5 Reasons Why Reflection is Essential for Meaningful Learning

Imagine you were busy playing Candy Crush on the train and you missed your stop.

How would you make sure it didn’t happen again?

To learn from this experience so you don’t miss your stop again the next day, you would need to reflect on the experience.

For instance, you would think to yourself:  “I missed the train because I was too engrossed playing Candy Crush”.

It would likely lead to conceptualisation: “If I stopped playing at least one stop before my own, I won’t miss my stop again” 

Your future experimentation and experience would then be : “I stopped playing Candy Crush one stop before my own and got off at the right place!”

This is how learning happens every day, whether we’re out in the world or completing an online course. It’s actually mapped out in Kolb’s Learning Cycle.

Reflecting on our experiences is key to the learning process. And it’s one that can be easily included in your online course design.

An online course experience can be made richer and more meaningful if students can not only ‘do’ but also ‘think’ about what they have done.

Enter ‘learning-by-thinking’ – a powerful tool that involves a deliberate, intentional attempt to analyse the learning experience.

Prominent American education reformer, John Dewey, said,

“We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on the experience.’ Let’s explore how giving your students opportunities for reflections can benefit them as well as you.”

Here are 5 essential benefits of reflection for more meaningful learning:

1.  Reflections help learners take charge of their own learning.

Enter ‘learning-by-thinking’ – a powerful tool that involves a deliberate, intentional attempt to analyse the learning experience.

Providing students opportunities to share their accomplishments, struggles, or pain points enables them to focus on their personal strengths and weaknesses. This can lead to their own self discovery and they can begin to direct their own learning.

2.  Build stronger connections between learning experiences.
Learning-by-thinking helps your learners connect their previous learning experiences together. This involves processing information they have received and realising how it has changed their perspective or helped them better understand a concept.

3. Generate useful feedback for better course design.

Student reflections can act as course feedback and help you as a teacher design better courses.

4.    Greater reflection leads to greater success.

With more time set aside for reflection, students are able to gain a deeper understanding of the topic as they are given an opportunity to conceptualise what they are learning. This is directly proportional to greater success learning in the course and achieving learning outcomes.

5.     Student reflections can spark more social interactions.
Reflections also help to make the learning experience more social. While some reflection is best done alone, other times reflecting with others can help open new perspectives.
As American sociologist and educator, Jack Mezirow, said,

“A defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience.”

By providing an opportunity for reflection you are helping your students derive meaning out of their learning experience. This not only creates a more active learning experience for your students, it also benefits your ability to facilitate a more effective course!