When you are asked to reflect on a given subject, it means to think carefully about the topic and examine it from all sides and perspectives. This activity also requires you to test your own thoughts and beliefs to gain greater insight and understanding on the given subject. The nice thing is that these are also one of the few academic writing assignments where you can “speak” in the first person (use “I/me/my”) in your text.
In terms of writing assignments, you may be asked to reflect on a variety of topics such as specific actions, beliefs, and ideas, along with case studies, common practices, and your own learning.
For example, you may be given an assignment in English class asking you to reflect on racism in the United States. You need to gather information on what people think and how they feel about racism, what the situation is like in the United States, and why it is so. In addition to checking your comprehension, the underlying goal of this type of assignment is to help you develop a better understanding of your own thoughts and beliefs. There are no right or wrong answers in reflection tasks.
Basic reflection skills are acquired at a very young age. For example, if you touch a hot burner, it will hurt. Touching the burner would have immediately caused you to reflect on why it hurt so much. The answer, of course, would be that you had touched a hot burner, and after that you know not to do that again.
As you have grown older, you will also reflect on your friendships from time to time. If your friend suddenly gets angry at you one day, you try to figure out (reflect on) what happened to make them angry. Your reflection will then help you reach a new understanding of why and how the situation developed.