Reflective Learning: For And Against

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Reflective learning is a pedagogical method that involves students thinking about what they have read, done, or learned, relating the lesson at hand to their own lives and making meaning out of the material (Gray, nd).It is something that takes time and that demands thought and effort (Crockett, 2017). Students learn effectively through relevant reflection through their interaction with learning materials (Lin, Wen, Jou, and Wu, 2014).

RL first came to a modern focus through John Dewey in 1933. Building on ancient Greek wisdom, he posited that reflective learning allowed for people to connect ideas to past knowledge in order to solve problems (Crokett, 2017).

Pros and Cons of Reflective Learning

According to Gray (nd), the advantages of RL are accepting responsibility for learning and, as a result, for personal growth; becoming metacognitive, or being aware of internal thinking processes; and becoming aware of motives with actions; seeing a link between the work put into learning and what gets out of it. Likewise, good reflection motivates students and achieves better comprehension, and performance (Lin, Wen, Jou, and Wu, 2014). Thus, it is important to help students develop and strengthen their reflection abilities.

On the contrary, the con of RL is time consuming. It needs planning and effort in order to come up with reflective outputs like journal. Likewise, outputs are difficult to assess. Hence, a rubric for evaluating the output is needed and must be made clear among students from the start of the lesson. In this way, students are guided on what to do with their reflection outputs.

Effectiveness of Reflective Learning

Studies show that RL is an effective pedagogical approach. Solis (2015) conducted a study about teachers’ experiences of learning through a reflective inquiry process focused on the relationship between teaching beliefs and behaviors. The data collection process consisted of interviews, group meetings, observations, post-observation conferrals, and written reflections. Findings showed that teachers are not accustomed to thinking about their beliefs, and that the experience of doing so is an emotional and important process for teachers’ professional development. Solis (2015) further explained that sharing beliefs promotes accountability for teachers’ practices. Findings indicate that there is a need for teachers to be supported to engage in teacher inquiry with a specific focus on their teaching beliefs.

Likewise, Chang and Lin (2014) study was focused on the use of reflective learning e-journals in a university web-based English as a foreign language (EFL) course. In the study, a multimedia-based English programme comprising fifteen different units was delivered online as a one-semester instructional course. Ninety-eight undergraduate students participated, and they were divided into two groups: the treatment group used reflective learning e-journals, while the control group completed content-related exercises. Results showed that students who used reflective learning e-journals outperformed students who did not do so. Likewise, using reflective e-journals improved the academic performance of learners in the online course; and improved students’ organizational skills and writing abilities.

Reflective Learning Pedagogical Strategies

When students undertake RL, the teacher uses a variety of pedagogical strategies to promote their active involvement. Such pedagogical strategies include class presentation, ethical case studies, journal, portfolio, poster, quotes, reflective essays, and structured class discussion.

Class Presentation

Class presentation is also known as oral reporting. Student or group of students presents the assigned task to them in front of the class while the other groups listen. Questions about the report are usually done after the report. A rubric is used in evaluating the class presentation of the group that is given before the start of the class presentation. This pedagogical strategy improves the students’ communication skills, and develops self-confidence.

Ethical Case Studies

Ethical case studies are stories that present a realistic, complex, and contextually rich situation involving a dilemma, conflict, or problem that one or more of the characters in the case must negotiate (CMU, 2015). Good discussions on ethics are often driven by situations that challenge students’ abilities to determine the right thing to do, carry out effective ethical action, or lay out an effective strategy for avoiding ethical obstacles in the future (Dornsife,nd). An effective case study is one that, according to Davis (1993 as cited in CMU, 2015): tells a “real” and engaging story; raises a thought-provoking issue; has elements of conflict; promotes empathy with the central characters; lacks an obvious or clear-cut right answer; encourages students to think and take a position; portrays actors in moments of decision; provides plenty of data about character, location, context, actions; and is relatively concise. CMU (2015) cited that as an instructional strategy, case studies have a number of virtues. They “bridge the gap between theory and practice and between the academy and the workplace” (Barkley, Cross, and Major 2005, p.182, as cited in CMU, 2015).

