Reflection is also an important employability skill, as it assists in thinking about what went well in a work task and how you might improve it next time.
This applies to university assessment tasks as well. At university, students are expected to develop not just knowledge about their discipline, but also the skills that will make them effective colleagues and team members, such as interpersonal skills, the ability to contribute to and lead a team, and the ability to think about how their work is progressing and how to improve it in the future.
Reflection in IT requires you to analyse your descriptions of experiences or observations. Analysis communicates what you have learned from your reflections, and how it relates to the theories and concepts you’ve been learning about in the unit and the course.However, students may find reflective writing difficult. In the faculty of IT the most common mistake students make is that they write descriptions of their experiences, rather than reflections on
how their experiences were
how they felt
what they learned, and
how they might do better next time if a similar situation arises.
Gibbs’s Reflective Cycle
Below you will see a model (Gibbs, 1988) to help you think and write reflectively in IT. Models like this are designed to help you go deeper into the experience or situation that triggers the reflection, in order to create new understanding and ultimately gain greater awareness of self and others.
At a basic level, a reflective approach involves you asking yourself the following three questions:
So what? (Why is it important or interesting? Why do I need to reflect on it?)
Now what? (What action do I take to improve the situation or make a positive situation even better?)
Possible questions to ask at each step of the cycle
Click to see what questions you could ask yourself at each step of the cycle.
Although slightly less formal in tone, reflective writing is still a kind of formal academic writing. Therefore, it should follow the rules of good writing, including:
structural elements (i.e. introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion)
academic conventions, such as citing and referencing any published sources you may have drawn on.
The key difference is the space to write more subjectively than your other uni assignments. That means you can use the pronoun ‘I’ or ‘we’, and, most importantly, you are encouraged to articulate and engage with your feelings! This is useful if you are trying to deal with conflicting emotions that you may encounter in your learning or in your professional development (e.g. when you’re describing the ‘storming’ stage (Tuckman, 1965) in your group’s collaboration, where roles aren't fully established and conflicts arise related to working styles).
The best reflective learners and practitioners are constantly engaged in the processes described above. Effective reflection involves practice and making time to think about the experiences one has had.
Below are some questions suggested by Holm and Stephenson (1994) designed to prompt deeper reflection:
What was my role in the situation?
Did I feel comfortable or uncomfortable? Why?
What actions did I take, if any?
How did I and others act?
Was it appropriate? Why/ why not?
How could the situation be improved in the future?
Have I learnt anything new about myself?
How has it changed my way of thinking?
What theory or knowledge can I apply to the situation?
What bigger issues arise from the event or experience?
Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford Polytechnic.
Holm, D. & Stephenson, S. (1994). Reflection: a student’s perspective. In A. M. Palmer, S. Burns & C. Bulman (Eds.), Reflective practice in nursing: The growth of the professional practitioner (pp. 53-62). Blackwell Scientific Publication.