Review of “Getting the measure of reflection: considering matters of definition and depth”

By: Brook Sattler, PhD
CPREE multi-campus coordinator

In this article, Jenny Moon (2007), a prominent UK education development scholar, argues that while higher education and professional development are increasingly aware of the power of reflection, there is not a common definition–“there are considerable differences in the views of educationists on issues of definition” (p. 191). The purpose of her work is (1) to offer a definition of reflection and (2) to provide examples of how to support students in reflection.

In setting up her argument, she argues that a lack of community accepted definition for reflection can lead to challenges in telling/showing students how to reflect and explaining to students what reflection should look like. These challenges then result in superficial and descriptive reflection. So while reflection can be extremely powerful, it falls short when it is only superficial and descriptive.

In defining “reflection,” she defines a number of associated terms:”‘reflection’ and ‘reflective learning’ seem to be words that describe an internal process in contrast to ‘reflective writing’, which is a representation of reflection, but, like any other form of representation, it is not a direct representation of the internal process” (p. 192). She goes on to define “reflective practice” as a “broader process in which there is a habit of reflecting” (p. 192). She says that much of the differences in defining reflection comes from scholars focus on outcomes of reflection, rather than the process of reflection. In making this argument, she summarizes  the outcomes of reflection:

  • “learning, knowledge and understanding
  • some form of action
  • a process of critical review
  • personal and continuing professional development
  • reflection on the process of learning or personal
    functioning (metacognition)
  • the building of theory from observations in
    practice situations
  • the making of decisions/resolution of uncertainty,
    the solving of problems; empowerment
    and emancipation
  • unexpected outcomes (e.g., images, ideas that
    could be solutions to dilemmas or seen as creative
  • emotion (that can be an outcome or can be
    part of the process)
  • clarification and the recognition that there is
    a need for further reflection and so on” (p. 193).

In concluding, Moon offers resources that are structures for guiding the process of reflection. Specifically, she says that educators need to start with scaffolding or providing strong “props” to support reflection but then should soon after dispense with the “props” (p. 194). The goal in scaffolding reflection and then challenging students by removing the scaffolding is to engage them in depth reflection–reflection that moves beyond the superficial and descriptive. She then offers educators “The Worrying Tutorial” that is a series of reflection examples to demonstrate to learners the various levels of reflection. “It was to address the difficulty both of helping learners to start with reflection and then—at a later stage—to deepen their reflection” (p. 194). “The Worrying Tutorial” is to be used with the “Framework for Reflective Writing,” which provides descriptions of the four levels of reflection. Coupled together these two provide powerful tools to help students begin reflecting and deepen their reflection.


Moon, J. (2007). Getting the measure of reflection: considering matters of definition and depth, Journal of Radiotherapy and Practice, 6(4), 191-200.