Reflective Learning

Guest Post by Dr Tan Kok Siang, Lecturer at the National Institute of Education (NIE)

Reflective Sphere
Credit: Colin Mutchler

In life, problems and crises do not present themselves at expected times (as in school examinations). There is also no fixed curriculum and no model answers to problems. However, we can prepare ourselves for such uncertain situations. One good way is to develop the habit of reflection. Nature does not tell scientists and inventors what to look for. They have to observe Nature, generate relevant information and try to relate these to their problems. “Observing”, “generating” and “relating” are thinking skills supportive of a reflective habit of learning. Scientists like Archimedes, Benjamin Franklin, Watson and Crick would have exhibited such skills in their respective work.

We all reflect, but when we do it often and in greater depth, we can be more effective and efficient. Reflection is thinking in context. We can think of a scientific concept or even apply it to solve a problem, but when putting the problem in context (like from a personal or environmental perspective) we would have to ask questions like “Is this the best solution?” and “Are there more effective approaches?”

In life, many examples point to this need to be reflective. We are searching for alternative sources of energy. In overpopulated societies there are creatively-designed living spaces and in bio-medical engineering we look for different ways to deal with health and environmental problems. Thus, being reflective makes learners more aware of possibilities which may translate into opportunities for better living conditions or even warnings of imminent problems.

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