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Reflection assignments, format and criteria.
For your assigned reflection, please read the articles/webpages and watch the videos that are linked to your reflection topic. The links associated with each topic are found below.
After engaging with the provided materials, please write a reflection in the following format:
- Begin your reflection with a brief paragraph highlighting/summarizing the main theme(s) or the thesis of the article(s) or presentation(s). This paragraph should also share what about the provided material grabbed you. Try to keep this paragraph as brief as possible – maybe only one or two sentences on the main thesis/theme and one or two sentences on what was most interesting about the material.
- In the next few paragraphs, tell us why that part of the readings or presentations grabbed you. What were you thinking about as you read/watched it? Of course, it would be nice if you had positive thoughts, but that is not always going to be the case. If the readings or presentations frustrated or angered you, you can write about that. If you found yourself wishing the articles or presentations would talk about something else or present the material differently, write about that. As you read or watched, what experiences did you think about?
- In the final paragraph, what is your take away from the content you discussed? Will you do something different? Is there something from an article or presentation you will try to remember as you move forward? Maybe the readings or presentations reinforce something you are already doing? The last part of your reflection should summarize how the information in the article(s) or presentation(s) will be (or already are) a part of your life. It may be helpful to answer the question, “what will you do differently or think about differently based on this reflection?”
Reflections should demonstrate that the student critically engaged the provided materials. Reflections will be assessed on the following criteria:
- Accurate description of the theme/thesis of the provided materials.
- Robust discussion regarding the parts of the provided materials that were most interesting.
- Identification of a new (or renewed) commitment to an action or way of thinking in response to the materials provided.
If you have any questions, please contact the Resolution Center for Student Conduct and Conflict at [email protected] or 509-313-4009.
Benefits of failure.
Please read the following articles and view the following videos. After engaging with the provided materials, please write a reflection following the format above.
- Video: Being Vulnerable: Dan Stover at TEDxColumbus - Warning: the speaker in this video addresses suicide.
- Article: How to Motivate Yourself in Times of Failure
- Video: Denzel Washington’s Life Changing Speech on Failure and Success
Please read the following articles and webpages. After engaging with the provided materials, please write a reflection following the format above.
- Article: How Privilege Shaped the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Article: Why Even Healthy Low-Income People Have Greater Health Risks Than Higher-Income People
- Article: Motivating People from Privileged Groups to Support Social Justice
- Article: Social Determinants of Health-Related Needs During COVID-19 Among Low-Income Households with Children
- Video: What if gentrification was about healing communities instead of displacing them?
Community Impact & Restorative Justice
Please read the following articles and view the following videos. After engaging with the provided materials, please write a reflection following the format above.
- Article: Our personal choices affect more than ourselves
- Video: Restorative Circles: Creating a Safe Environment for Students to Reflect
- Video: His Holiness Pope Francis at TED2017
Creating and Enforcing Personal Boundaries
- Also review first video: "Setting Healthy Boundaries"
- Article: How to Set Boundaries: 5 Ways to Draw the Line Politely
- Article: How to Respect Other People's Boundaries
- Optional Worksheet: Boundary Exploration Worksheet
Please read the following articles, websites, and documents and view the following video. After engaging with the provided materials, please write a reflection following the format above.
- Article: Cura Personalis
- Video: The Eight Dimensions of Wellness
- Document: Assessing Your Life Balance
- Website: Wellness Toolbox - A helpful resource
Please read the following articles and websites. After engaging with the provided materials, please write a reflection following the format above.
- Article: Keep Your Family Safe From Fire
- Collection of Articles: US Fire Problem
- Collection of Materials: Campus Fire Safety Outreach Materials
Forgiveness & Reconciliation
Please read the following article and website and view the following video. After engaging with the provided materials, please write a reflection following the format above.
- Article: Two Differences between Forgiveness and Reconciliation
- Video: How to Apologize
- Website: Making an Effective Apology
Integrity & Authenticity
Please read the following articles and view the following video. After engaging with the provided materials, please write a reflection following the format above.
- Article: 6 Steps to Leading a Life of Integrity
- Article: How to Live an Authentic Life: Two Key Practices
- Video: Clip from the Movie Fortune’s Truth (1993)
Theft & Vandalism
- Website: Sign Theft: A Surprisingly Dangerous Crime
- Article: Replacing Street Signs is Expensive
- Website: Washington Theft Laws
- Schools & departments
Introducing reflection as an assignment
Using reflective assignments can be a great way of synthesising learning and challenging the status quo. This page outlines some of the things to keep in mind when posing reflective assignments.
In higher education or professional develop initiatives it is very common to have some sort of assignment. These are typically written but can also take other forms. This page will go through the main considerations for posing reflective assignments.
The main points covered are:
- finding and communicating the purpose of your assignment
- being clear both to yourself and to reflector what you want in the assignment
- the difference between ‘reflection’ and ‘evidence of reflection’
- choosing your criteria
- providing students support and spending time practicing can be valuable as most students are new to reflection.
Back to alignment – find the purpose of the assignment and communicate it
It should be clear to participants or students what the purpose of the assignment is. Why are you asking them to do this particular assignment? You will have had to think about the value of it.
This value can be described in the guidelines of the reflective assignment where you communicate how it will help reflectors either evidence their learning or obtain learning outcomes. From the guidelines it should be clear to students what the value of completing and doing well on the assignment is.
Be clear what you are asking
When posing a reflective assignment it is very important that you know from the beginning exactly what you are asking. Reflective writing/responses can typically take on two distinct forms:
- evidence of reflection.
The distinction between the two is vital when deciding the type of assignment you want to pose. These are outlined below.
Reflection - the actual process of examining thoughts
If you want to see the detailed aspects of reflectors’ thought processes, and want to follow each step in their reasoning, concerns, and learnings, ask the reflectors to submit their actual reflections.
