Understanding Yourself: Time for reflection!

Take time to review/reflect and celebrate your amazing achievements with this self coaching session from the Open University's PLA (Personal Learning Service).

Welcome to our sixth publication in The Hoot!

Each month we publish an article which presents a new opportunity to focus on your personal and professional development to support your studies, work and life. In this article we’re sharing an approach to support you to review/reflect and celebrate your amazing achievements and look forward to the future. 

This time of year in the OU many students (not all – we know some of you are still very hard at work!) have submitted their final assignments for their modules and are taking some well-deserved time off from study.

Why bother spending time to review and reflect?

Research has shown that there are a number of benefits to making time to review your achievements, including:

  • Helping to understand yourself better
  • Recognising the progress you’ve made
  • Remembering the positives and how you can build on these
  • Identifying your strengths
  • Identifying areas you can improve
  • Managing your emotions and reactions 
  • Seeing the connections between things you’ve learnt

'It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience, it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated.' (Gibbs, 1988)

Still interested?... 😊

We share below a simple way of reviewing your module called the 4 F’s which is adapted from Roger Greenaway’s ‘The Active Reviewing Cycle’. 

You can also use it to reflect on a recent event/situation that may have happened in your OU studies or in life and you wish to gain more clarity about it. Maybe it keeps popping back into your mind and you find yourself thinking about it again. This 4F’s model can help you think about this event in a different and more structured way, rather than it floating around in your head.

Step one

Take 15-20 minutes and think back to when you began your module in 2021 (or think about the event/situation you wish to look at) 

Step two

Start to write down your thoughts to the following ‘F’ prompts below. The questions are to help you think about each stage and there are no right or wrong answers:

FACTS – State specific facts about what happened and what took place during your module study or the situation/event.

  • What? Who? Where? When?
  • What exactly happened?
  • In what order did the event happen?
  • What was surprising/expected?

FEELINGS - Thinking about how you felt can help you understand the situation better.

  • How did the situation make you feel?
  • What made you feel good/bad about the situation?
  • At what points during your module study (or the situation/event) were you most aware of controlling/expressing your feelings? 
  • What were your personal highs and lows during your module study (or the situation/event)?

FINDINGS – This can help you review and evaluate the situation to identify your learning.

  • How? Why?
  • Why did or didn’t it work?
  • What would you have done differently, done less of, done more of during your module study (or the situation/event)?
  • What did you learn?
  • Do you wish you’d done anything differently during your module study (or the situation/event) 

FUTURE(S) – Identifying how can you use this learning and the whole experience in your future studies or actions.

  • How will you implement your findings?
  • What has already changed?
  • How can you use what you have learned in your future OU studies or future situations?
  • What choices do you have?
  • How does it look to use the findings?

Often when we reflect it’s natural and sometimes easier to focus on the negatives, things that went wrong or areas you want to improve, however it’s important to remember that reflection also helps you identify and celebrate the positives. This is especially useful if you are looking at preparing for  future studies or your next career steps. With this in mind take the third and final step…

Step three

Think about, identify and write down your strengths, what you’ve overcome, what you’ve done well and importantly what you can keep doing, or do more of. To help, you could ask yourself:

  • What did I do well?
  • What did I enjoy most about this?
  • What strengths did I use?
  • What skills did I develop/gain?
  • What do I feel most confident about?
  • How did I overcome obstacles along the way?

For more information about the 4F’s visit The four F's of active reviewingand the Active Reviewing Cycle website

… and finally

Whatever you are reflecting on – try to celebrate or reward yourself in some way (big or small) for making the time to reflect/review your study journey – we all find this hard to do in our busy lives but its usefulness and power in our lives can be huge!

We hope you have enjoyed this month’s article. We welcome comments, questions and chat about the article and activities.   

If there’s anything you’d particularly like to see in this series of self-coaching features, please let us know.  

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

The Open University (OU) has set an ambitious Access and Participation Strategy with progressive targets over the next 5 years to tackle inequalities. The OU has many areas in which we need to improve and do better, and one focus is on the degree outcomes between students from underrepresented groups and the wider student body.  

To help address this, we have set up a dedicated team providing personalised coaching and mentoring to our students. This service is known as the Personal Learning Advice Service.  

Students who are eligible for coaching are contacted directly by us and cannot currently self-refer. We are a new service, and we are currently delivering and evaluating pilot projects with small groups of students at the OU. We worked with the OU Students Association in designing and setting up this support for students.   

If you would like to know more, please email PLA-Services@open.ac.uk

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