Learn by Reflection

 It is well recognized today that knowledge plays an important role in the productivity and prosperity of economies, organizations, and individuals. It is no wonder, then, that the concept of learning has captured the attention of scholars across a wide range of fields and disciplines. Learning is defined as a lasting change in knowledge generated by experience. The literature has identified two types of learning, which are based on the source of such experience: direct learning from one’s own experience and indirect learning from the experience of others.
Learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection—that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. The effect of reflection on learning is mediated by greater perceived ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy). Together, these results reveal reflection to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey: “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” Key concepts include:
  • Learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection-that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.
  • Reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive.
  • Reflection builds one’s confidence in the ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn translates into higher rates of learning.

Individuals will learn more effectively when they are given the chance to reflect and articulate the key lessons learned from experience, and that this effect will be greater when reflection efforts are aimed at sharing such key lessons with others. But why do reflection efforts generate an improvement in problem-solving capacity? The link between learning-by-thinking and greater performance is explained by self-efficacy, or a personal evaluation of one’s capabilities to organize and execute courses of action to attain designated goals. Put more simply, self-efficacy refers to confidence in one’s ability to achieve a goal. In fact, the perception that one is efficacious is not based on whether one feels one has the skills and abilities to succeed. Rather, it mainly concerns what one believes one can do with the skills and abilities one may possess thus, self-efficacy represents individuals’ expectations and convictions of what they can accomplish in given situations. For example, the expectation that a person can high-jump 6 feet is a judgment about perceived efficacy. It is not a judgment of whether the person is competent in high-jumping in general, but a judgment of how strongly the individual believes she can successfully jump that particular height under the given circumstances.


Thus now a days learning has primarily focused on the role of doing (experiencing) in fostering progress over time. Individual learning has been enhanced by deliberately focusing on thinking about what one has been doing.

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