Reflection Methods Practical Guide


This guide summarises methods that can be used to facilitate the process of reflection on the knowledge and experiences people acquire during a capacity development trajectory or learning process of an MSPs. We believe that by explicitly integrating reflection in the learning process the learning will become clearer and better articulated and will contribute more strongly to meaningful change in a complex context. Therefore we advise facilitators to deliberately include reflective learning sessions in their process design and implementation. This guide can inspire you to do so and provides many methods which help to facilitate this.

How to use Reflection

Deliberate use of reflection tools contributes to various things: first it helps individual participants to arrive at a deeper understanding of the insights they are developing. But secondly, and equally important in MSPs, is that reflection tools help for these developing insights to be shared and validated by other members of the group or meeting. Furthermore the reflection sessions stimulates participants to think about the application of lessons learned in their own context.

In order to see new possibilities for positive change, different stakeholders need to learn together from their respective experiences. Stakeholders’ commitment is also enhanced if they can reflect on the group’s work and link it to their day to day work. This is especially important when decisions should be made and actions need to be agreed upon, but can also be valuable in other stages of the process. Reflection exercises, both individually and in groups, can be used to gain an overview, to stimulate networking and interaction, form opinions and start of debate, structure and analyse the insights, stimulate creativity, energize participants, contemplate on where people are in their learning and last but not least stimulate future application of lessons learned.

In the experience of WCDI it is important that MSP facilitators deliberately include reflective learning sessions and tools in the process design and implementation. To support this, WCDI has published a Practical Guide for facilitators and trainers with guidelines on more than 50 reflection tools, which can be downloaded at the right hand site of this page.

Some of the reflection tools have been video taped to give an illustration how it works. The different tools take about 30 minutes each but can be adapted according to your needs. The tools have been grouped according to the following sub-objectives.

References from reviewers of the Reflection Methods Practical Guide 

“This handbook can inspire you to do so and provides many methods which help to facilitate this. I was asked to write a Preface in which where I suggest that dealing with complex and even ’wicked’ sustainability challenges, above all, calls for learning individuals, learning  organisations, learning networks and even a learning society. But not just any kind of learning, the kind of learning that is able to make explicit and question our assumptions, values and ways of seeing the world, learning that invites us to continuously reflect on the tensions and contradictions between them, learning that reveals the powers and inequities that tend to keep things the way they are or force us in directions we may not want to go. In other words, learning that questions the taken for granted, the normalised, the hegemonic and the routine. But also learning that enables us to make change and to transform others, and ourselves while learning from trying to do so.”
– AEJ Wals is a Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University, The Netherlands and a Professor of Education for Sustainability at Gothenburg University, Sweden.

“I was delighted to read this book – it was a timely reminder of critical practice that often gets forgotten in the rush of every day! Reflection is sometimes not prioritised. But when we do it well, the insights are powerful. And this book helps do it well. It offers tried and tested techniques and exciting novelties to get the most out of our experiences. Clear examples and graphics make concepts accessible and relevant to even the most pragmatic of us.” 
– Dr. Irene Guijt, Head of Research and Publishing, Oxfam Great Britain

“This is a valuable resource for any facilitator wanting to bring a rich variety of methods and thus more ways of learning into their reflection sessions. The authors rightly emphasise that: “Reflection stimulates people to ‘own’ their learning, which again stimulates the intrinsic motivation to apply lessons learned.” A full commitment to reflection increases the impact of any programme. These facilitation tools apply to all stages of reflective learning and will help participants to articulate, evaluate, deepen, consolidate and apply their learning.”
– Dr. Roger Greenaway, Training Consultant, Reviewing Skills Training

“Learning is often about awareness and purpose, and as often as possible about creating chances for it to happen. This nifty handbook aims to sharpen our awareness for learning, with specific purposes in mind. Neatly organised as a practical guide, it offers many opportunities to pepper your training courses and workshops with participation methods that are geared for purposeful learning. You can make this a design companion of your learning adventures or refer to it in passing, with a light touch. A must for trainers and facilitators, and to develop participants’ process vision and skills. All based on long-standing experience in intercultural multi-stakeholder contexts. A great addition to my library, hopefully to yours soon too!”
– Ewen Le Borgne, Team leader Knowledge, engagement  and collaboration, ILRI

Learn more

Gordijn, F., Eernstman, N., Helder, J., Brouwer, H. (2018). Reflection Methods. Practical Guide for Trainers and Facilitators. Tools to make learning more meaningful. Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation, Wageningen University & Research.

Gordijn, F. & Helder, J. (CDI) (2013). Reflective learning for purposeful change: making learning more explicit in multi-stakeholder processes. Knowledge Management for Development Journal 9(3): 32-46.

Gordijn, F., Helder, J. & Eernstman, N. (CDI) (2012). Reflection Methods: Tools to Make Learning More Explicit – Manual for Facilitators and Trainers.