Return to MAIN (index) page Return to ASPECTS of LEARNING page Facilitating Reflective Practice

We will consider three approaches:

  • Self and peer assessment

  • Problem-based learning

  • Personal development planning/portfolios




Boud (1995) defines self and peer assessment as the "involvement of students in identifying standards and/or criteria to apply to their work and making judgements about the extent to which they have met these criteria and standards."  For Boud, this involves two clear stages:

  • identification of standards and criteria (and the learner's understanding of these)

  • the learner making judgements of their own progress against those criteria.


Self assessment can be applied both to the process of learning as well as to the assessment product.  Hence, learners will not only be assessing their achievement (e.g: an assignment, completion of a project, development of a skill) but will also be assessing the methods whereby they arrived at that point.  (This might involve consideration of their learning style, motivating factors, barriers to learning, etc.) This qualitative assessment of process might be recorded in a learning diary or portfolio.


Peer assessment involves learners making judgements about each other's work against the specified criteria.  Because of its focus on dialogue and shared interpretations of what constitutes effective teaching and learning, this is a particularly useful practice (Stefani, 1998).  This would need to be introduced within a supportive environment in which students did not feel threatened by the process.  If introduced sympathetically, students appear keen to award grades as well as offering comments; perhaps because the process gives them a clear indication of their own likely achievement.




"Assessment for Learning" has been used successfully in primary and secondary schools.  The QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) website provides useful guidance.



Self assessment (of process) can be particularly effective if students are encouraged to keep a reflective journal in which they record their thoughts and feelings about the progress they are making as learners.  This could be allied to development of an action plan to improve their capacity as learners.  Ojanen (1993) has proposed that using students' personal histories, dialogue journals and the use of group discussion about their experiences is the most effective way of helping students reflect on and improve their practices.


Another way of introducing self assessment is for learners to give a presentation about an aspect of their learning which includes reflection on the process they underwent as they developed their skill/understanding.



You will note that both of these elements form a part of the course and are linked to the early peer-group discussions of students' roles, strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, etc.




Problem-based learning is a way of engaging students in "real" problems.  Students may work in groups to solve problems but they are not expected to arrive at a predetermined "right answer".  By engaging with a complex situation students need to decide what they already know and what they need to learn (or what new skills they may need to acquire) in order to "solve" the situation (Savin-Baden, 2000)


Problem-based learning will (typically):

  • encourage students to work co-operatively

  • use stimulus material to focus student discussion on a specific issue

  • present the problem as a simulation of a "real life" situation

  • encourage critical thinking

  • provide students with limited resources for solving the problem or issue so that they need to define the problem and decide upon a strategy for arriving at a solution

  • encourage students to identify their own learning needs

(see Boud and Feletti, 1997)



Because real problems (and simulated situations) do not have simple solutions, this approach encourages students to engage in complex analytical thinking as they seek to arrive at a solution.


Students also develop group working skills as they share their experiences, learning, suggested solutions, etc.  The dialogue thus facilitated (between student, peers, tutor and external parties) helps the individual position new learning within a real-life context.


Laurillard (1993) suggests that this learning dialogue:

  • reveals students' and tutors' conceptions to each other

  • provides space for negotiation and adaptation of topic and task goals

  • provides opportunity for feedback, reflection and action upon feedback.

Problem-based learning of this kind might be seen to approximate to the action research approach advocated by Hopkins and Antes (1990) whereby specific problems (in specific settings) are targeted and a continuous feedback mechanism established in order to inform ongoing development of practice.





PDPs are intended to provide students with a focus for exploring and planning their own development.  They facilitate "a structured and supported process undertaken by an individual to reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development." (Quality Assurance Agency, 2001:1)


PDPs help students:

  • become more effective, independent and confident self-directed learners

  • understand how they are learning and relate their learning to a wider context

  • improve their general skills for study and career management

  • articulate their personal goals and evaluate progress towards their achievement

  • encourage a positive attitude to learning throughout life (UKCLE: online)

Putting together a portfolio is intended to help students think about what they are doing in a systematic way.  As students become more confident in knowing what they need to do they are also better able to assess whether they are achieving their goals.  Additionally, portfolio building will assist students with job applications and interviews as well as with personal career development.


One of the drawbacks of portfolios is that their very personal nature makes it difficult to stipulate the format, content and method of presentation, which can initially leave students feeling uncertain about how well they are doing at the task (a fact that they should record!)






Boud, D (1995) Enhancing learning through self assessment. London: Kogan Page


Boud, D and Feletti, G (eds) (1997) The challenge of problem-based learning. London: Kogan Page


Hopkins, C D and Antes, R L (1990) Educational Research: A structure for inquiry. 3rd Ed. Itasca, Illinois: F. E. Peacock.


Laurillard, D (1993) Rethinking university teaching: a framework for the effective use of educational technology. London: Routledge


Ojanen, S (1993) A process in which personal pedagogical knowledge is created through the teacher education experience.  Paper presented at the International Conference in Teacher education, Tel-Aviv, Israel.  ERIC Document: ED 398 200


Quality Assurance Agency (2001) Guidelines for HE progress files. Gloucester: QAA


Savin-Baden, M (2000) Problem-based learning in higher education: untold stories. Buckingham: Open University


Stefani, L (1998) "Assessing in partnership with learners." Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 23(4) 339-350


UK Centre for Legal Education. "How can I introduce reflective practice into my teaching?" ONLINE:




CLICK HERE - Reflective Practice