Reflective questions for learning

One of the crucial elements of a high quality learning environment is the importance of reflection. In order to learn more about the players and their reflection skills, here are a few reflective questions for the players to consider at the end of the practice session or game.

These can be delivered and linked in a variety of ways, from video diaries for answering the questions to tweeting the answers with a private hashtag or putting post-its on a wall picture in the clubhouse. There is the potential to get as creative as you like with this from individual to pairs to groups using the facilities you have available.

In order to maximise this approach it is vital that learning habits are modelled.

Cognitive, meta-cognitive, and behavioural “good stuff” is constantly modelled by all involved. Curiosity, persistence, flexibility, creativity, collaboration and revision are all great places to start (there are some great articles around on this that I have plagiarised the words from). So often what players learn from those around them is less the stuff they have been told directly and more indirect and observational through their own lens of the world.

Why the brain actually benefits from reflection is a matter of neurology, but the extensive research is clear: Prediction, reflection, and metacognition are pillars for the learning environment. (

Perhaps most crucially, by shifting their reflection from content to thought, players have the opportunity to put themselves back at the centre of the learning process and this is exactly what we are looking for. This will help develop players that can self-manage and think, making decisions in the moment without relying on a coach. When they reflect, players reimagine what happened in both 1st and 3rd person–as they were seen, and as they saw through their own eyes. How? A sample response from a player might be:

“I guess I was most creative today when we were given a chance to solve the tactical problem of breaking down a 3v2 on the counter attack. Why? Maybe because it forced me to think about something visually, which meant we could come up with our own answers!” 

In reflecting, the players have to think both about their own feelings (when they felt something), and how they might be perceived (what others might consider ‘creative’). This may also mean that the role of the coach can shift from giving the answers straight away to asking for their thoughts – all signs of effective learning.

10 Reflective Questions:

  1. What surprised you today, and for what reason?
  2. What’s the most important thing you learned today? And what benefit could that have for your performance?
  3. What do you want to learn more about, and how could it help your journey?
  4. When were you the most creative, and what helped you do that?
  5. What made you curious today? How does learning feel different when you’re curious?
  6. When were you at your best today, and what were the key ingredients that enabled you to be in that place?
  7. How can you use what you know to move forwards and improve?
  8. What do you need from others to get the best out of yourself?
  9. Who are the key people you need to communicate well with (on/off the pitch).
  10. What have you contributed to this team or what strengths do you bring to this team?

This is just a starter following a great conversation with a top sport psychologist (Rebecca Symes – see her previous blog post and an initial few thoughts but gathering intelligence on the players through their understanding, level and depth of reflection will enable us to learn more about them as individuals and also where coaching interventions may need to be placed to support them develop these skills.

If we want to work towards player ownership and adaptable performers the skills to reflect on their performances will be essential. This has the potential to help them establish their own beliefs on their lens on the world too.

Feel free to post the questions you use for reflection in the comments section too.

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3 thoughts on “Reflective questions for learning

  • October 8, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Hi Nick,

    This a fantastic post, great information and very well written. As a sport development professional / coach, I understand how important it is to reflect on my own practice so I can help others to reflect on theirs. There are many examples I have found of questions to ask to encourage reflection, and this is certainly up there with the best I have read.

    Thank you for sharing.


    • October 8, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      Hi Blair,

      Thanks for the reply and nice comments. Please feel free to add some of your own questions that you ask for reflection too.

      Best wishes,


  • October 13, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Hi Blair, brilliant stuff.

    With younger players I’ve often used “on a scale of 1 to 10” to seek their views on own effort or attitude or enjoyment. Then I ask: and how could we get to an 8 or a 9. I like your un-bounded questions that seek deeper reflection, perhaps delivering more medium term results but nevertheless vital. Q.8 is great.

    So how can do many great players on the English soccer team not perform as a team ? Perhaps they have not reflected for long enough on their own play and just excelled tactically and technically. It’s about the person behind the player.

    Those are my thoughts anyway. Keep the posts coming. Well done.


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