The benefits is that you ensure that reflectors go through the process themselves and you can directly assess the quality. As this is the actual process we want the reflectors to complete, asking for raw reflections is the easiest way to ensure or get evidence that the process is happening.
One challenge when posing this kind of assignment is that some people might find it too personal to share this intimate process – it can become self-disclosure. A personal reflective account can be uncomfortable to show to anyone, and even more so to someone who is in a position of authority.
Evidence of reflection
In contrast, ‘evidence of reflection’ is documenting the effects of reflection, but does not require documenting the process explicitly.
Hence, rather than writing the thoughts and feelings of a situation, the reflector will state the context and what learning they found in the experience. In the purest form, there is no need to document any challenging or self-disclosing feelings. It is more akin to describing the effects of a reflection and rationally, in contrast to emotionally, explaining why the learning is valuable.
The benefit of this is that reflectors are less likely to feel that they are self-disclosing. However, when we are looking at evidence of reflection rather than reflection itself, it is more difficult to assess the reflectors ability to actually reflect. Therefore, good evidence of reflection is when learning is explicitly stated and it is highlighted how the learning will be used in the future.
It is important to be aware that there is a risk, albeit minimal, that a reflector can produce good evidence of reflection, without having done any reflection. For example, a reflector may write that they learned to start assignments earlier and will do so in the future, without actually having engaged with reflection at all – they might just guess that ‘starting assignments earlier’ is a possible conclusion you want to see.
Most assignments are a balance of ‘reflection’ and ‘evidence of reflection’
In reality, very few assignments will be a either pure ‘reflection’ or ‘evidence of reflection’. The goal for you is to find the right balance. Once you know what you want, you should be clear to reflectors about what being successful in the assignment looks like.
The easiest way to demonstrate what good looks like is to provide the reflectors with clear guidelines and examples of the type of reflections you are looking for. You can either write examples yourself or have a look through the Reflectors’ Toolkit, where each of the models have at least one example. You will likely find an example there that can be helpful for you.
List of tools for reflection (in Reflectors’ Toolkit) (LINK)
Reflection is just like any other assignment – avoid vagueness
The need for clear assignment directions is essential in all areas of higher education, however having the discussion specifically for reflection is important. This is because when posing a reflective assignment it can feel easy to consider reflection as ‘special’ and separate from common ‘good academic practice’ and therefore that it does not require the same levels of direction as a general assignment. Reflection should be considered on equal terms with general academic practice and will often require more support as many reflectors are new to the concept.
One reason vague reflection assignments are easy to pose is that they do not seem to restrict the reflectors’ freedom about how to reflect. In contrast, if we provide them with clear requirements and directions it might seem that we do restrict reflection. There is an element of truth in that. If we require as written assignment using a specific model of reflection, we do take some freedom away from the reflectors, at least in how they present their reflections to us. In practice, they can easily produce a private reflection and restructure it according to your question and requirements.
If we do not give the reflectors the structure they need, one challenge is that a high proportion of them might produce reflections not meeting our ideas of sufficient or good.
Posing a reflective assignment saying ‘Reflect on your development and learning in the course in 1000 words’ might seem like a fair question to ask. But compare that to asking them to ‘write an academic essay about the concepts you learned in this course in 1000 words’ and it should be clear why guidelines are important. It is easy to imagine how students would struggle to prioritise and produce an essay with relevant content from the vague essay prompt. This is similar for a vaguely posed reflective assignment without accompanying clear guidelines. How are the reflectors going to guess what we expect from them?
Most people are new to structured reflection
In higher education, most people have an idea of what an essay is supposed to look like because we are taught essay writing from an early age in school. In contrast, most people have never done structured reflection before university, and then are not likely to be thoroughly instructed in how to do or present it. It follows that if we are vague in our instructions we may receive assignments of very varying qualities.
Thus, to be fair to the reflectors and to us as facilitators, be clear and have clear guidelines available. You can ask very broad reflective questions, but you should be ready to support the reflectors and both your criteria and rubrics (if you chose to assess) should be extremely robust.
Providing training/introductions to students is useful
As most people are new to reflection starting in university, when you introduce reflection it can helpful to: provide a thorough written guide of what reflection is, provide people with resources (for example the Reflectors’ Toolkit), and/or spend time in person introducing reflectors to structured reflection and what you expect from reflections.
Find your criteria and your rubric
Once you have a clear assignment, it is important you think about what you want to measure it against, i.e. the criteria. This discussion is also highlighted in the ‘Assessing reflection’ section of the Facilitators’ Toolkit with specific criteria as suggestions.
Moreover, if you decide to use summative assessment for the assignments, you will need to have a clear rubric (criteria broken down into levels of performance). It is good practice to publish both the criteria and rubric to the reflectors prior to assessing them.
To see at what point criteria and rubrics become essential, see ‘Should I assess?’
Assessing reflection (within the Facilitators’ Toolkit)
Should I assess? (within the Facilitators’ Toolkit)
Back to 'How do I introduce reflection?'
50 Learning Reflection Questions For Students
Reflection Questions To Improve Learning
by Terry Heick
A few years ago, I wrote about Types of Learning Journals and reflection was a part of this thinking.
I’ve also shared a small collection of basic reflective questions in the past that could be used as a tweet or other social media post.
Now, for an updated post, I’ve collected many of these questions into a single post that you can sift through and hopefully find something you can use in your classroom tomorrow. Some are questions while others are question stems that can be used to guide reflection in specific lessons or scenarios where unique language or ideas are needed.
See also 12 Authentic Starting Points For Learning
Reflection Questions For Learning
1. What do you remember about what you learned today? Write down as many things as you can in 30/60/90 seconds.
2. Of what you remember, what seemed to be the most important ideas? Write down 3-5 things in bullet-point format.
3. What was your role in the learning process today? Did you find information? Interpret it? Attempt to ‘remember’ it? Complete a task? Listen? Watch? Skim? Try? Combine? Consider? Evaluate? Calculate? List? Describe? Problem solve? Recall? Create?
