Reflective Portfolios

3 Mar, 2023 | Blogging, Portfolios, Reflective Practice | 1 comment

Image: Students in a library. Some are working on laptops while others use notebooks.

What is reflective practice and reflection in portfolio development?

Reflective practice is a process. A process of deliberate critical appraisal of self where connections are made between values purposes and actions.

Critical reflection is a metacognitive activity of evaluating and focusing on a problem, conception or idea.

Reflection is a helpful strategy in development as practitioners and especially with regard to reasoning processes.

Reflection involves describing, analysing and evaluating our thoughts, assumptions, beliefs, and actions. It includes:

  • Looking forward
  • Looking at what we are doing now
  • Looking back

Critical reflection takes place in many areas of professional development and practice, including health care education, teaching, management, and research, as it encourages practitioners to gain insight into their own professionalism through their experiences.

Portfolios in themselves are products however reflection is a learning process.

Portfolios without reflection are simply a digital scrapbook.

Helen Barrett (



Why is reflection important in portfolio development and the learning process?

Studies have shown the process of reflection increases competency and enhances professional growth leading to expanded employability.

Reflection also increases self awareness of abilities and attributes and helps with personal understanding in order to optimise strengths.

A portfolio is an important space to reflect upon personal and professional identity with a goal of creating an online representation of the narratives around these.

To reflect is to look back over what has been done so as to extract the next meanings which are the capital stock for intelligent dealing with further experiences. It is the heart of the intellectual organisation and of the disciplined mind.

John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

What are effective strategies for reflection? (What does reflection look like?)

Consider different modes for reflection – written, verbal, images, video, video montage, Tweets, blog posts.

To scaffold reflection, Rolfe et al (2001) provides a model using: What | So What |  Now What

  • WHAT? The first stage is a mere description of what happened and of the experience you would like to analyse and take forward for your own learning.
  • SO WHAT? Once the description has been completed carefully you should ask yourself what the experience and situation means.
  • NOW WHAT? Consider the steps you will be taking in order to improve your practice and learn from the initial experience.

The reflective model according to Gibbs (1988) is based on several stages, during which you are required to answer questions in order to go as deep as possible with your reflections.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is a six-step structured process where you:

  • describe what happened
  • discuss feelings
  • evaluate and analyse the experience
  • draw conclusions and
  • develop an action plan if faced with the same situation in the future.

Also explore the CAP (Cognitive, Affective, Psychomotor) model –

Further recipes for reflection (Barrett) –




Avila, J., Sostmann, K., Breckwoldt, J., & Peters, H. (2016). Evaluation of the free, open source software WordPress as electronic portfolio system in undergraduate medical education. BMC Medical Education, 16(1), 1-10.

Barrett, Helen links:

Barrett, H. C. (2007). Researching electronic portfolios and learner engagement: The REFLECT initiative. Journal of adolescent & adult literacy, 50(6), 436-449.

Barrett, H. (2011). Balancing the two faces of e-portfolios. British Columbia: Ministry of Education, Innovations in Education.

Batson, T., Coleman, K. S., Chen, H. L., Watson, C. E., Rhodes, T. L., & Harver, A. (2017). Field guide to ePortfolio. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 109.

Benander, R., O’Laughlin, N., Rodrigo, R., Stevens, C., & Zaldivar, M. (2017). How important is the technology? In Batson et al., Field Guide to ePortfolio. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, (p. 99-105).

Bennett, D., Knight, E., & Rowley, J. (2020). The role of hybrid learning spaces in enhancing higher education students’ employability. British Journal of Educational Technology, 51(4), 1188-1202.

Blackley, S., Bennett, D., & Sheffield, R. (2017). Purpose-built, web-based professional portfolios: Reflective, developmental and showcase. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 42(5), 1.

Bruno, A., & Dell’Aversana, G. (2017). Reflective practice for psychology students: The use of reflective journal feedback in higher education. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 16(2), 248-260.

Contreras, J. A., Edwards‐Maddox, S., Hall, A., & Lee, M. A. (2020). Effects of Reflective Practice on Baccalaureate Nursing Students’ Stress, Anxiety and Competency: An Integrative Review. Worldviews on Evidence‐Based Nursing, 17(3), 239-245.

Deneen, C. C. (2013). Eportfolios in a higher education context: Preliminary findings on assessment and technology issues. Journal of Information Systems Technology & Planning, 6(17), 145-160.

