If you are new to reflection then you may be wondering where to start! The good news is that you probably already do more reflection in your everyday life than you realise. Think about all the times you have had a chat with your friends over a cup of coffee, talked with a supervisor about a project or even thought back on the day as you were in the shower. This is all reflection - you are thinking back on your experiences, perhaps considering what you could have done differently and how you could approach similar experiences in the future.
Reflection can happen at any time and for any reason. It doesn't have to be formal, written or even follow a certain procedure for it to add value to your learning.
A common question about reflection is whether it is more useful to reflect on positive or negative experiences.There is no correct answer to this question as much of what you choose to reflect on will depend on your personal circumstances and preferences but a balance of the two is probably the best for most people.
Reflecting on positive experiences can be very uplifting and motivating. It encourages you to see what you have been doing well in your education and career and how you can use this to your advantage in the future. It is natural to want to repeat our successes and by analysing the things we did well we can form a plan to make this happen again. However if we only look at the positives we can overlook problems and this can lead to more issues in the future.
Negative experiences are often easier to learn from as we can pick them apart and think about what we can change to make them better. There is always something we can improve on and this is an excellent basis for making a future plan. However focusing too much on what went wrong can be demotivating and cause negativity. For this reason it is important that you maintain a balance in what you look at during your reflections.
It's important to try and build time into your schedule for reflection (especially if is part of an assignment!) but exactly how you do this will depend on your circumstances. Some people are able to find time every day whilst others set aside time each week. You don't need to spend a long time reflecting but you should try to make it a fairly regular activity. Think of reflection as a philosophy rather than as a set of tasks that must be completed as this can make it seem like too much work. If you take a short, regular amount of time to reflect at various points you will soon find that you are reflecting much more than you realise.
Working with others can help to keep you motivated to reflect. Whether you are studying or in work it's important to try and create a culture where people are encouraged to reflect and supported to act on the results. Try teaming up with friends, other students or colleagues for a regular reflection session. This can be something formal or a weekly chat over coffee - whatever works for you!
This section has hopefully shown you that you reflect more often than you think you do. There is no one 'right' way to be reflective and different people will find that different methods work for them. Some people prefer to reflect alone whilst for others it's a social activity. You may find that you need to try some different methods before you find one which feels right for you. However you choose to reflect it's important to look at both positive and negative experiences to get a balanced understanding of your learning.