4. Were you an active or a passive learner? Did the learning activity allow (or force) you to be one or the other (active versus passive)?
5. What did you notice others doing during today’s lesson? Include other students, the teacher, etc. Infer cognitive behaviors (what they were doing ‘in their minds’) along with listing physical and observable behaviors.
Metacognitive Questions For Learning
6. When were you at your best today?
7. What opportunities did you have today? Which were worthy of your attention, energy, or best thinking? Did you take them?
8. What did you assume about today’s learning before we started? How did that affect your learning (for better or for worse)?
9. What was your mindset before, during, and after the lesson?
10. What are you sure you understand about _____?
11. What do you think you might understand about _____?
12. What are you sure you misunderstand about _____? What is the most likely source of the confusion?
Nature Of Knowledge Reflective Questions
13. What do you suspect that you might misunderstand about ____?
14. What is the difference between misunderstanding and not yet knowing ?
15. What do you already know that you can use to think about or learn _____?
16. How do you know that you understand _____?
17. How do you know that you don’t understand ______?
18. How did you respond when struggled with today (if you did)?
19. What did you find most surprising about _____?
20. How did your understanding of _______ change today?
21. Of what you learned, how much of it was new, and how much of it have you seen before?
22. What about _____ makes you curious?
23. How is ____ similar to _____?
24. How does what you learned relate to what you already knew?
25. So? So What? What now? (Summarize what you learned, roughly explain its significance, and estimate what you might/could/should do next in response.)
Bonus: Consider the ‘form’ of learning you used. What other forms could have been used and what would effect might the use of those other forms have had on your learning? Think of sitting and listening versus standing and speaking. Think working alone versus working with others or watching a video versus reading a book versus listening to a podcast. How might the nature of what you learn (the topic or skill or concept being learned) dictate the ideal learning form?
Put another way, how does the learning content and/or goal affect the best ways to learn it?
Learning Reflection Questions For Students
Also, I previously create questions students can ask themselves before, during, and after learning to improve their thinking, retention, and metacognition. A few highlights from the ‘after learning’ (which qualify them as reflective questions for learning) include:
1. How did that go?
What did I obviously learn? What might I have learned or practiced or improved my understanding of that may not be obvious?
What was most interesting? Least? How can I learn new things if I’m not ‘interested in’ what I’m learning? What do others do in these cases to learn?
What was clear and what was confusing and what was somewhere in the middle? What do I still ‘need help’ with? Who can I talk to about the lesson to review key ideas or clarify misunderstandings?
2. What seems most important about what was learned?
What seems less important and what seems more important about what was learned? Or is this something where what was learned doesn’t have a clear hierarchy?
After the lesson, is what seems most important any different than how things seemed before and during the lesson? How and why?
3. What should I do with what I’ve learned and how should I respond to what I didn’t learn?
What should I do with what I learned and know? What will I be able to do with this–both now and if and when I improve my understanding of it?
Who should I ‘tell’ or share this with? Who would care and/or benefit the most?
4. Based on what we learned today, what might we learn tomorrow?
Where does what we’re learning seem to be ‘heading’? When we’ve learned things like this in the past, what happens next?
What could I learn about this tomorrow with help? By myself? What might someone who knows this better than I do ‘learn next’?
5. How have I been changed by what I’ve learned?
How do I feel about this content? Interested? Enthusiastic? Curious? Bored? Indifferent?
How else could I learn this–maybe better? How might I think of this learning in 40 days? 40 weeks? 40 months? 40 years?
Powerful Questions To Help Students Reflect On Their Learning
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45 Awesome Must-Use Questions to Encourage Student Reflection and Growth
Reflection questions for before, during, and after a project or lesson.
Teaching our students the importance of reflecting upon their knowledge, work, effort, and learning is super important, but it’s not always that easy.
Reflection questions allow students to think about their thinking.
This kind of questioning allows students to better understand how they are working or learning so they can make changes and adjustments from there. Reflection takes time, and often students think that once their work is complete, they should be finished. Often, the younger the student, the more difficult it can be to get them to reflect on what they’ve done.
Here are a few of our favorite reflection questions to use in your instruction. Adjust or edit these questions to meet your students’ needs.
Before students begin their work:
- What do I know about this topic or subject?
- What would I like to learn about this topic or subject?
- Where will I find the information I need for this assignment?
- What kinds of research do I need to do?
- Do I fully understand the question or prompt?
- How can I break down the assignment into smaller parts?
- Did I give myself ample time to really think about this assignment and brainstorm possible solutions?
- Who can help me get what I need to complete this work?
- What tools or supplies should I use for this assignment?
- How will I be assessed for this project?
- Do I understand all parts of the rubric or scoring guide?
- What are my goals for this assignment?
- What do I need to do in order to meet those goals?
- How will this assignment be turned in to my teacher?
- Do I know the due date for this project, and am I able to meet it?
While students are working:
- What have I learned so far?
- What else do I need to know in order to finish this task?
- Can I make a few predictions about what will happen next?
- How well am I using my time?
- Am I answering all parts of the questions completely?
- Which parts of this assignment are easy for me?
- Which parts of this assignment are challenging for me?
- Does my work reflect my effort thus far?
- Am I putting forth my best effort in my work?
- Are the sources I am using reliable?
- Am I citing my sources properly?
- How close am I to achieving my original goals with this assignment?
- Are the goals I set before I began this assignment still reasonable? Do I need to readjust them?
- If possible, can I ask my teacher or a classmate for feedback on my current progress on this assignment?
- Am I learning interesting information as I work on this project?
After students finish their work or assignment:
- What new information have I learned from this assignment?
- What surprised me about what I learned?
