Developing a Reflection Guiding Tool for underperforming medical students: An action research project

  • Nurul Atira Khairul Anhar Holder University of Malaya, Malaysia
  • Zhi Liang Sim University of Malaya, Malaysia
  • Chan Choong Foong University of Malaya, Malaysia
  • Vinod Pallath University of Malaya, Malaysia
Keywords: reflection, Gibbs’ cycle, medical education, reflective competence, generic competence, underperforming students, reflection guiding tool, soft skill


The ability to reflect is an important generic competence especially for underperforming students as they have to analyse their previous learning experiences to improve on future academic performances. This action research describes the process of a team when developing a reflection guiding tool (RGT). As the underperforming students may have difficulty in comprehending what is expected from them while using a reflective approach, we designed the RGT based on the six steps in Gibbs cycle; 1) Description, 2) Feelings/Reactions, 3) Evaluation, 4) Analysis, 5) Conclusions, and 6) Personal action plan. These underperforming students reflected on how, and why, they failed their assessments based on the proposed RGT. Findings revealed that RGT was able to make students aware of what reflection skill is and thus fulfilled its objective. It helped Year 1 and Year 2 underperforming medical students to reflect on their academic failure.

Received: 05 September 2019
Accepted: 22 November 2019
Published online: 29 November 2019


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Author Biographies

Nurul Atira Khairul Anhar Holder, University of Malaya, Malaysia

Researcher from Medical Education and Research Development Unit (MERDU), in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya (UM), Malaysia. She has a degree in Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) obtained at the Newcastle University, United Kingdom. Currently pursuing her Master degree in medical education. Her current role for the past three years as a faculty member in UM is in evaluation of the University of Malaya medical programme (UMMP), management of the educational support in Peer-Assisted and Reflective Learning System (PeARLS), remediation coach for the Personal and Professional Development (PPD) theme, and management of the Mentor Mentee programme. Her research topics include medical education, medical professionalism, technology education, and motivation. The focus of her current research is on learning the process of academic success and academic failure, reflective competency among medical students, and cultivation of professionalism values at early stages. She aimed to understand issues affecting education in a more holistic view (biopsychosocial model) in order to improve teaching and learning practices, while understanding students from current generation. Mail:

Zhi Liang Sim, University of Malaya, Malaysia

Researcher from Medical Education and Research Development Unit (MERDU), Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya (UM), Malaysia. He has completed his Bachelor’s degree at Northern University Malaysia (UUM) in Marketing and his Master’s degree at University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) in Learning Sciences. Currently in his fourth year in MERDU, he is working in a team to develop and launch the Master of Medical Education programme, a postgraduate programme carefully designed to introduce the pedagogical elements to existing and aspiring medical lecturers. He is now the administrator of the programme and also secretariat to the Malaysian Medical Educators Network (MEdNet). His interest expands across marketing, education (specifically on the sciences of learning and learners), and psychology. He looks forward to explore on these topics in order to have a holistic view on each as well as potential cross-discipline study to tap into unchartered insights on the current field of knowledge. Mail:

Chan Choong Foong, University of Malaya, Malaysia

Senior Lecturer at the Medical Education and Research Development Unit (MERDU), Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Malaysia. He obtained a bachelor degree in science education and PhD. from the University of Malaya. He is also a Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER) Institute Fellow. He started his academic career at the Faculty of Medicine to assist an implementation of a new undergraduate medical curriculum. He designed the programme evaluation and educational support for the medical curriculum, and current leads a team in managing its operations and research. Meanwhile, he is the Programme Coordinator for Master of Medical Education, Programme Quality Assurance Expert for the Faculty of Medicine, Personal and Professional Development Theme Coordinator for the University of Malaya Medical Programme. He is also a physics educationist. Now, he teaches postgraduate courses for both medical education and physics education. His innovations in medical and physics education has won recognitions/metals at national and international conferences and expositions. Mail:

Vinod Pallath, University of Malaya, Malaysia

Currently functioning as an Associate Professor at Medical Education Research and Development Unit (MERDU), Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya (UM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He obtained his Masters’ in Medical Microbiology from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, India. He also obtained a Ph.D in Medical Education from the same institution. He is a fellow of Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER) and also functions also as a faculty member for FAIMER. He has undergraduate and post graduate teaching experience of 18 years till date. Along with the teaching and research (undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD), he also functions as a member of the Academic Quality Assurance Committee, responsible for undergraduate medical program of UM. He has research interests in microbiology (infection control, drug resistance and virulence determinants of uropathogens) and medical education (student learning, educational environment, leadership). He has published in microbiology and medical education and functions nationally and internationally as a resource person for faculty development initiatives for health professionals training. Mail:


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How to Cite
Holder, Nurul Atira Khairul Anhar, Zhi Liang Sim, Chan Choong Foong, and Vinod Pallath. 2019. “Developing a Reflection Guiding Tool for Underperforming Medical Students: An Action Research Project”. Tuning Journal for Higher Education 7 (1), 115-63.