The pedagogical balancing act: Teaching reflection in higher education

Mary Ryan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the common use of the term reflection in higher education assessment tasks, learners are not often taught how to communicate their disciplinary knowledge through reflection. This paper argues that students can and should be taught how to reflect in deep and transformative ways. It highlights the reflexive pedagogical balancing act of attending to different levels of reflection as a way to stimulate focused, thoughtful and reasoned reflections that show evidence of new ways of thinking and doing. The paper uses data from a current project to illustrate the effects of focusing on particular levels of reflection in the pedagogical strategies used, and argues that while the goal of academic or professional reflection is generally to move students to the highest level of reflection to transform their learning/practice, unless higher education teachers attend to every level of reflection, there are specific, observable gaps in the reflections that students produce.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-155
Number of pages12
JournalTeaching in Higher Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


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