- How quickly was I able to finish this work?
- Where were my roadblocks?
- How did I move through roadblocks or challenges?
- Is my work adapted for the correct, appropriate audience?
- How closely did I follow the parameters of the assignment?
- Using the grade rubric, how would I score my own work?
- What would the teacher say about my work?
- If given the opportunity, one thing I would change about this assignment is …
- How does my work compare to what my classmates did on this assignment?
- Does my work truly reflect my effort?
- Have I achieved the goal I set for myself with this assignment?
- What would I do differently next time, if given the chance?
- Am I proud of my work?
Do you want a short one-page printable of all of these questions to guide your instruction?
Grab the printable version here.
What other questions would you add to this list? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers Chat group on Facebook.
Plus, check out our big list of critical thinking questions and growth mindset posters.
Amy Mascott is Senior Digital Editor and Creative Manager for WeAreTeachers.
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Student Reflection & Self-Assessment
4 ideas for building self-evaluation into the learning process
Project-based learning is a student-centered approach to learning, so it is natural to make student self-evaluation an integral part of the process.
Providing time for students to reflect on their work, helps them make connections to previous learning and experience. As Rachel Showalter observes, “students cannot truly improve their product without understanding the content.” Combining this opportunity to deepen learning through reflection with time to self-correct and improve, is an essential step towards meeting standards.
Many educators implementing a PBL or STEM approach use a design process that includes a specific Improve phase that asks students to stop, reflect, and evaluate their work with the intent of returning to the ideation phase to improve upon it.
Asking students to evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, progress, and growth, helps them more deeply understand the causes of their successes and failures and become aware of their learning. This also helps them see more clearly where to focus their energy to have the greatest impact. As they grow their metacognitive skills, students are better able to meet the challenges and thrive in directing their own learning.
Make sure students are clear on standards, learning, and project goals
Before you begin integrating reflection and self-assessment, make sure students have a clear definition or picture of what success looks like. A rubric or checklist can help provide students with criteria they can use to evaluate the success of their work and progress toward academic, personal, and social goals. Successful rubrics and checklists include criteria that provide specific actions students can take to improve their work.
Build in reflection time and procedures for self-assessment
Reflection and student self-assessment require time and are most successful when you add specific procedures for them during the learning process. Work in time for reflection, as well as time to improve their work based on the evaluation.
Here are a few ideas to help you integrate reflection and student self-assessment throughout the process of learning.
Daily Reflection Journals
One of the easiest ways to begin implementing reflection into your classroom is to have students keep a project journal or work log. Provide reflection prompts, or questions, like:
- What new content knowledge did you learn today?
- How did your effort contribute to your success?
- What should you focus on next?
Reflection journals provide artifacts both you and your students can use to see and evaluate growth and progress.
Download a sample Project Reflection page
If journaling seems like it will take too much classroom time, use the last 2 minutes of class for a 3-2-1 exit ticket .
In addition to daily journaling, have students complete a summative self-assessment that asks them to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of their product or performance and evaluate their efforts during the development process. You might ask them to reflect on:
- content knowledge gained.
- project management, leadership, and other skills acquired.
- obstacles and how they overcame them.
- conflicts within a team and their resolution.
- personal insights gained from product and process.
Written self-assessments are a natural part of the reflection process after students complete a project or performance. However, providing time to evaluate their work before it is complete, allows students to improve their work and honors that learning is an iterative process.
Peer Review and Feedback
While peer review may not seem like a form of self-evaluation, reviewing the work of others often helps students more clearly see errors and areas for improvement in their own work. Peer reviews that focus on effective writing, design, and communication provide a useful place to start.
Simply have students “turn-and-talk” with a classmate and complete a “warm and cool” form to direct their feedback.
Download a Warm and Cool Feedback sheet page
If students are presenting their work to a small group, provide reviewers with sentence starters to promote critical review and feedback:
- You do a great job of …
- I would love to see more …
- Can you explain …
- What if …
Employing peer reviews during the process with time after for editing, creates a learning culture of growth where students reflect on their work and the work of others and then do the work necessary to improve.
If you want to get serious about integrating student reflection and self-assessment, asking students to craft portfolios of their learning throughout a school year is a must. A learning portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work, combined with reflections about the learning artifacts, that demonstrates student learning and growth over time.
For a portfolio to be a success, students need to be in charge of choosing the work they will include and tasked with explaining via text, audio, or video why it demonstrates growth.
Once again, providing a rubric or similar evaluation criteria will help students choose artifacts of learning and performances that correlate to learning goals, as well as provide a structure for their reflections.
Reflecting helps students process and organize their learning. As they reflect, students observe how successful they have been during an activity. Then, they work to identify what they learned from their experience.
Combining your formative and summative assessments along with student’s self-reflections and peer reviews can help you paint a clearer picture of student growth and progress.
by Melinda Kolk
Melinda Kolk ( @melindak ) is the Editor of Creative Educator and the author of Teaching with Clay Animation . She has been helping educators implement project-based learning and creative technologies like clay animation into classroom teaching and learning for the past 15 years.
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10 Unique and Creative Reflection Techniques & Lessons for the Secondary Student
As educators, we know how critical reflection is to the learning process. Getting students to reflect- deeply and meaningfully- is often one of the most challenging lessons we teach. I have found that both my middle school and high school students will often scoff at these reflection activities, providing the least amount of effort possible to complete the task they see as meaningless. I have been searching for and creating lessons and activities that will bring interest and engagement to this task. The following is a list of 10 lessons and activities I use regularly in my classroom to create a class of reflective learners.
1. Growth Mindset and Goal Setting
The first step in developing a truly reflective learner is to develop the growth mindset within each and every student. Students do not naturally believe that reading and writing are skills that can be improved upon. We have all heard our students comment that they “just are not good at writing.” With this mindset, students are willing to accept poor scores, give less effort, and fain any reflection activity given. As we know, this mindset takes time to alter. I focus on these skills at the beginning of the year, but this concept can be taught at any time!
