What is Reflective Learning?

by | Sep 18, 2023 | 0 comments

When I ask students do they ever reflect on their learning, 95% of the time they give me a confused look and ask me, what is reflective learning and is this something else I need to add to my to-do list.

The answer is, in my opinion all learners should incorporate some reflective practice into their study routine. This only takes a few minutes, but the reward is totally worth it.

What is self-reflection?

Simply put, self-reflection is taking time to think. From a student’s perspective, it is taking time to think about your study and learning.

Before we start reflecting on our learning, let’s go back a step. The first step is to do the learning! Have a look at my blog posts, Learning Techniques for Exam Success for more on this step https://edelwalsh.ie/learning-techniques/. Once the learning has taken place, then it is time to reflect on what you have learned.

What are the benefits of reflecting on your learning?

Sense of Control

It will give you a sense of being in control of your learning. Reflecting on your learning shines a light on what you understand and what needs more work. In effect, it holds you accountable for your progress.


By reflecting on your study and learning, it will give you valuable information to help you grow and develop in your learning. It provides you with invaluable feedback on your learning and on your progress. I worked with a student previously who was reluctant to try self-reflection, but he committed to giving it a go for 5 days. In this short space of time he spent reflecting on his study, he realised that he based his learning and study on topics and subjects that he was comfortable with. He was avoiding the challenging topics. He was staying in his comfort zone. While this may seem insignificant, for this client, it was the difference between passing and failing an exam. He had failed his previous exams because he stayed in his comfort zone. Self-reflection shone a light on this, and he was able to take steps to push himself out of his comfort zone, tackle the challenging topics on his course, understand them and apply his knowledge in his next exam (which he passed with flying colours).

Get a bird’s eye view!

Reflection allows the learner to step back from their learning experience. I like to say when the student is learning, they are on the theatre stage. Reflection allows the learner to move from the stage to the balcony and get a bird’s eye view of how their learning is going, what is going well, what needs improvement. Its helps learners to develop critical thinking skills and, improve on future performance by analysing what they have learned and how far they have come.


Making mistakes is part of the course when you are learning. It what you do next with these mistakes is important. By reflecting on your mistakes, it will shine a light on what you need to learn or study more of. Alternatively, it might shine a light on your study techniques or preparation strategy for your exams. The list is endless.

Reflecting on your learning makes your learning more productive. In turn, reflection helps build your confidence as a learner to reach your learning and performance goals.

How do you reflect on your study and learning?

Take three minutes after your study with a pen and paper to reflect and make notes about your study and learning. This will enhance your focus and productivity. Look at what worked well for you and what could have gone better. It is as simple as that.

If you want to take this one step further, checkout my reflective study journal here https://edelwalsh.ie/shop/ Included in the journal are monthly planners, where you can get a bird’s eye view of the month ahead. This is where you can write into the journal any big events in the month ahead like an assignment deadline, group work meetings or an exam.

There is an opportunity for you to set weekly priorities for yourself so you can keep on track. There is a daily schedule where you can set out your goals for your study session and your timetable for study. Once your study is completed there are some self-reflective prompts for you to complete. This is where your reflective learning will really come into place.

Once your study week is over there is a further opportunity to reflect on how your week went from a study perspective. Not only is it a good idea to reflect on each study session, but it is also useful to reflect on the week you have had from a study and learning perspective.

Finally, there are reflective prompts for you to complete once you have done an exam or an assignment. These will prompt you to consider what worked well for you and what needs improving going forward.