Another dot in the blogosphere?

My Reflective Compass

Posted on: August 31, 2021

Photo by Valentin Antonucci on

Reflection is a form of metacognition — it is thinking about thinking. Superficially, reflection is slowing down and taking stock of what happened.

Being inherently reflective might be a character trait. Being effectively reflective is a skill. I would like to offer a framework that suggests factors that develop effective reflection.

A little over 15 years ago, I conducted research and wrote a doctoral dissertation on reflective blogging by preservice teachers [link to dissertation maintained by IU]. References and research on reflection were hard to come by then. I doubt they are more common today.

I offer a reflective framework borne of my own reflection. I call it the Reflective Compass. 

The west and east points of this framework are critical and creative thinking. You need both to keep cognition in balance. Creative thinking sans critical thinking is like building castles in the air without ever planting your feet on the ground. Relying only on critical thinking — and confusing that with cynical thinking — cuts down everything before anything can grow.

The south point is evaluative retrospection. It is important to look back and process what happened in the past. Why? I offer this image quote.

We do not learn from experiences. We learn from reflecting on experiences. -- John Dewey

Looking back is not enough. You need to analyse and evaluate an experience: What was it worth? Why? Whether you succeeded or failed, what did you learn from it? If you got nothing from it, again, why?

If introspection is not accompanied by creative solution-seeking and critical analysis of such solutions, the process devolves into stagnant nostalgia. Reflection should provide direction for moving forward. This is the north point — forward-thinking — which entails planning, anticipating, and strategising.

Like any other framework, my Reflection Compass is only a model. Models try represent complexity but do not capture every facet of it. My model is not tested, critiqued, or researched. But I fling it into the ether just in case it helps someone looking for some some ideas on reflection.

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