Reflective Practice

Many university courses will require you to engage in reflective practice. Reflective practice refers to thinking deeply about a particular activity that you are doing or have done, and ensuring that the insights you glean through reflection influence your future activities. Reflective practice, then, is a cycle or ‘virtuous circle’, as illustrated below. 

An activity could include: attending a lecture or participating in a tutorial (or a series of lectures and tutorials), completing an assignment, working with a team, work experience or work placement, or spending a semester abroad.

Work placement and work-based learning are an integral part of many courses (for example, in nursing and other health sciences, where students go on work placement from their first year of study; many other courses involve placement in 3rd or 4th year), and an optional element of many others (for example, science, engineering, and business – find out more here). You are likely to be asked to reflect on your experiences and your learning in the workplace.

Usually, your lecturer will give you guidance to help you with the task of reflection, and with writing up your learning from reflection. You may be asked to write and submit a reflective piece at regular intervals (for example, on a weekly or fortnightly basis), or to produce a longer reflection that charts and summarises your learning journey towards the end of the semester or academic year.

If you are not used to reflective practice and reflective writing, it can take a little time to develop the skills needed to do it well. It can be difficult to think or to write about yourself, your actions, and your thoughts objectively. If you have got used to observing the conventions of academic writing, in which you are usually expected to take a formal and impersonal tone, it can be tricky to introduce the personal pronoun (“I”) into your writing. Remember that reflective writing is very different to academic writing and many students find it challenging to switch between these two modes of thinking and writing.

See our top tips for reflective practice for some advice on approaching reflection and reflective writing.