I love asking my students to create goals. We do this at the beginning of the year, the start of a new semester, a new unit, a new skill, etc. This is a great place to naturally build in those reflection conversations. As we close out that unit or semester, we can look back on these to reflect on our learning and set new goals. What a great life skill and habit to develop with our students! I use these engaging goal setting one pager activities to help my students craft these goals. They are guided and specific, but my students get a chance to be creative and have a little fun in the process! Click here to learn more about these goal setting one pagers!
Click here to download your own copy for free!
2. Asking students to reflect on a deeper level.
The first few times I asked students to reflect on their thinking, I received reflections that were basic at best. I have created this poster to encourage my students to reflect at a deeper level. Similar to Blooms Taxonomy, the lower the question- the deeper the thought. I keep this posted in my room, and use this as a guide for open reflections on activities, daily work, or projects.
3. Model your own reflection.
I take the opportunity to model my learning and my reflecting whenever possible. After an activity or lesson, I will model my own reflection for students. I will also let students see when I make a mistake, so I can express what I have learned from this. I reflect on these in the same way I would wish my students to do after their own mistakes/learning opportunity!
4. Reflect ‘n’ Sketch.
Click here for more information!
One of my favorite reflection lessons is the Reflect ‘n’ Sketch activity. When I began teaching, I only saw my students as readers and writers. I could see their struggles and successes within my subject alone. Then, after teaching tone and mood to a group of eighth graders, I asked students to draw a picture of the mood of a poem. Through this activity, I saw my struggling readers excel with beautiful artwork. I realized that my subject, English, is not the only skill to be had. Many of my students excelled in other areas, especially those who struggled in my class. This experience inspired my Reflect ‘n’ Sketch activity. This gives students the option to draw their reflections on a project or activity. Guiding questions guide their artwork, and students can still deliver deep reflections with a medium that inspires them.
5. Reflection Vlog
I tried this for the first time this past fall, and my students absolutely rave about the Reflection Vlog. I gave students the guiding questions found within the Reflect ‘n’ Sketch activity, and asked them to create a personal Vlog. After each major project or assessment, I asked students to add to their Vlog. Some students chose to upload their videos to YouTube, and others preferred the privacy of simply creating an iMovie or Windows Moviemaker video. With this medium of reflection, students were free to speak about their work, display their work, or add videos and pictures of the process of creating their work. Not only did students find this engaging, but they found that they were able speak freely about their learning. They have commented that they did not feel bound by words, grammar, structure, and organization within the reflection, so they felt that they were better able to express their truest feelings. I can attest to this as I watched their Vlog videos. They opened up more through this ‘on camera’ experience, than in any other reflection technique!
6. Analyze your work from the teacher’s perspective.
When introducing a writing assignment, I would often provide exemplars, or mentor texts, and ask students to assess these using the rubric that would assess their own work. Not only did students better understand the rubric, they better understood the expectations for the writing. This inspired me to have students assess their own work in a similar manner. I ask students to assess their own work from my perspective. This can be via rubric or by simply providing feedback that they believe I would give. Once students get to know me, this feedback can be eerily correct! This helps students to see their work from a new perspective, and often will encourage students to make revisions before they submit their final work!
I have asked my students to create a scrapbook reflection on larger projects; this is especially effective for group work. Students take pictures of the process of their work, students working in their group roles, and of their final project. Each group member can showcase their own pictures or drawings of the groups work. Then students can reflect on their roles within the group, the process of collaboration, their impact on the groups success/failures, and on the learning that was derived from the project’s completion. Some students get very creative with this process, and truly enjoy this as much (or more) than the project itself!
8. The Cube of Reflection
I have use this Cube of Reflection after a group project. Students have a tangible cube that they roll to help them reflect together. The cube really helps them to think about their collective learning; they will use the reflection taxonomy to build their reflection to the deepest levels. Guiding questions help students with each level of this taxonomy. The fun cube fosters a collective reflection experience! Students will: -Remember it. -Understand it. -Apply it. -Analyze it. -Evaluate it. -Create it.
9. Social Media
I have created a Google site to mimic Facebook. Students can upload a picture of their project and reflect on their process or learning experience. I can also pose reflection questions and have students respond to these through this “Fake Facebook”. This can be equally effective on a class blog as well. For more details about setting up a class blog, check out this article on the left!
Click on the image to grab this free resource!
10. Semester Reflection
I always try to do a deeper reflection at the semester break. For most of my classes, I will retain the same set of students into second semester. This transition practically begs for a deep reflection on the previous work before we have a fresh new start in the new semester. I break down my semester reflection into three categories: academic, out-of-school, and personal. This has helped my students to write a guided reflection that covers all parts of their life as a learner.
Reflection One Pager – A Reflection Activity Your Students Will Actually Enjoy!
Grade Faster: One teacher’s approach to grading written work. Save Your Sanity and Your Time!
About the Author
Liz is a collaborator on teachwriting.org and the founder of Teach BeTween the Lines . She has been teaching for over ten years; she has loved growing young minds through literature and the art of crafting the written word. She is currently working on her doctorate in Education from the University of Minnesota, and holds an M.A. in Education from St. Mary’s University, Minnesota. She loves to write short stories in her free time, especially in those cold Minnesota winters. She is supported by a wonderful family made better by the addition of her two beautiful children.
Department of English College of Liberal Arts
The Purpose of Reflection
Why is reflection important in the writing classroom .
