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How do veterinary students engage when reflecting on their development towards being veterinary surgeons?
  1. Elizabeth Armitage-Chan1 and
  2. Stefanie Reissner2
  1. 1LIVE, Department of Clinical Sciences and Services, Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, UK
  2. 2Newcastle University Business School, Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Elizabeth Armitage-Chan, LIVE, Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, UK; echan{at}


Background Reflection has been widely acknowledged to contribute to professional development, the ability to manage tension and enhanced resilience. However, many practitioners struggle to reflect productively due to a lack of clarity of what constitutes effective reflection.

Methods To help develop reflective competence among future professionals, 30 veterinary students’ reflective assignments were analysed by thematic text analysis. Theoretical frameworks were based on published criteria for critical and core reflection.

Results Reflection was described through resources (the tools used), practices (the ways of using these tools) and outcomes (what was achieved). This helped to distinguish simple skills based reflection from higher-level core reflection. Simple skills-based reflection was associated with an identity of expert learner: students perceive that their task is to identify a knowledge deficit that can be easily rectified through new learning. Core reflection was associated with students articulating an identity of adaptable professionals: rather than veterinary challenges being resolved simply through application of a body of knowledge, wider complexities of professional practice are recognised, including a need to resolve tension between their own and other stakeholders’ priorities, values and beliefs.

Conclusion Scaffolding an iterative, cyclical reflection process may support outcomes oriented towards resilience and the management of tension.

  • reflection
  • education
  • professional identity
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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available. The data used represent assessed students’ work, owned by the institution, who provided permission for analysis and publication of extracts.

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