Reflection Toolkit

Reflecting with others

Much of the reflection literature highlights the value of reflecting in conversation with other people - this can be in a formal relationship, with friends, or groups. This page highlights the benefits and provides guidance.

Others may ask us the questions we cannot think of ourselves

Reflecting with others provides many benefits to the reflective process. One thing that others might be better at than we are, is asking challenging questions. You might reflect really well by yourself and ask yourself lots of questions, to help identify your assumptions. However, you are likely to ask yourself the same type of questions again and again. Getting someone else to ask you questions might make you challenge yourself in a different way that you would never have thought of yourself.


Others can help us with perspective taking

Many reflective models and reflective theories highlight the importance of perspective taking (for example Brookfield, 1995). This is because imagining others’ thoughts and perspectives can help us understand an experience better and help us plan better actions in the future, for example asking yourself ‘what would someone who excelled at this do?’

Reflecting with others gives you the opportunity to gain their perspective on a situation. They may know things you don’t and that can help you to gain a deeper understanding.


Conversations with others can switch in and out of reflection

It is important to note that there are many types of conversations with other people that are productive, valuable, and important, but not necessarily reflective. For example, being given feedback is both productive, valuable, and important but if it is not paired with asking yourself how you can use the feedback, what it means for your practice, and how and why you do things, it is not a reflective conversation.

Outlined below are some of the different types of conversations and relationships where reflection might happen.  It is very likely that all of these will fluidly switch back and forth between reflective and non-reflective elements.


Choose appropriate boundaries and be authentic within them

Common for all reflective conversations is that you should never share more than you feel comfortable with, and you should also be considerate of sharing information that the person you are reflecting with might not be comfortable knowing.

Put simply, while you can reflect with both a friend and a manager, there are things that we only talk about with friends. Both the questions asked in conversation and your answers should mirror this.  

Some people may feel that you are only authentic if you are 100 % honest, but it is important to remember than authenticity does not come from disclosure, but from being genuine in the information we do share and staying true to ourselves and our boundaries.


Types of reflecting with others

Highlighted below are just a few ways of reflecting with other people; they are split into three types:

  • With someone more experienced
  • With a peer
  • With a group

With someone more experienced

Throughout life you are likely to end up having many senior individuals who facilitate reflection as a part of your development. You can also help shape those relationships by suggesting reflection, if they do not support you in that way naturally.

Type Comment
Supervisor/line manager
  • This is a formal relationship that arises in work or in training.
  • The person should support you with development within your role and be willing and able to provide you with feedback.
  • They should help you to reflect on critical experiences within work or training.
  • They should support your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) by supporting goal setting and planning.
  • They should help you reflect on your CPD progress.
They might help support your Personal Development Plan (PDP).
  • Whether or not you have a supervisor/line manager, you can benefit from finding a mentor.
  • A mentor can be anyone with more experience than you, who typically is within the field you are interesting in or someone you admire - this could be a professional working in an area you are interested in or an older student.
  • However, it is essential they are not someone you are working with as you should be able to discuss your current situation openly – you might not be comfortable discussing all work-related elements with a supervisor or line manager.
  • A mentor should help you reflect on you development and progression within both CPD and PDP.
  • They can also help you reflect on specific experiences.

With a peer

There is a lot of value reflecting with someone more experienced than you, but there can be equal value in reflecting with a peer. Compared to the more formal relationships outlined above, the types of reflection below might involve less formality.

Type Comments
Critical friend

What they do

  • A critical friend is a peer-relationship where there is room to seek feedback and be asked challenging questions on your development and goals.
  • They can also help with specific pieces or work
  • They are likely to continuously ask you ‘why’, for example why do you do it this way, or why do you think you reacted that way, etc.

Characteristics of a critical friend

  • It is important that it is someone you trust and think is competent. You should believe and value the feedback they give you.
  • They should make you feel comfortable
  • They should be a good listener
  • They should ask good and challenging questions
  • They should be positive and constructive
  • They should be willing to highlight both positive and negative aspects of your work and practice.
  • Often the relationship is mutual, that is you may be their critical friend sometimes.
Just in conversation with a friend
  • Conversations with friends are often not automatically reflective in nature, but definitely can be – specifically when it challenges the status quo of your thoughts.  This follows the definition of reflection given on the Reflection Toolkit homepage.
  • The easiest way of having more reflective conversations with your friends is to start introducing more reflective questions (often based around ‘why’) into your conversations.
Structured reflection in pairs

Sometimes you might find that you want to develop a possible critical friendship or need help with a reflective assignment – it can then be helpful to do structured reflection in pairs.  In this situation it may very likely be a course friend.

How it might look:

  • Find a partner
  • Have a  prepared list of questions (for example, using a reflective model)
  • Have your partner ask you all the question with the chance to answer any further explorative questions, which may arise.
  • Swap roles


  • As you are likely to not be extremely close with the person you might want to choose what you share. While you should be authentic – you don’t need to share your deepest secrets.
Similarly, you might want to be cautious of the questions you ask, such that you don’t put the person in a situation of needing to share extremely personal things.

Reflection in groups

There are multiple ways you might find yourself reflecting in groups. The immediate benefit of reflecting in groups is the added value of multiple perspectives. Therefore it is possible to create a group of critical friends as well as using the method of ‘Structured reflections in pairs’ with more people (see the section above).

Type Comments
Reflecting on a shared experience
  • It can be valuable to reflect on an experience with the people who were involved in it.
  • You might find that you have different experiences and these different perspectives can provide opportunity for learning.
  • This can also be done with just one other person


  • Be aware that it can be easy to reject others’ perspectives as being wrong – just remember that they might feel the same about yours. It is therefore important that you are respectful and work towards learning from the differences.  It can be useful to use questions to understand why people have different perspectives of the same experience.
Reflecting on group work
  • It can be useful to reflect on your collaboration
  • If you regularly reflect on what works well and what could be better as a group, you are likely to end up working together more efficiently.
Reflecting on theory
  • An aspect of reflection is to understand the general (our assumptions, understanding, and theory) and understand how it influences the specific (actions, experiences). Therefore, it can be valuable to discuss theory with a group, with the aim of seeing how it affects your daily life.
  • It is important that it is not a discussion of the validity of the theory (that should happen, but not in this conversation), but a discussion about how it affects your life and practice. For example, discussing effects of feministic literature on lived daily experience or how a critique of a specific scientific method your lab uses impacts your work and further research.


Back to ‘Ways of reflecting’