Reflection— a process where students describe their learning, how it changed, and how it might relate to future learning experiences (“ Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind ,” 2008) —is a skill that often goes undervalued in classrooms that are packed with content. However, reflection is an important practice for students to make sense of and grow from a learning experience, and it is a practice backed by scholarship (see List of Scholarship below). A 2014 study by Harvard also confirmed that reflecting on one’s work improves job performance. Although often situated in the humanities and social sciences, reflection is an important practice across academic disciplines including nursing, business, the sciences, and more (see WAC Clearinghouse for a list of disciplinary reflection articles). As a result, reflective writing is one great method for students to reflect on their learning experiences in the English 106/108 classroom. Students, therefore, should be exposed to continuous reflective writing practices so that they become “producers” and not “consumers” of knowledge ( Costa and Kallick, 2008 ).
In terms of writing studies, reflection has been tapped as an important skill for students’ abilities to transfer writing skills. Writing transfer, according to forty-five writing researchers from the Elon Research Seminar , is defined as “the phenomenon in which new and unfamiliar writing tasks are approached through the application, remixing or integration of previous knowledge, skills, strategies, and dispositions.” In fact, two enabling practices within the Elon Research Seminar focus specifically on metacognition—i.e., thinking about thinking. Additionally, the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing —a collaboration between the Council of Writing Program Administrators, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Writing Project—further supports the use of reflection as it is one of the eight habits of mind needed for student success.
Reflection is a broad term that includes many different applications . Instructors can assign many different reflective activities, both guided and unguided (e.g., class discussion, journals, interviews, questioning, etc.). Nevertheless, the goal of reflection, according to Yancey (1998) in Reflection in the Writing Classroom , is as follows:
In method, reflection is dialectical, putting multiple perspectives into play with each other in order to produce insight. Procedurally, reflection entails a looking forward to goals we might attain, as well as a casting backward to see where we have been. When we reflect, we thus project and review, often putting the projections and the reviews in dialogue with each other, working dialectically to discover what we know, what we have learned, and what we might understand. (p. 6)
Furthermore, there are two purposes of reflection according to Ryan’s (2013) “The Pedagogical Balancing Act: Teaching Reflection in Higher Education” :
- Reflection allows students to make sense of material/experience in relation to oneself, others, and the conditions that shaped the material/experience;
- Reimagine material/experience for future personal or social benefit (p. 147).
Recurring reflection activities encourage students to think critically about their writing practices and to make sense of and reimagine their experiences for future benefit (see Dyment et. al, 2010 for further discussion).
Benefits of Reflection:
- What Benefits Reflective Writing Might Have for My Students—WAC Colorado State: Discusses the various benefits reflection has for students, and it also contains a list of reflection scholarship in various disciplines.
- Cultivating Reflection and Metacognition—Sweetland Center for Writing : Discusses how and why reflection is beneficial within the classroom. In addition, the website discusses how to incorporate reflection into practice.
- Learning Through Reflection—ASCD : A discussion of reflection’s benefits in K-12 classrooms, but provides scholarship for why reflection is beneficial overall.
- [email protected]: The Writing Studio : Colorado State University’s page provides information on the benefits of reflection, how to facilitate reflection, and activities to use within the classroom. This resource is service-learning focused.
- Facilitating Reflection : Contains a plethora of writing and non-writing reflection activities to incorporate into the classroom. Some of these activities are short and others could potentially take an entire class period.
- Digging Deeper : Contains reflection activities from Depaul University that works through the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
- 15 ways to spark student reflection in your college classroom by Tricia Whenham: As the name foreshadows, Whenham briefly discusses 15 activities that spark reflection in students.
- What Are Some Strategies for Reflection Activities—UMSL Center for Teaching and Learning : Provides a list of reflective activities to include within the classroom.
- Reflective Writing Guide—Auburn University Office of University Writing : This fantastic resource succinctly provides instructions for incorporating reflective activities, how to assess them, and provides examples.
- Reflective Writing in Education—Monash University : An excellent resource that discusses reflection as a whole and how it factors into disciplines outside of writing (e.g., critical incidents in nursing). This source also presents sample assignments that are composed in other disciplines, including trigger warnings when necessary (e.g., law reports).
- Reflective Writing Guide—Dundee and Angus College : Provides an overview of reflection and various methods for incorporating it into your classroom.
- A Short Guide to Reflective Writing—University of Birmingham : Similar to the other guides as it presents examples for reflective writing and how to include it into the classroom.
- John Zubizarreta (2008) The Learning Portfolio: A Powerful Idea for Significant Learning : This article discusses writing portfolios, or learning portfolios as they are termed in the article, and why reflection is critical to its success. In addition, the article argues for reflection to be collaborative, consistent, and guided.
- Kathleen Blake Yancey (1998) Reflection in the Writing Classroom : A pivotal piece on reflection and its use within the writing classroom. This work provides several chapters on reflection in various areas, including the classroom, assessment, and reading.
- Kathleen Blake Yancey (2016) A Rhetoric of Reflection : An edited collection of various writing scholars and how reflection factors into their practice.
- Mary Ryan (2011) Improving Reflective Writing in Higher Education: A Social Semiotic Perspective : This article discusses the various theories of reflection and uses systemic functional linguistics to build a social semiotic model for reflective writing.
- Vankooten (2016) Identifying Components of Meta-Awareness about Composition: Toward a Theory and Methodology for Writing Studies : Works towards a theory of meta-awareness in composition and discusses the four observable areas of metacognition: 1) process, 2) techniques, 3) rhetoric, and 4) intercomparativity.
- Jenson (2011) Promoting Self-Regulation and Critical Reflection through Writing Students’ use of Electronic Portfolio : This empirical study discusses reflection and how its consistent use illustrated a deeper mode of thinking in students.
- Zohar and Dori (2012) Metacognition in Science Education : Discusses research in metacognition and its use within science education.
- Israel, Block, Bauserman, & Kinnucan-Welsch (2006) Metacognition in Literacy Education : This source brings research from education, psychology, linguistics, and reading to illustrate the need for reflection within literacy education.
