Learning by reflection: the effect on educational outcomes


Catherine M. Kerr Faculty of Health Sciences, Middlesex University, Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London NW3 2QG, England.


Learning by experience involves being able to reflect on a personal happening and through a process of analysis, come to understand it. Such an activity should result in ‘deep learning’ when carried out in a structured way. Higher education establishments are keen to develop such learning methods in students, as a secondary effect of this form of learning is to create student independence from the teacher. This is a much sought after ability as recent government changes have meant higher student numbers without a corresponding rise in teacher numbers. This threatens the quality of student knowledge unless it is compensated for in some way. This study sets out to examine the learning of two student groups. The experimental design was that of group comparison using matched pairs of students. One group, the experimental group, were exposed to reflective teaching methods, whilst the other group (the control group) were exposed to conventional teaching methods only. At the end of a set period of time, the learning achieved in both groups was estimated using an especially designed test paper. The results obtained from both groups were compared and it was found that there was no significant difference obtained in the learning between the groups (P>5%) Therefore, we concluded that students learnt just as well using reflective methods when compared to the conventional methods of learning. However, the potential for enhancement of learning was evident and invites further investigation. All the students in this study were on the Diploma in Higher Education (Nursing) course. The subject area used throughout the study was in the biological sciences.