CHRISMED Journal of Health and Research

: 2018  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 319--320

Learning through reflections

Monika Sharma 
 Department of Pediatrics, Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, Punjab, India

Correspondence Address:
Monika Sharma
Department of Pediatrics, Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, Punjab

How to cite this article:
Sharma M. Learning through reflections.CHRISMED J Health Res 2018;5:319-320

How to cite this URL:
Sharma M. Learning through reflections. CHRISMED J Health Res [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Sep 18 ];5:319-320
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Reflections are what psychologists call an “episodic grasp of reality”, which are not only experiences but also excellent learning opportunities.[1] While we encourage our students to learn from their clinical exposures, we should also pass on the habit of reflecting to construct meaning from their experiences. Reflecting encourages insight and complex learning. It involves linking current experience to previous learning and draws from cognitive and emotional information from the experience. Promoting students to reflect, engages the students in deriving meaning from the content.

Encouraging reflection can be as simple as asking students to think about their thoughts and help them realize the importance of their educational goals. Students can be asked to share their understanding of an experience, detail their strategies to deal with the problem and analyze the adequacy of their solutions.

In the academic context, reflective thinking/writing usually involves looking back at an event, analysis it from different perspectives and thinking about what the event means to the process of learning or practice. This makes it a more personal experience than any other form of academic learning or writing and its benefits to the individual learner would be multifaceted. Reflections help the learner explore and explain events; reveal anxieties, errors, and weaknesses as well as strengths and successes. While training students to reflect, one must encourage them to focus on one particular event or the most significant parts of it and to look at a way forward in the context of learning and practice.

Various models of reflective writing have been suggested. One suggested by Maughan and Webb describes it as a three-step approach. Step 1: description, step 2: interpretation, and step 3: outcome.[2] Borton's method of reflective writing, used by the authors of the paper titled “Analysis of reflective writing of the 3rd year medical students during the pediatric clerkship” is another very simple way of teaching students to write reflections on similar lines. The “What?”, “So what?” and “Now, what?” elements of the model, prod the learner to think clearly.[3]

Reflecting may be done alone or as a group discussion where students learn from each other's experiences and thoughts. It helps develop empathy and flexibility. Interviews, questioning, keeping logs or journals are ways to encourage reflections.

Maintaining a journal or log book of reflections has its own added benefits for the learner. Journals serve as a permanent record of experiences and thoughts. They help the learner and teachers form a connect on a shared experience and also serve as an outlet for the learner's anxiety and frustrations. For the teachers, reflective journals are an insight into the learner's way of thinking and learning and aid to the creation of a relationship between the two.[4]

Although we work with the assumption that everyone can reflect; as a learning tool, reflective writing needs to be taught to the students to take its maximum benefit. Unguided reflections may tend to go overboard with emotions and criticism and end up not achieving its target learning and limiting itself to feedback.

The authors of the article “Analysis of reflective writing…” have presented their experience with reflective writing in interns during pediatric postings. Unlike adults, illnesses in children affect the whole family, especially the mothers. Learning pediatrics for an undergraduate is complicated by the general inexperience of the students in dealing with children and handling the complex issues faced by the attendants. As teachers focused on teaching the subject, one often overlooks these “nonacademic” concerns. This article has been able to bring out the impact of exposure to pediatrics on students and also gives important feedback to the teachers, through reflections.

As we are moving toward a modern competency-based curriculum, incorporating reflective writing at some stage on learning will help in improving the attributes of professionalism and ethics. We are still a few steps away from formalizing reflective writing; this article takes the much needed first step to explore its utility.


1Costa AL, Kallick B. Learning through reflections. In: Costa AL, Kallick B, editors. Learning and Learning with Habits of Mind. Ch. 12. Alexandria, VA: ASCD Publisher; 2008.
2Maughan C, Webb J. Small Group Learning and Assessment; 2001. Available from: [Last accessed on 2018 Sep 30].
3Borton T. Reach touch and teach. Nurse Educ Today 2014:34;488-9.
4Spalding E, Wilson A. Demystifying reflection: A study of pedagogical strategies that encourage reflective journal writing. Teach Coll Rec 2002:104;1393-21.