An exploration of business students’ experiences of reflection in learning

Brenda Hughes

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This research explores how some undergraduate students’ experience reflection in their learning. The study is located within the interpretivist tradition and the research is based on two semi-structured interviews with eight undergraduate business students at two different stages in their programmes. This study indicates that both traditional and contemporary theories of reflection can contribute to an understanding of how undergraduate business students experience reflection. For example, I found that all of these students experience reflection in ways in which the self is the object of performative development and this mirrors some of the contemporary theoretical constructions of reflection. Interestingly, whilst acknowledging the wide variety of benefits associated with reflection in learning, the participants in this study provide detailed accounts of tensions and issues that remain including performance, group work and locating reflection alongside disciplinary knowledge. In terms of reflection on employment, these undergraduates indicate that third party ‘spillover effects’ are a broad dimension of their reflections indicating how attuned these business students are to the needs of employers. The undergraduate students in this study accept and operationalise notions of responsibilisation, self-governance and self-discipline. I also found that, for final year students in this study, reflection is central to the process of forming pre-professional identity. This is a small-scale study and I make no claims to generalisability or representativeness. However, this dissertation not only adds to what is known about how students’ experience reflection, but also provides some evidence that might usefully be considered by curriculum designers, educators and staff developers. Primarily, I suggest that reflection should be repositioned within the higher education business curriculum. Specifically, I propose a new paradigm for business education in which reflection within the curriculum is oriented to more critical questioning of disciplinary traditions and assumptions and offers greater opportunities to critically reflect on social relations and global injustice. Secondly, I suggest, having undertaken this study, that curriculum design should accommodate greater discussion and support for undergraduates struggling with reflection on performance, group-work or within disciplinary conventions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Glasgow
  • Wingrave, Mary, Supervisor, External person
  • Hedge, Nicki, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2018


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