Summary: An invitation to speak on reflection at APMEC 2014 in Singapore provokes New Year musings Description: After the revelry of Christmas and the New Year it is now the time to concentrate on the plans for 2014. During the holidays in anticipation of the APMEC meeting in Singapore in January I started to think of my commitment to talk about reflection. I am by no means an expert in this area and often this is an incentive to accept kind invitations like this. Being asked to speak on an important topic is a powerful incentive to get up to date in a neglected area of my own learning. It means that one has to research and read about the subject in depth and then distil one’s thought into a cohesive and comprehensible presentation. I find this is an excellent way of learning.

During my time reading about reflection certain questions came to mind: how good are we at teaching reflection, how easy to student find reflection, etc? Certainly from my own experience students have difficulty writing reflective pieces often causing them to fall back on gaming strategies such as second guessing what teachers want. As one student put it “you realise you have to stick in a bit of the emotional stuff so that the teachers feel ok about what you have written”.

Reading the many definitions of reflection I wondered just how well we assess this skill. The literature in this domain seems to revolve mostly around assessing written reflections particularly reflective journals or diaries. There was much less about looking at what plans for future learning students developed as part of reflection and equally importantly whether these are ever followed through. Several researchers including my own colleague John Sandars in Leeds have endeavoured to be more inventive and used audio and video diaries. This seems more creative but again there was a lack of clarity of whether anyone assessed more than the spoken words. Finally the literature was not heavy on longer-term studies demonstrating development of reflection overtime and how this had been achieved. So it seems to me that ‘marking the words’ is not enough and research to help us understand how to better assess the development of reflection and how this influences practice is sorely needed. Perhaps APMEC 2014 will be the start of this? Hope to see you in Singapore.