Improving Improving Quality Of Reflective Learning: The Gp's Story

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A means of introducing and improving the quality of reflective learning: The GP’s Story

Jenny Moon, Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, Bournemouth University, Independent Consultant (

Some resources
Critical thinking -
Reflection -
Learning journals -
Production Analysis in media and art and design subjects -

I have also put onto the website a paper on graduated scenarios. To find it, search under my name.

Some definitions of reflection
There is no one definition of reflection. This is the definition which I use.

Reflection is a form of mental processing - like a form of thinking - that we may use to fulfil a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome. Alternatively we may simply ‘be reflective’, and then an outcome can be unexpected. The term ‘reflection’ is applied to relatively complex or ill-structured ideas for which there is not an obvious solution and it largely refers to the further processing of knowledge and understanding that we already possess.

In academic situations there is more to say:

In academic contexts the notion of reflection has been developed as a tool to support learning. In an academic context, refection is likely to involve a conscious and stated purpose for the reflection, with an outcome that is specified in terms of learning, action or clarification. The academic reflection may be preceded by a description of the purpose and / or the subject matter of the reflection.
The process and outcome of the reflective work is most likely to be in a represented (eg written) form and to be seen by others and to be assessed. These factors can affect its nature and quality. (From Moon, 2004)

Metaphors can be helpful!

‘Harry stared at the stone basin. The contents had returned to their original silvery white state, swirling and rippling beneath his gaze. “What is it?” Harry asked shakily. “This? It is called a pensieve”, said Dumbledore. “I sometimes find - and I am sure that you know the feeling - that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.” “Er”, said Harry, who couldn’t truthfully say that he had ever felt anything of the sort. “At these times”, said Dumbledore, indicating the stone basin, “I use the pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form”’. (From ‘The Goblet of Fire’, JK Rowling).

Instructions for exercises on the depth and quality of reflection

The aim of these exercises is to enable participants to see what reflective writing looks like, to recognise that reflection can vary in depth and that there is more potential for learning from deeper rather than superficial reflection. The exercise is developed in response to the observation that students, who are asked to reflect, tend to reflect rather superficially. In the exercises there are three or four accounts of an incident. In each case someone is reflecting on the incident as she might if writing in a journal. The accounts are written at increasingly deeper levels of reflection. From the writer’s experience of wide use of these exercises, the subject matter does not matter. It is even disadvantageous to give an exercise with subject matter that relates to the discipline of the group because the group will then tend to put on their disciplinary hats and examine the issues from that point of view, rather than consider the qualify of the reflective learning.

The procedure for the exercise is described as a group process, though it can be used individually. The process works best when it has a facilitator, who is not engaged in the exercise. The exercises take around an hour and are best when