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Reflective practice

Why are we asking you to take a reflective approach to your practice and develop an ePortfolio in this program?

Reflective practice has an important role to play in student learning as it:

  • provides the bridge between the theory that students learn in the classroom, with what they experience as they engage with the world (outside of the classroom, in the workplace, and beyond).

  • supports learning (Harvey, Coulson & McMaugh, 2016), skills development including metacognition and creativity, and life-long learning (Harvey, et. al. 2010).

  • is identified as an employability skill that helps graduates to succeed in the workforce (Kinash & Crane, 2015).

What is reflective practice?

Just as there are many terms to describe reflective practices (for example, your discipline may use critical thinking, evaluation, mindfulness, investigation, contemplation) there is no one definition of reflection. Here are two definitions:

Deliberately thinking about action with a view to its improvement (Hatton & Smith, 1995, p.34)

Reflection is a deliberate and conscientious process that employs a person’s cognitive, emotional and somatic capacities to mindfully contemplate on past, present or future (intended or planned) actions in order to learn, better understand and potentially improve future actions. (Harvey, Coulson & McMaugh, 2016, p.9)

How can we reflect?

As with all learning, you can engage (with reflective practice) in a range of ways, from using a shallow approach (e.g., recalling, reporting or describing) through to a deep approach (e.g., synthesising, critiquing or transforming). There are many ways to engage in reflective practice. It is important to find a mode of practice that suits your learning best.

You can support your reflective practice by adopting different perspectives, or lenses. The four critically reflective lenses are:

  1. our autobiographies (as learners and teachers)
  2. our students’ eyes
  3. our colleagues’ experiences
  4. theoretical literature
Lens or perspective Source of data (evidence)
1. Autobiographical Our personal reflection on, during or for practice. May be documented as a diary, journal, portfolio, images or creative artefacts
2. Students Student feedback can be formal (evaluations or surveys); informal (discussions, short written reflections)
3. Colleagues or peers Can be both formal - peer observation and review or informal - discussion or short written reflections
4. Theory and research What does the research say about the issue you are reflecting on?

Brookfield (1995)

Reflective point

There is no best way to reflect. You need to discover what works best for yourself. You are expected to use all four perspectives when you develop your reflective ePortfolio as part of this program. We encourage you to take a critical approach so that you challenge your own and your discipline’s assumptions about learning and teaching.

How do you plan to reflect?

Here are some optional guiding questions to help you develop your portfolio:

  • which reflective technique/s have you chosen and why?
  • when and how often will you reflect?
  • how do you intend to document your reflections?
  • list any questions you have developed about learning and teaching that you want to answer or explore through your reflection


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

Clarke, D & Burgess, C (2009). Using practice based education to improve the student experience. In The Student Experience: Proceedings of the 32nd HERDSA Annual Conference, Darwin, 6-9 July, Australia: Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia, Inc., pp.73- 80.

Dewey J. 1933. How we think. Boston, MA: D. C. Heath and Co.

Harvey, M., Coulson, D. & McMaugh, A. (2016). Towards a theory of the ecology of reflection: reflective practice for experiential learning in higher education. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 13(2). http://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol13/iss2/2

Hatton, N. & Smith, D. (1995). Reflection in teacher education: Towards definition and implementation. Teaching and Teacher Education, 11(1), pp. 33-49.

Kinash, S. & Crane, L. (2015). Enhancing graduate employability of the 21st century learner. Paper presented at the International Mobile Learning Festival. Mobile Learning, MOOCs and 21st Century learning, Hong Kong, May 22-23, 2015. http://epublications.bond.edu.au/fsd_papers/99

Want to know more?

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

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

UNSW Sydney