The more teachers and learners understand [the] reflective aspect of learning and organise learning activities which are consistent with it, the more effective learning can be’ (Boud et al, 1996:34).

Definitions of reflection vary. Boud et al (1985:19) suggest a three-point activity:

  • Returning to experience – that is to say recalling or detailing salient events.
  • Attending to (or connecting with) feelings– this has two aspects: using helpful feelings and removing or containing obstructive ones.
  • Evaluating experience– this involves re-examining experience in the light of one’s intent and existing knowledge etc. It also involves integrating this new knowledge into one’s conceptual framework. (ibid in Bisson, 2017)

Students need to be taught to reflect – this will be a very new experience for many international students.

There are ethical problems re. privacy, confidentiality etc; and, without careful guidance, reflection can create harmful emotional responses.

Borton’s (1970) Framework for Guiding Reflection

This model for reflection is one of many; it incorporates all the core skills of reflection.

What? So what? Now what?
This is the description and self-awareness level and all questions start with the word what. This is the level of analysis and evaluation when we look deeper at what was behind the experience. This is the level of synthesis. Here we build on the previous questions to enable us to consider alternative courses of action and choose what we are going to do next.

What happened?

What did I do?

What did other do?

What was I trying to achieve?

What was good or bad about the experiences?


So what is the importance of this?

So what more do I need to know about this?

So what have I learnt about this?


Now what could I do?

Now what do I need to do?

Now what might I do?

Now what might be the consequences of this action?

Further reading:

Bisson, M. (2017) A Coach’s Guide to Self-Reflection Kibworth Beauchamp: Matador

Bolton. G. (2005) Reflective Practice: writing and professional development. 2nd ed. London: Sage

Borton, T. (1970) Reach, Teach and Touch London: McGraw Hill

Boud, D., Keogh, R. and Walker, D. (1985) Reflection: turning experience into learning Abingdon: Routledge

Boud, D, Keogh, R. and Walker, D. (1996) ‘Promoting reflection in learning: a model’ in: Edwards, R., Hanson, A. and Raggatt, T. (eds.) Boundaries of Adult Learning Abingdon: Routledge, pp.32-56

Boyd, E. and Fales, A. (1983) ‘Reflective learning: the key to learning from experience’ in: Journal of Humanistic Psychology 23:2, pp.99-117

Schon, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner New York: Basic Books