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Reflection and evaluation

Reflection and evaluation are two separate, but related concepts.

Reflection is the process of reflecting on your experience in order to learn from that experience.

Evaluation is the process of making an assessment or judgement about an experience or a person.

It is possible to reflect on an experience, especially when reflecting at a shallow (recount or report) level, without evaluating that experience. It is difficult (but not impossible) to evaluate an experience without reflecting on that experience (Johnson, 2015).

Here is an example:


All students (100%) in my class used the video annotation tool.


The novelty, together with the user-friendly functionality, of the video annotation tool engaged all my students.

Reflective lenses

In the first course, Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, we introduced Brookfield’s (1995a) four lenses for reflective practice: 1. self-lense or autobiography 2. the lense of students 3. the lense of peers 4. the lense of the research literature.

We suggest you use all four reflective lenses as you develop your ePortfolio for the FULT program.

Reflection on your teaching or educational practice is a form of evaluation and we will continue to explore this in detail in this course.

When can you reflect?

Reflection can be done during a teaching session or after the session.

Reflection in action

Reflection can take place while you are in the act of teaching or supporting the teaching role. As an educator you are working towards putting into action the theory of your discipline with the theory of pedagogy. Reflection in action can support you to make real-time decisions about what is the best practice for your context while also evaluating that practice. You could do this by taking down quick reflective points to use as prompts for later reflection on action. (Schön, 1987)

Reflection on action

Reflection on action takes places after the act of teaching or supporting teaching. This refers to reviewing and evaluating past actions in order to learn from those actions and then apply the learning to future actions. Many models and tools are available to support this reflection, for example, a ‘critical incident’ (Brookfield, 1995b) may have occurred that prompts or challenges your thinking and this can be a strong prompt for reflective practice.(Schön, 1987)

How can you reflect?

There are many models that can be used for reflective practice.

Three step process (Boud, Keogh & Walker, 1985)

  1. Returning to the experience – recalling and/or detailing significant events
  2. Attending to feelings – being aware of how the situation felt. Be aware of emotions that are useful, and try not ignore feelings which might be troublesome or painful such as fear or disappointment.
  3. Evaluating the experience – this involves re-examining the experience in the light of what you already know and what you intended for the experience and integrating new knowledge.

Six stage model

Gibbs (1988) developed a simple, idealised six stage model of the iterative process of reflection through which the reflective learner progresses cyclically.

More information about this is available here.

Talking point

Time to vote. Which model of the reflective process resonates most with you? The three-step or the six-stage model? Vote for which model you prefer together with a reason as to why.

Systematic observation and appraisal

Systematic observation and appraisal are the two common features between evaluation of, and reflection on, one’s experiences.

The analytical process involved in systematic reflection (and reflective writing) on teaching is similar to critical appraisal and reporting that you might do in a research study.

A simple way to start reflecting about your teaching practice, with an evaluative perspective, is to consider a few simple questions:

Why? What worked well?
Why not? What did not work well?
So what? What will I do the same next time?
Now what? What will I do differently next time?

If you start thinking about your teaching or educational role in a systematic way and consider your role in the evaluation process, then you might also ask yourself more specific questions:

  • what knowledge, skills or abilities are necessary to deliver a specific learning experience?
  • to what extent do I possess those skills?
  • what do I need to do to develop or enhance those skills?
  • how will this affect the way I present that learning experience?
  • what problems might this entail that I need to anticipate and overcome?

These are useful starting points in considering your development as an educator and your career progression.

Want to know more?

If you would like to more about this topic on reflection and evaluation there are additional resources listed in the Want to know more.pdf for this step.


Brookfield, S. D. (1995a). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. D. (1995b). The Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire. Retrieved from http://www.stephenbrookfield.com/s/CIQ.pdf on Friday 14th April 2017.

Boud, D., Keogh, R. & Walker, D. (Eds) (1985). Reflection: Turning experience into learning. London: Kogan Page.

Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit. Oxford: Oxford Polytechnic.

Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

UNSW Sydney