What outcome do you want to achieve?
If you are teaching or facilitating activities where you want students to understand how they have changed through involvement in an experience, then self-reflection may help your students to achieve that learning outcome.
Reflection is an excellent tool for enabling students to critically analyse their behaviours and thoughts in certain situations to understand why things occurred the way they did, or why the student took particular actions. Understanding why can inform our behaviour or attitudes in the future.
By reflecting on experiences through an employability lens students can identify ways that they have behaved and capabilities that they have developed that are useful in work environments, and which are valued by employers.
Self-reflection for employability is particularly effective for:
- Supporting students to identify core competencies from key learning activities (e.g. technical skills for nursing students)
- Enabling students to identify other (non-technical) capabilities that may greatly enhance their overall employability but may not be explicitly measured or assessed as part of the program. (e.g. communicating with persuasion)
- Identifying employability development from non-work based experiences.
What activities can be reflected on?
The concept of experiential learning can be attributed to educational theorist, David Kolb. The basic idea behind experiential learning is that you take an activity and reflect on the outcomes, both positive and negative, and determine how you might behave in the future. Reflection is a key component of the experiential learning cycle.
Any experience or activity where the student is an active participant and has had the opportunity to make decisions and act on these, lends itself to self-reflection for employability purposes. (It is also possible to reflect on activities where students are not active participants and are being acted on, but in that case it is more about the transformation of values, beliefs and perceptions than the active demonstration of particular capabilities).
Many activities within the curriculum are well suited to reflection for employability:
- Work Integrated Learning or Cooperative Learning activities, generally because the intention of the experience is to develop capabilities that can be immediately put to use in a work environment.
- Reflecting on critical incidents to evidence competency achievement for accredited programs
- Reflecting on the experience overall to identify capabilities and attributes valuable in particular work environments
- Team projects
- Research projects
- International study exchange
Outside the curriculum, self-reflection for employability is often connected to:
- Mentoring engagements
- Volunteering with not for profit or community organisations
- Leadership or professional development programs
- Entrepreneurial activities
Selecting a mode of reflection
If you determine that students engaging in your course or activity would benefit from self-reflection you will need to consider how they will reflect, and whether there is a need to retain evidence of the reflection for assessment for review purposes.
The are many models of reflection to choose from and all of them have particular strengths. Once you have selected a model (or merged a combination of techniques) you will need to think about HOW the student will do the reflection.
The most common ways to self-reflect are:
- Written reflections – writing down responses to prompt questions or working through a particular reflection structure. Reflective essays, journals or blogs are common examples.
- Debrief or shared reflection discussion – students reflect on a particular situation or experience in groups or pairs. A structure or set of reflective questions could be worked through, or the conversation could be unstructured and more informal.
- Media – the creation of an artefact or product as an outlet for reflection (poem, video blog, audio recording, painting)