Reflection as a Continuum

Learning Objectives

  • Identify knowledge types embedded within reflection

Many people may view reflection as thinking about an event that has happened, but that is only part of it. Reflection can be about something that happened in the past, is happening now, or will/might happen in the future. For example, as a college student, you might reflect on a math test you took last month, how your current homework assignment is puzzling you, and how a math class might impact you next semester. It is important to see reflection as a continuing process because, as you will see in the next section, it is a valuable part of learning and growing in all disciplines and in all aspects of life.

Reflecting Across the Disciplines

If reflection seems like an act unique to your writing class, think about other courses and majors and how we see instances of reflection. Consider health fields and professions. Early in their educations, future nurses, doctors, and other health professionals are taught the importance of reflection in their work. People such as nurses and doctors regularly reflect on the condition of their patients, the care they provide, potential treatments, and future care. This type of thinking requires practice, which is why reflection is part of the courses these students take. For most people, it is not enough to just reflect in the mind. Writing allows health care professionals to keep a reflective log of patients (think about why nurses and doctors rely on those charts and patient records so much).

Further, it is important to think of learning as interconnected, and reflection may allow a space for connections to happen:

  • Students in Mathematics may reflect on previous problems they have solved to help them think about pathways to tackle a more complex problem.
  • Students in Economics may reflect on a simple economic model to help make more sense of complicated information.
  • Students in Education may reflect on their growing knowledges of technology to help lay out innovative lesson plans for the classrooms of the future.

All of these are examples of how we use existing knowledge to learn more. In the discipline of Writing Studies, scholar Kathy Yancey posits that reflection is “a means of going beyond the text to include a sense of the ongoing conversations that texts enter into”.[1] In other words, your knowledge doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and this is true for all subjects. When you write, you seek to advance the knowledge of you and your readers, so reflecting on where what you are writing fits into what already has been written is meaningful.


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  1. Yancey, Kathleen Blake (1998). Reflection in the Writing Classroom. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.