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Critical self-reflection

What is critical self-reflection?

What is critical self reflection?

Critical self reflection is like looking into a mirror and describing what you see, including the unpleasant bits. 

Critical Self Reflection

Image credit: Rcragun (2009) The Looking glass self. Available at: (Accessed: 25 May 2020).

It is a way of assessing yourself, your ways of working and how you study.

Reflection is

  • complementary to your study
  • thinking with a purpose
  • being critical, but not negative
    • clarify your thoughts and focus on your development
    • a way to analyse how effective your learning is
  • a way to record your thoughts on any difficulties or challenges you are facing
    • questioning and probing


mountain mirrored in lakeWhy is self reflection important?

Reflecting helps you to develop your skills and see if they are effective. It can help you decide if there is a better way of doing it in the future. 

Reflective learning can help you to get more out of your studies in several ways.

Planning and prioritising
It can seem as if there are range and number of activities to tackle while studying.

You need to think ahead and plan the time and prioritise study, family, work, friends and all your other commitments.

Further information on prioritising.

Setting and achieving goals
Reflect on your study goals and relate them to the broader goals in your life, both personal and professional.

Reflection can help you to define immediate goals and then devise strategies to achieve them.

Further information on goal setting.

Dealing with procrastination and anxiety
Procrastination (putting things off until they absolutely have to be done), both causes and is a symptom of anxiety.

It can lead you to miss deadlines or fall behind and may affect your confidence.

Reflecting on how, when, where and why you procrastinate can help you to recognise and challenge your routines and habits.

Further information on procrastination.

Self reflection​Recognising and overcoming obstacles
Making negative assumptions about your ability to study can undermine your confidence and motivation.

By reflecting on the assumptions you can make positive changes.

Your job and personal experience will mean you have gained useful skills you can use and draw on.

These can be useful in your academic life - believe in yourself.

Further information on self-belief.

Making effective use of available support

The Student Life service offers support and advice on a range of things: 

The careers service can also help you. And don't forget... your personal tutors will listen and help you.


Reflective questions to ask yourself

Although self reflection can seem difficult at first, it becomes easier with practise and the end result could mean you are more efficient and happier.