However, case studies are difficult to organize, more time and effort consuming than traditional teaching (Kostova, Vakleva,, Vladimirova, and Kaleva, 2012).

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As a pedagogical strategy, journal may be a form of self-expression. Through journals students can process their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and emotions on paper (Cox, nd). Journaling is used in academia as a means of aiding reflection, deepening students understanding and stimulating critical thinking (Med Banner, nd).

Study has shown the effect of journal writing. Al-Rawahi and Al-Balushi (2015) investigated the effectiveness of reflective science journal writing. Findings of their study showed that students in the journal-writing group significantly outperformed students in the control group with respect to their self-regulation strategies. The study recommended that reflective journal-writing should be encouraged by science teachers and in science textbooks.


Portfolio-making is making a compilation of academic work and other forms of educational evidence assembled for the purpose of (1) evaluating coursework quality, learning progress, and academic achievement; (2) determining whether students have met learning standards or other academic requirements for courses, grade-level promotion, and graduation; (3) helping students reflect on their academic goals and progress as learners; and (4) creating a lasting archive of academic work products, accomplishments, and other documentation (The Glossary of Education Reform, 2016). According to Glossary of Education Reform (2016), portfolio can be a physical collection of student work that includes materials such as written assignments, journal entries, completed tests, artwork, lab reports, physical projects (such as dioramas or models), and other material evidence of learning progress and academic accomplishment, including awards, honors, certifications, recommendations, written evaluations by teachers or peers, and self-reflections written by students. Portfolios may also be digital archives, presentations, blogs, or websites that feature the same materials as physical portfolios, but that may also include content such as student-created videos, multimedia presentations, spreadsheets, websites, photographs, or other digital artifacts of learning (The Glossary of Education Reform, 2016). It becomes a pedagogical strategy if students are asked to make a portfolio containing all the reflections of their learning. It can also be used as an assessment of learning. However, there is difficulty of encouraging students to reflect on the learning process, especially where higher-order learning outcomes are concerned (Gregori-giralt, and Menéndez-varela, 2015).


Poster-making is a pedagogical strategy that enables visualization to pair visual learning with textbook reading, lecture, and traditional homework assignments and has been shown to improve metacognitive practice (Logan, Quinones, and Sunderland, 2015). It enhances students’ academic achievements and at the same time helped them develop social interactive skills, such as constructive and tolerant interactions as well as collaborative learning and sharing of ideas and efforts (Kostova et al, 2012). However, poster is difficult to prepare. The difficulties with poster preparation are students had to be taught how to observe, what event to photograph, how to take notes, how to measure, make tables, plot graphs, seek explanations. Likewise, every step had to be guided and if left alone the students are confused (Kostova et al., 2012).


Quotes or sayings convey an important idea, reflects wisdom, and can have a more profound impact than ten pages of tortured prose, or even some pictures (Kizlic, 2016). Usually, quotation marks are written before and end of the sayings. For example, “Education is a wealth that nobody can steal.”

Quote-making can be a very good pedagogical strategy because it cultivates students’ creativity and enhances their skills in constructing quotes related to the concepts they learned.

Reflective Essays

Essay allows teachers to gauge student understanding of a particular topic. It can be done by posing a question to the students for them to respond. Questions should make students to reflect on learning and make personal connections with their own lives. In order to ensure high order thinking skills, a Bloom’s Taxonomy of question starter may be used in a question (Reiger, 2012).

For example, Explain why wastes that people throw comes back to people.

Structured Class Discussion

Discussion is a vital part of the learning. Through discussion, students can communicate their ideas about the topic. Likewise, their queries about the topic can be voiced out and can be answered. This pedagogical strategy teaches students to be an active listener and be engaged by taking down important notes, answering questions and throwing questions.

Discussion focuses on higher level thinking. Moreover, it encourages students to share what they have learned and how that knowledge may have an impact on their daily lives. Likewise, it allows brainstorming on ways that the knowledge could be transferred to other subject areas or situations the students may come across (Reiger, 2012).

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Reflective Learning: For And Against. (2021, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from
“Reflective Learning: For And Against.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2021,
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