Four Ways to Reflect

Four Dimensions of Reflective Learning

I.  Thinking Back

 Returning to a learning experience or recapturing a learning event some time after it has taken place may allow the learner to revisit the entire experience from a fresh and different perspective.  Learners may uncover previous knowledge that had been learned but was now buried or simply forgotten. 

 Questions that may help uncover learning from the past are:  

  • What was the original purpose of this project/experience?
  • What was my motive for completion of this project/experience?
  • What were the critical factors helping or hindering completion of this project?
  •  What specific skills/knowledge/attributes were necessary for completion of this project?
  • What did I actually learn from this project/experience?
  • When did the most learning occur? How do I know this?

II. Thinking Forward

     As learners reflect on how they would do things differently in the future, it is possible that an “upgrade” of learning could occur.  This deeper level of learning has been referred to as transformative learning (King 2002).

    Questions that may help the learner to understand future implications about learning are:

  • If I had chosen to do “x” or not to do “x”, what might have happened?
  • How significant are the outcomes of either direction?
  • If I had the chance to do this again, what changes would I make?
  • How might this project or experience shape the goals that I set for my future?
  • How might what I have learned affect my future learning decisions?

III. Thinking Inward

     Introspective reflections also bring the learner closer to emotions. According to James Zull (2002), reflecting on a previous experience will be meaningless unless it engages our emotions. A deeper understanding of one’s own feelings and emotions leads to a higher level of learning as described by several taxonomies of learning.

Questions that may lead to an intrinsic connection are:

  • Why was this project or experience meaningful to me?
  • What are my personal beliefs regarding this learning experience?
  • Do I agree or disagree with the way I learned this?  Why or why not?
  • What differences has the learning made in my intellectual, personal or ethical development?
  • What were the highest and lowest emotional moments in my learning experience?

IV. Thinking Outward

      Reflecting on the world around us requires an extended point of view.   Identifying the attitudes and opinions of another person, such as an author, a coworker, or a person from another culture leads learners to further consideration of their own belief system. The value in these contrasts and comparisons of beliefs is that it causes the learner to either expand their personal point of view or perhaps becoming more affirmed in their reasons for believing the way they do.

    Reflecting outwardly may lead to new ideas or theories that are used to explain or make sense of something.

    Questions that allow learners to think in an extrinsic way:

  • How am I looking at this topic?  Can I identify another point of view?
  • How might a person from another culture or religion look at this?
  • Which of these viewpoints makes the most sense?
  • Is my current concept about a topic causing problems for others?
  • Does the problem or question in my mind have historical, ethical, scientific,

      political or economic considerations?

It is my hope that the four dimensions of reflection will add to your body of knowledge about a learning experience and contribute to your general understanding of yourself as a learner and a uniquely gifted person (Max Lucado 2005).


About kbarnstable

Educator, Writer, Memoir Author & Instructor
This entry was posted in Learning Strategy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Four Ways to Reflect

  1. Pingback: UfoliO Project » Blog Archive » Diigo Annotations 01/16/2010

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  3. Ray Tolley says:

    Hi, Karen,

    I think that this is a very valuable statement that needs further publication. Although I agree completely with your last two headings I want to be more specific about what I have learnt from others, whether it has added to my own perceptions or alternatively confirmed views that I already had.

    Particularly in e-Portfolio work I feel that the use of reflection is often minimalised whereas your ‘Four Ways to Reflect’ should be embeded within the guidance for every e-Portfolio user.

    PS. I’m perplexed as to why this post has come up now (June ’10)

  4. kbarnstable says:

    Thanks so much for your comments Ray.
    I re-posted this former post under a different heading since it got ‘lost’ under the previous title. I have recently had a chance to use the Four Dimensions in several different settings, and everyone has commented on its usefulness so I thought it deserved to be shared again.
    Thanks again for noticing and supporting the ideas.

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  6. Luevera says:

    thank you clear and concise

  7. Pingback: Making time for Reflection! & Reflection for Lower Elementary Students | Langwitches Blog

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  21. Hilary Biggers says:

    Thank you for your clear and concise reflection model. It has inspired a reflective assignment for my high school students.

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