“On reflection…” – the value of reflection in learning

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Cartoon_Man looking at his reflection in a monitor.

Making time for reflection in the flow of work is an essential skill in today’s workplace. Reflection can bring meaning to the present and the future. It can also help to bring positive change for you and the wider business. Here’s why you should include reflection as part of your regular workplace routine.

Reflection is something you’ve most likely come across in self-development activities, job review cycles, or project update meetings. And for good reason. Experience followed by reflection leads to learning and growth.

In some professions – medicine, healthcare, teaching, for example – reflection has even become a defining feature of competence and is often seen as the bedrock of professional identity and a way to prevent professional stagnation.

Reflection brings meaning

Organisational psychologist Adam Grant describes reflection as ‘the conscious examination of past experiences, thoughts and ways of doing things to bring meaning to the present and the future’. 

Reflection can challenge attitudes and beliefs, enhance understanding, and inform decisions and actions. It allows you to:

  • identify patterns and opportunities for learning.
  • gain more learning from individual experiences.
  • monitor progress.
  • set goals and objectives relating to the learning experience.
  • develop self-awareness – learning about yourself to improve.

Reflection can take many forms. It can range from solitary introspection to critical dialogue with a group of peers.

And it is important to reflect and learn from positive and successful situations as much as from negative incidents that you think could have been better. 

“If you find yourself reviewing old mistakes without gaining new insights,” says Grant, “stop reflecting on the past and start experimenting in the present. New experiences lay the foundation of future reflection.”


“Reflection is the conscious examination of past experiences, thoughts and ways of doing things to bring meaning to the present and the future’.”

– Adam Grant, Organisational Psychologist

Reflection boosts performance

There are important practical business implications as well – reflection has been shown to boost individual performance in the workplace.

“Companies often use tools such as learning journals as a way to encourage deliberate learning in training and regular operations,” say Francesca Gino and Gary Pisano at Harvard Business School. “Our personal experience is that individuals of all ages may not treat these exercises with much seriousness. However our findings suggest that they should. Reflecting on what you’ve done teaches you to do it better next time.” 

Reflection will help you learn “smarter”, and save you from trying to learn “harder”.

More inspiration for reflection

You can find many great resources and toolkits online to inspire you and help you use reflection activities more often in your own work. 

Two that we like very much here at Insitu are the Reflection Toolkit from the University of Edinburgh, and the Reflective Practice Toolkit from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. Both resources are well researched, comprehensive, and current with examples of different reflective practices in action.

Now that you’ve seen the value of reflection in learning, what steps can you take to build reflection into your workplace activity? 

Continue your reading with the next article in the Reflection series of insights: Reflection in online learning – designing alternatives to free writing activities.

Get more reflection inspiration with our free ebook The Power of Reflection

Experience, followed by reflection, is a powerful catalyst to learning and growth. If you want to understand how to build a company culture where reflection is a valued part of daily operations – this ebook is written for you!

At Insitu we’re on a mission to help people be better at what they do. We build smarter learning experiences to reach your learners and transform your organisation, driving performance in any language. Contact us to find out more.

Eszter Mészáros is a Senior Learning Designer at Insitu. Martyn Bull is Creative Directr and Head of Learning at Insitu.