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Reflective Learning for Students

In Practice | Resources

Image of a person reading Reflective learning is a way of allowing students to step back from their learning experience to help them develop critical thinking skills and improve on future performance by analysing their experience. This type of learning, which helps move the student from surface to deep learning, can include a range of activities, including self-review, peer review, and Personal Development Planning.

Understanding assessment criteria and acting on feedback is also a way of encouraging students to reflect on what they have learned and how they will improve. This can be useful for Personal and Academic Support Tutors in discussing for example, how students can make the best use of feedback. Peer review is another means which allows students to reflect initially on another student’s work or contribution and in turn reflect on their own experience.

Reflective learning can be applied in a number of ways including keeping a reflective journal or log – particularly useful in reflecting on, for example, work placements or year abroad. This type of activity can also serve as a tool for Personal and Academic Support Tutors to generate discussion about employability issues with your tutees.

Students may have difficulty understanding what is expected of them in using a reflective approach and will need guidance in going beyond a simple list of what they have done in a journal log. Providing examples of a reflective journal entry that demonstrates critical thinking and analysis can help students in the process. Explaining the advantages of this approach in terms of its applicability to an employment situation can also encourage students to appreciate the value of reflective learning.

As part of the attributes of the Sheffield Graduate, our students should be able to demonstrate that they are: “well rounded, reflective, self aware and self motivated.”


Example: Supporting reflective practice

Barbara Sen, Information School

This paper presents a model of reflective practice and materials for teaching and supporting reflection. It aims to address the challenge of helping students understand what reflection is, how to do it to achieve deeper learning, and its value and benefits.

Example: Reflection and work-based learning

A CILASS Funded Study undertaken by Laurence Craig, Department of Landscape, November 2010

A background study to inform reflective learning within the Landscape Architecture ‘Year in Practice.’

Example: Assessing employability through reflective diaries on teamwork

Presentation by Dr Joan Beal (English) at the 6th Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012. (Click Session 25 to download)

This masterclass looks at ways of using reflective diaries to enhance teamwork skills and to encourage students to reflect on the employability skills they are gaining by participating in team projects with external partners.

The Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies has encouraged its Final Year students to reflect on their study abroad experience by making a short documentary video after they return home. This video is shown to Level Two students to encourage and prepare them for their upcoming year abroad.

The Department of Landscape asks students to do a reflection before coming to class.


Bullet The Higher Education Academy’s Education Subject Centre (ESCALATE) offers extensive resources on reflective learning, including Resources for Reflective Learning by Jenny Moon. This collection of exercises and material for handouts are designed to support the introduction and use of reflective and experiential learning.

Bullet Skills for Study

The Open University provides suggestions to students on how analysing their study skills can help boost their success in learning. Knowing that students can struggle with what reflective learning means and its applicability, this article can help you shape the information you provide to students.

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See also:

Bullet Toolkit Resources:

Inquiry-based Learning

Reflecting on feedback