*Note: This is not an exhaustive list of reflection scholarship and a simple database search will yield more results.
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Sample Student Reflection Paper
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Rather than simply endorsing reflection papers and their potential to dramatically connect course content with students’ lives, I want to share an example. I display this unedited reflection paper anonymously with permission of the author who I will call John. Of particular note is the visceral experience John has in recognizing his own positionality vis-a-vis the studied class topic. The impact of this experience was heightened as John and the other students engaged one another in class on their experiences writing these reflections.
(You will find the actual instructions for this assignment under the Paper Assignments tab.)
November 5, 2013 Phil 389 Reflection 2
The concept of privilege positions in society was only made aware to me in recent years as I have had the luxury of learning about these subtle forms of oppression through continued study of social justice. I was lucky enough, privileged enough, to afford to be ignorant of such phenomena, but for some, these facts of social life are daily lessons of how they do not fit into a view of reality portrayed by mainstream culture. I had been focused on seeing overt forms of oppression where one group actively impacts another; however, I had never realized the part I played, and the advantages I gained from this system of oppression. Once the privileges were pointed out to me, it was as if I had become aware of a secret world that penetrates the very fiber of society. It wasn’t until I learned of my privilege that I began to see examples of it everywhere I looked. For my reflection I decided to do a little field work, so I took a walk around a local mall to search for examples of privilege.
Peggy McIntosh describes these privileges as an invisible knapsack of tools an advantages, and how those advantages manifest themselves is by virtue of the disadvantaged position it places those not lucky enough to be born into the right place in society. While white privilege is a common example, there can be many forms of privilege along the lines of sexual orientation, religion, physical attributes, and so on, as long as there is a tipping of the scales of justice that leaves one group in an advantaged position at the expense of another group. I think the main form of privilege I found in my field trip to the mall was the expectation that my general appearance and sexual orientation would be reflected in the products and advertisements, thus allowing me to have an immersive shopping experience. I got the sense that the layout of the mall was designed with me as its target customer, and this may be hard to explain, but it is a good feeling to know that you are welcome in a public space, and that every storefront is designed with you in mind.
A short list of the kinds of privilege I encountered included advertisements with young, attractive, white, heterosexual couples, around my age. Mannequins with average to slim body proportions. Makeup and pantyhose, with lighter skin tones listed as “neutral”or “flesh”colored. Most of the stores I went into had white staff members in positions of authority. Picture frames have white, attractive, heterosexual people displayed in them. Greeting cards generally target white, heterosexual, people, with the exception of a small section off to the side devoted to cards with people of color in them. There were two events in particular which really stood out to me on this field trip.
The first was when I was walking through a toy isle looking at all the young white children portrayed on the boxes having fun with their toys, and the only other customer was a young Hispanic girl and her father. The girl was playing on the floor with a white doll as her father perused the section. I thought it was so sad that this little girl must not help but be able to notice that she was different somehow, that she didn’t fit in here, and that her father had to search for a toy with a million smiling white faces staring at him. The difficulty is that this kind of oppression is not overt, not malevolent on the part of the toy makers, it is just the way that they system functions. Advertising works no matter how hard we try to avoid its clutches and seeing oneself reflected in the product is important for the customer satisfaction. The sad part is that the toy companies are probably maximizing efficiency by targeting what they perceive to be the majority customers appearance in their adds, and the minority customers are oppressed by virtue of their groups position in the economy. The difficult part is how to correct these forms of oppression, and I simply do not have an answer, but I do recognize the problem.
The second experience I had, and the thing I will remember most about my experiment, was when I walked into a Hallmark store and asking the lady behind the counter if they carried same sex greeting cards of any kind, but instead of simply saying that they did not, she paused for a few seconds and gave me a look that made me feel instantly uncomfortable. I could hear some of the other customers in the room stop for a second to look at me, and I could feel a heat move over my face. I quickly clarified that I was only doing a report for school, implying that I was not in fact homosexual, and the clerk’s demeanor changed as she stated that she didn’t think so, but I was free to check. It was the only time during the field study that I had felt the need to explain what I was doing to anyone. I could get out of the situation with a simple clarification, but what if I really was a member of the homosexual community walking into a situation where they not only can’t find the product they are looking for, but also are made to feel like a freak for even suggesting that they would like to be included along with everyone else. After I walked out of the store I felt guilty for having denied being homosexual, I am not, but still, why should I have to clarify anything when walking into a store? I have never had to tell the clerk that I was straight before shopping for Valentine’s Day cards for a significant other, but then again, no one asks if they carry heterosexual greeting cards.
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Examples of Reflective Writing
Types of reflective writing assignments.
A journal requires you to write weekly entries throughout a semester. May require you to base your reflection on course content.
A learning diary is similar to a journal, but may require group participation. The diary then becomes a place for you to communicate in writing with other group members.
A logbook is often used in disciplines based on experimental work, such as science. You note down or 'log' what you have done. A log gives you an accurate record of a process and helps you reflect on past actions and make better decisions for future actions.
A reflective note is often used in law. A reflective note encourages you to think about your personal reaction to a legal issue raised in a course.
An essay diary can take the form of an annotated bibliography (where you examine sources of evidence you might include in your essay) and a critique (where you reflect on your own writing and research processes).
a peer review usually involves students showing their work to their peers for feedback.
A self-assessment task requires you to comment on your own work.
Some examples of reflective writing
Social science fieldwork report (methods section), engineering design report, learning journal (weekly reflection).
Brookfield, S 1987, Developing critical thinkers: challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting , Open University Press, Milton Keynes.
Mezirow, J 1990, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: a guide to transformative and emancipatory learning , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
Schön, DA 1987, Educating the reflective practitioner , Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.
We thank the students who permitted us to feature examples of their writing.