Dewey, J. (1986, September). Experience and education. In The educational forum (Vol. 50, No. 3, pp. 241-252). Taylor & Francis Group.

Fade, S. (n.d.). Learning and assessing through reflection: A practical guide.

Forde, C., McMahon, M. & Reeves, J. (2009). Putting Together Professional Portfolios. London: Sage

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford.

Harvey, M., Coulson, D. & McMaugh, A. (2016). Towards a theory of the ecology of reflection: reflective practice for experiential learning in higher education. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 13(2).

Heeneman, S., Driessen, E.W. (2017) The use of a portfolio in postgraduate medical education – reflect, assess and account, one for each or all in one? GMS Journal for Medical Education, 34(5), Doc 57.

Hegarty, B. (2011). A framework to guide professional learning and reflective practice. Doctor of Education thesis, Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, NSW.

Johnston, C. (2017). Reflective practice. Teaching Business & Economics, 21(1), 19-21.

Lucas, P. (2012, October). Critical reflection. What do we really mean. In 2012 Australian Collaborative Education Network National Conference (p. 163).

McCabe, G., & Thejll-Madsen, T. (2020). Reflection Toolkit: creating and valuing reflection as evidence beyond numbers.

McLeod, G. A., Vaughan, B., Carey, I., Shannon, T., & Winn, E. (2020). Pre-professional reflective practice: Strategies, perspectives and experiences. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 35, 50-56.

Mantzourani, E., Desselle, S., Le, J., Lonie, J. M., & Lucas, C. (2019). The role of reflective practice in healthcare professions: Next steps for pharmacy education and practice. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy, 15(12), 1476-1479.

Milman, N. (2005). Web-based digital teaching portfolios: Fostering reflection and technology competence in preservice teacher education students. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education 13(3), 373-396.

Mitchell, L., Campbell, C., Rigby, R., & Williams, L. (2021). Giving students an eDGE: Focusing on ePortfolios for Graduate Employability. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 12(2), 316-331.

Nguyen, C. F. (2013). The ePortfolio as a living portal: A medium for student learning, identity, and assessment. International Journal of ePortfolio, 3(2), 135-148.

Parkes, K. A., Dredger, K. S., & Hicks, D. (2013). ePortfolio as a Measure of Reflective Practice. International Journal of ePortfolio, 3(2), 99-115.

Pegrum M., Oakley G. (2017) The Changing Landscape of E-Portfolios: Reflections on 5 Years of Implementing E-Portfolios in Pre-Service Teacher Education. In: Chaudhuri T., Cabau B. (eds) E-Portfolios in Higher Education. Springer, Singapore.

Polly, P., Vickery, R., Thai, T., Yang, J. L., Fath, T., Herbert, C., … & Cox, J. (2017). ePortfolios, assessment and professional skills in the medical sciences. In ePortfolios in Australian universities (pp. 47-64). Springer, Singapore.

Reflection Toolkit –

Reflectors Toolkit –

Roberts, P., Maor, D., & Herrington, J. (2016). ePortfolio-based learning environments: Recommendations for effective scaffolding of reflective thinking in higher education.

Roemmer-Nossek, B. & Zwiauer, C. (2013). How can ePortfolio make sense for higher education? The Vienna University ePortfolio framework taking shape. European Institute for E-Learning (ElfEl), 206-214.

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D. and Jasper, M. (2001). Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rowley, J., & Bennett, D. (2016). ePortfolios in Australian higher education arts: Differences and differentiations. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 17(19), 1-21.

San Jose, D. L. (2017). Evaluating, comparing, and best practice in electronic portfolio system use. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 45(4), 476-498.

Thibodeaux, T., Cummings, C., & Harapnuik, D. (2017). Factors That Contribute to ePortfolio Persistence. International Journal of ePortfolio, 7(1), 1-12.

UNSW Reflective writing guide

van Staden, C. J. (2019). Using an ePortfolio to demonstrate graduate-ness and employability during post-graduate distance education. Employability via Higher Education: Sustainability as Scholarship (pp. 459-472). Springer.

1 Comment

  1. My name is Byamungu Mushosi
    Student in Food Science at UniSQ
    I am happy to be connected to this scientific Portfolio
    I need to learn more about how it is working


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