Reflecting With Mister Rogers

A critical component of learning is reflection.

“I'm very concerned that our society is much more interested in information, than wonder; in noise, rather than silence. How do we do that? How do we encourage reflection? Oh my, this is a noisy world.” - Mister Fred Rogers, Go to the 2:23 mark of the video.

Renowned American television personality Mister Fred Rogers was utterly right with his above statement. Our society is captivated by information. We spend hours on hours analyzing the data, reviewing the latest trends, making decisions, and moving onto the next assignment. However, many times, we do not spend enough energy reflecting on our decision making and progress. We have become programmed to keep moving and driving ahead. As parents, we often call a "time out" for our children when they misbehave. This act is intended to force them to reflect on their actions. Yet, we do not always practice this same advice.

In a Harvard Business School working paper, titled Learning By Thinking: How Reflection Improves Performance authors Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats propose that a critical component of learning is reflection. They support their research by revealing, "Knowledge plays an important role in the productivity and prosperity of economies, organizations, and individuals. Even so, research on learning has primarily focused on the role of doing (experience) in fostering progress over time. To compare the effectiveness of different sources of learning, the authors take a micro approach and study learning at the individual level. They argue that learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection—that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience." 

The study goes on to show "that the effect of reflection on learning is mediated by greater perceived ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy). Together, these results reveal reflection to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey: "We do not learn from experience ... we learn from reflecting on experience."

We trust Mister Fred Rogers would have been pleased to read some of the key concepts discovered within this Harvard Business School study on reflection:

  • Learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection-that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.

  • Reflecting on what has been learned makes the experience more productive.

  • Reflection builds one's confidence in the ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn translates into higher rates of learning.

So approach each task at hand with excellence, while taking time to reflect throughout the day. As the research has shown, time spent in reflection can improve your overall performance!