Travelling took up most of my time during my university days. I spent nearly three hours commuting two ways to university and back, and this was during the time when phones were limited to music, MMS (multimedia messaging service) and simple games.
I always found it tough to read on a moving vehicle so the only other option was listening to music whilst allowing my mind to meander away; occasionally people watching. In hindsight, I believe these were crucial moments for me to transition into adulthood.
The daily commute, though excruciatingly painful back then, gave me time to reflect daily. It helped me process things that happened in the past and present, and allowed me to generate what sort of choices I wanted to make for my future.
It became such a part of my daily practice so much so, that I looked forward to it. The music I was listening to as my thoughts transitioned added dramatic effect. I also believe the reflective habit helped me discover my passion and desire to write.
Today, the younger generation are so privy to technology, that anything longer than eight seconds no longer holds their interest. There is information overload, various entertainment options available anytime and anywhere; meaning, many youth no longer have time to be alone with their thoughts.
This takes away the vital elements of being self-aware, the ability to emotionally regulate oneself, and develop critical thinking and problem solving capabilities.
What is reflective learning?
Reflective learning is derived from our own experiences. Through constant reflection, one would update their process of recording and thinking about the experiences they have had. This enables one to learn about themselves. There are various reflective frameworks such as Gibb’s 6 stages of reflection, DIEP Model (describe, interpret, evaluate, plan), and Kolb’s Reflective Model. More than one of these models can be used as a framework for reflective learning.
An example of a reflective model, Gibb’s 6 stages of reflection. Photo source: https://csl.ku.edu/reflection-models#gibbs
Benefits of reflective learning
Introducing reflective learning early on has many benefits. The most prominent is that the exercise will produce the acquisition of critical thinking and problem solving skills. The practice of reflection would foster one to approach and evaluate a subject from all angles.
Reflective learning also places a lot of importance to one’s thoughts and feelings, thus developing their emotional intelligence and enabling them to take responsibility for their own views, thoughts, feelings and actions. This is a form of self-control that would lead to greater trust and independent learning.
In addition, they would also be more confident in sharing their opinions and thoughts to a group or in public, helping them become self-assured speakers with good communication skills.
Related article: Stop, Reflect, Go!
The education sector’s role
Technology is here to stay even if it disrupts and changes the way we do things. The idea is for it to enhance the way we work and increase productivity. Rather than solely focusing on integrating technology in educational settings, the other thing to look at is how education sectors can integrate reflection in their teachings or make it part of the education blueprint.
I work in a private university that is motivated to produce holistic graduates who are ready for the future workforce. A big part of it revolves around the various ways we can inculcate reflection inside and outside of the classroom.
Our findings indicate that once reflection is used as a tool or a medium to make sense of information, it becomes part of a culture or a norm; thus becoming habitual for young learners. Because this is a rather confusing phase for most of them, equipping them with reflection as a tool, whether it is to understand something academically or relationally, would help them regulate their emotions, become more self-aware and hopefully impact their future actions.
How to encourage reflection
Using the many frameworks available online can help one understand reflection. However some of them may be too complex for young learners to make sense of. Breaking it down to impact questions is what I find to be most useful in drawing out learnings.
The first element of reflection is for them to describe the experience or learning. This is solely piecing information together as it happened.
The second element is where they are encouraged to reflect on how they feel about it. Was it a good experience, bad experience, or both? How would they interpret the experience?
The third part is for them to form an evaluation based on the experience. How would this affect their future choices or decisions?
The role of the community
In order for reflection to be part of life, it has to also be ingrained from all parties including the community. Parents will also play a key role in inculcating reflection within themselves as well as their children. The key aspect for parents will be to ask relevant and thought provoking questions that would trigger self-reflection within their children. These questions can be pertinent to life, social circles, family and more.
Reflection should be embedded in methods used to teach, and enable learning and realisation. These can be teachable moments especially when mistakes are made. Resolving conflict and achieving greater communication can also be done through reflection; both through self-reflection and empathy. For instance, parents making an effort to understand their children’s point of view and vice versa.
Introducing reflection early on clearly has great benefits. I believe it will create a highly productive workforce due to its critical and evaluative methods which is a highly transferable skill. There are also ethical implications that surround the learners, and its benefit to various organisations. It can help to eliminate groupthink and defy conformity.
If we produce a generation of reflective learners and practitioners, it will change the way we work and help us continuously improve our strategies to achieve solutions. Thus, it only makes sense to introduce it early when children and youth are sponges, waiting to absorb.