How Reflection Encourages Better Training Design

title image - How Reflection can Help Us Better Design and Understand Training Content

How Reflection Encourages Better Training Design

Matt Archer

June 10, 2021

Reflection Quote

Reflection is an Underutilized Skill

Reflection is a skill that we feel isn’t utilized enough within the learning development sphere, both from the perspective of an instructional designer and that of a learner.

According to eLearning Industry, “Reflection supports meaning-making and sense-making, and as such, it helps guide actions toward organizational goals. Reflection also enables employees to explore their, and other's, thinking as they experiment with solutions, adjust actions, and reframe problems.”[1]

This type of deeper thinking can help spur training designers to identify and improve their training while it can also assist learners with being able to better understand and apply that training.

What is Reflection, and Why is it Important?

Man Reflecting about Training

Reflection involves looking inwards for a solution through analysis, which helps one arrive at a deeper understanding of the context and meaning behind a subject. Encouraging this can help develop a learner’s critical thinking skills, so that they understand how and why something is the way it is, instead of simply accepting it and moving on. This can help them to be able to problem solve through scenarios that appear beyond the scope of the initial training.

Zsolt Olah from eLearning Industry mentions that “there is a scale of solutions between doing nothing about a situation and doing the most effective thing. Where you land on this scale depends on many elements: your expertise, your network, your resources, timeline, budget, your company's culture, policies, etc.”[2]

This is where reflection can help, because not every trainer or learner is exactly the same. Their skill levels vary, as does their ability to respond to certain stimuli. By allowing them to take time to reflect on the content put in front of them, it can help people gain a better grasp of the situation and make a better decision than they would without taking the time to reflect.

Furthermore, “teachers who promote reflective classrooms ensure that students are fully engaged in the process of making meaning. They organize instruction so that students are the producers, not just the consumers, of knowledge.”[3] By taking the time to reflect about the content you’re designing and teaching, you can better create content that will encourage learners to be the drivers of their own learning rather than simply assimilating that which you place in front of them.

What can Reflection Accomplish?

Identify Erroneous Assumptions

Woman Reflecting

Reflection allows learners to put their initial thoughts and views aside and take a deeper and broader look into the issue, kind of like putting themselves into someone else’s shoes. This helps promote a more well-rounded perspective and assists learners in seeing where their initial assumptions might have been flawed, and how to move beyond those assumptions towards a better solution.

Find and Correct Mistakes in the Original Design

Training design is a complex process and oftentimes instructional designers have to review the same content dozens of times before it reaches a completed state. This can sometimes lead to our brain skipping over mistakes in the design or content because we’ve seen it so many times we don’t even realize there is a problem.

By taking the time to reflect on the training design more deeply, this can help us catch and correct items we didn’t notice during the original design and review process.

Require More Effort from your Learners

Reflection encourages (and often requires) deeper thought, which can lead to better retention and understanding of the material. While this does increase the effort needed to complete the course successfully, it can also get learners out of their comfort zone and bring more value to the learning itself, because the learner is not just memorizing content, but thinking about the meaning behind that content.

Ask Open-Ended Questions to Encourage Reflection

Ask open ended questions to encourage reflectionReflection is as much an art as it is a science. Some learners naturally gravitate towards that level of thinking, while others may tend to stay at more surface-level thinking.

To encourage reflection, one may need to present a situation that requires deeper thought than simply answering ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The first step in that process is by asking something more open-ended. For example, instead of asking “Will a person reach a destination faster by walking or running,” which only leads to a yes or no response, change the way the question is presented to encourage deeper thought. A question such as “Why is running faster than walking?” creates an opportunity for reflection that drills more deeply into an understanding of the concept.

Many people know that things work (such as computers, lights, automobiles, etc), but often don’t know how or why. Providing opportunities for them to understand those hows and whys can spark creativity and better instill understanding because when you know the pieces that comprise the whole you are now able to better apply that understanding to other situations.

Grading open-ended questions can be a little bit trickier for instructional designers than grading multiple choice questions, but it also provides an opportunity for the instructor to reflect on the answers that the learner provides. Perhaps there is a different solution available that wasn’t covered in the training but makes sense in the context of the answer.


Final Thoughts

Positive Results™ is a training development and cloud services company that specializes in helping organizations analyze their business processes and develop training and solutions to solve for any gaps we find.

We believe that incorporating opportunities for reflection into the training development process itself and the content that you design can help you to create more profound training. This can help learners not only understand the content more effectively, but also develop better critical thinking and problem solving skills that they can apply to other scenarios outside of the training.


If you have additional questions or need support, contact us at:


Positive Results™ Custom Business Solutions





[2] Ibid


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