Students who reflect on their learning are better learners than those who do not


“Students who reflect on their learning are better learners than those who do not” (Barkley, 2010, p. 30). This type of student who is aware and understands their own thought processes are utilizing their metacognitive skills. In order for them to be able to reflect on their learning, the learning that takes place needs to be related to something they already know. For example, when learning integral calculus, a student can relate the theory to differential calculus. Alternatively, a student can learn integral calculus by relating it to summing up areas under a curve using geometry. Students who reflect on their learning are not doing so for grades. Instead, they reflect on their learning so that they can be in control of the learning.


I do not agree with Barkley’s statement. During my mathematics and computing science studies at university, even though I never reflected on my learning, I felt that I was a better learner than others. I believe the reason I was learning more than others was because I studied rigorously and was highly motivated. I was aware of the concept of reflecting upon one’s learning, but I did not see the value in terms of time as it is time consuming. An analysis by Marambe, Vermunt, and Boshuizen (2012) identified the similarities and differences in learning among a group of European students and two Asian student groups. The researchers found that the groups differed in their learning strategies, however their scores on an external assessment were similar. This discover was proven to be independent of teaching and in-class assessments. Therefore, I do not see how reflecting on one’s learning makes one a better learner than one who does not. 


My initial reaction to the quote might be because I could not associate reflection of learning with improved learning. Upon reading the first few chapters of Student Engagement Techniques by Elizabeth Barkley, I can now see that reflection of learning can improve motivation. Motivation working synergistically with active learning leads to engagement (Barkley, 2010, p. 6), which then leads to improved learning. Perhaps the reflection in my previous studies was not needed since I was already highly motivated to learn. If I was more knowledgeable of the value of reflection of learning, I might have learned even more than I previously did. The PIDP program was my first experience with reflecting on my learning and it has definitely been a rewarding experience. Perhaps the metacognitive skills I am developing in the PIDP program can apply to other fields of study I may embark upon. Reflection of learning might be a skill I will start suggesting to my students to help them learn better.


I understand the value of reflection of learning and will continue to do so well after I complete the PIDP program. I desire to improve my students’ reflection of their learning. I should start with something small so that I don’t overwhelm my students (and myself). Hudesman, Flugman, Issac, Everson, and Clay (2013, p. 6) have a great idea for improving students’ metacognitive skills that can be implemented in quizzes. For each question on the quiz, students must indicate how confident they are with the question and their answer. Students also note what grade they think they will receive on the quiz. The instructor uses this information to provide feedback to students and to modify their instruction. I can now see my improvement in understanding how reflecting upon learning leads to better learning and I hope to improve my own and my students reflection skills in the future.


Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hudesman, J., Crosby, S., Flugman, B., Issac, S., Everson, H., & Clay, D. B. (2013). Using Formative Assessment and Metacognition. Journal of Developmental Education, 37(1), 2-13.

Marambe, K. N., Vermunt, •. J., & Boshuizen, H. P. (2012). A cross-cultural comparison of student learning patterns. Higher Education(64), 299-316.


About simoncrothers

I am an Australian who moved to British Columbia, Canada with my family in 1998. After completing my undergraduate degree in mathematics and computing science at Simon Fraser University, I moved back to Australia for several years. During this time I completed a Masters in Computational Mathematics and began my teaching career in mathematics at the University of New South Wales. In 2010, I moved back to Canada and taught computer science at Douglas College for three years. I am currently regular faculty in the Computer Business Systems department at KPU. I have also taught some courses in the Business and Quantitative Methods department at KPU. In my spare time I like to spend time with my wife Jami, who I met in Australia, our three year old daughter Lillian, and our newly born son Aiden. I also like to indulge in the occasional video game and I am involved in various self-employed web development projects.
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