Happy New Year everyone!
For many of us, the start of a new year is exciting. It brings a sense of new beginning and a ‘clean slate’. Much of the positivity we feel is based around the possibilities that lie in the future, it conjures a powerful and positive feeling called ‘hope’.
The New Year can also be a sentimental time when we reflect on our experiences and achievements from the previous year. However, looking back in the mirror is not only a satisfying and nostalgic experience, it can be a critical component to learning.
When done properly, reflection can be a powerful learning tool, allowing us to create valuable ‘take-home’ lessons for future use. At a micro level, reflection helps to facilitate the connections between the ‘wire-like’ structures in our brain called neurons. In essence, improved neuronal connections equals improved learning and memory.
For those theorists amongst us, reflection is a central part of Kolb’s Model of Learning (KML). Put simply, KML is the theoretical way to explain what happens in our minds when we learn by doing. This is also known as experiential learning.
Perhaps the most critical aspects of KML are the reflective and conceptualisation (aka ‘lessons learned’) aspects. It is of no surprise that these parts require the most effort, as your brain is literally re-wiring itself in this process!
So what can we do to facilitate quality reflection, and therefore learning? The answer lies in asking yourself the right questions. Below is a summary of a simple yet effective list of reflective questions.
1) What was my experience? Think through the sequence of events as well as your involvement and the outcomes.
2) How do I feel as a result of this experience? Identifying the feeling associated with your experience will not only be a good way to ‘debrief’, it will enhance memory recall at a later date.
3) What have I learned? A simple yet powerful question to help you solidify the ‘lessons learned’ or theories you have established.
4) What would I do differently next time? Ask yourself this question to help you identify the specific things – based on your lessons learned – you will commit to doing in the future.
5) How have I changed as a result of this experience? This question is to not only consider the new knowledge you have acquired, but also to reflect on the broader facets of self-development (e.g. attitudes, behaviour, skill, metacognition etc.).
The applications to these reflective questions are vast. It may be professional, e.g. a Teacher trying to improve their lesson structure, or it may be personal, e.g. developing stronger relationships with loved ones!
No matter what the experience life throws at us, there is always an opportunity to reflect and learn.
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