Prepared by Academic Skills, UNSW. This guide may be distributed or adapted for educational purposes. Full and proper acknowledgement is required.
Essay and assignment writing guide
- Essay writing basics
- Essay and assignment planning
- Answering assignment questions
- Editing checklist
- Writing a critical review
- Annotated bibliography
- How do I write reflectively?
- Examples of reflective writing
- ^ More support
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- Writing a Reflective Paper
- Writing a Research Proposal
Reflective writing is a process of identifying, questioning, and critically evaluating course-based learning opportunities, integrated with your own observations, experiences, impressions, beliefs, assumptions, or biases, and which describes how this process stimulated new or creative understanding about the content of the course. A reflective paper describes and explains in an introspective, first person narrative, your reactions and feelings about either a specific element of the class [e.g., a required reading; a film shown in class] or more generally how you experienced learning throughout the course. Reflective writing assignments can be in the form of a single paper, essays, portfolios, journals, diaries, or blogs.
How to Write a Reflection Paper . Academic Skills, Trent University; Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; Tsingos-Lucas et al. "Using Reflective Writing as a Predictor of Academic Success in Different Assessment Formats." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 81 (2017): Article 8.
Benefits of Reflective Writing Assignments
As the term implies, a reflective paper involves looking inward at oneself in contemplating and bringing meaning to the relationship between course content and the acquisition of new knowledge . Educational research [Bolton, 2010; Ryan, 2011; Tsingos-Lucas et al., 2017] demonstrates that assigning reflective writing tasks enhances learning because it challenges students to confront their own assumptions, biases, and belief systems around what is being taught in class and, in so doing, stimulate student’s decisions, actions, attitudes, and understanding about themselves as learners and in relation to having mastery over their learning. Reflection assignments are also an opportunity to write in a first person narrative about elements of the course, such as the required readings, separate from the exegetic and analytical prose of academic research papers.
Reflection writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously. In no particular order, here are some of reasons why professors assign reflection papers:
- Enhances learning from previous knowledge and experience in order to improve future decision-making and reasoning in practice . Reflective writing in the applied social sciences enhances decision-making skills and academic performance in ways that can inform professional practice. The act of reflective writing creates self-awareness and understanding of others. This is particularly important in clinical and service-oriented professional settings.
- Allows students to make sense of classroom content and overall learning experiences in relation to oneself, others, and the conditions that shaped the content and classroom experiences . Reflective writing places you within the course content in ways that can deepen your understanding of the material. Because reflective thinking can help reveal hidden biases, it can help you critically interrogate moments when you do not like or agree with discussions, readings, or other aspects of the course.
- Increases awareness of one’s cognitive abilities and the evidence for these attributes . Reflective writing can break down personal doubts about yourself as a learner and highlight specific abilities that may have been hidden or suppressed due to prior assumptions about the strength of your academic abilities [e.g., reading comprehension; problem-solving skills]. Reflective writing, therefore, can have a positive affective [i.e., emotional] impact on your sense of self-worth.
- Applying theoretical knowledge and frameworks to real experiences . Reflective writing can help build a bridge of relevancy between theoretical knowledge and the real world. In so doing, this form of writing can lead to a better understanding of underlying theories and their analytical properties applied to professional practice.
- Reveals shortcomings that the reader will identify . Evidence suggests that reflective writing can uncover your own shortcomings as a learner, thereby, creating opportunities to anticipate the responses of your professor may have about the quality of your coursework. This can be particularly productive if the reflective paper is written before final submission of an assignment.
- Helps students identify their tacit [a.k.a., implicit] knowledge and possible gaps in that knowledge . Tacit knowledge refers to ways of knowing rooted in lived experience, insight, and intuition rather than formal, codified, categorical, or explicit knowledge. In so doing, reflective writing can stimulate students to question their beliefs about a research problem or an element of the course content beyond positivist modes of understanding and representation.
- Encourages students to actively monitor their learning processes over a period of time . On-going reflective writing in journals or blogs, for example, can help you maintain or adapt learning strategies in other contexts. The regular, purposeful act of reflection can facilitate continuous deep thinking about the course content as it evolves and changes throughout the term. This, in turn, can increase your overall confidence as a learner.
- Relates a student’s personal experience to a wider perspective . Reflection papers can help you see the big picture associated with the content of a course by forcing you to think about the connections between scholarly content and your lived experiences outside of school. It can provide a macro-level understanding of one’s own experiences in relation to the specifics of what is being taught.
- If reflective writing is shared, students can exchange stories about their learning experiences, thereby, creating an opportunity to reevaluate their original assumptions or perspectives . In most cases, reflective writing is only viewed by your professor in order to ensure candid feedback from students. However, occasionally, reflective writing is shared and openly discussed in class. During these discussions, new or different perspectives and alternative approaches to solving problems can be generated that would otherwise be hidden. Sharing student's reflections can also reveal collective patterns of thought and emotions about a particular element of the course.
Bolton, Gillie. Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development . London: Sage, 2010; Chang, Bo. "Reflection in Learning." Online Learning 23 (2019), 95-110; Cavilla, Derek. "The Effects of Student Reflection on Academic Performance and Motivation." Sage Open 7 (July-September 2017): 1–13; Culbert, Patrick. “Better Teaching? You Can Write On It “ Liberal Education (February 2022); McCabe, Gavin and Tobias Thejll-Madsen. The Reflection Toolkit . University of Edinburgh; The Purpose of Reflection . Introductory Composition at Purdue University; Practice-based and Reflective Learning . Study Advice Study Guides, University of Reading; Ryan, Mary. "Improving Reflective Writing in Higher Education: A Social Semiotic Perspective." Teaching in Higher Education 16 (2011): 99-111; Tsingos-Lucas et al. "Using Reflective Writing as a Predictor of Academic Success in Different Assessment Formats." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 81 (2017): Article 8; What Benefits Might Reflective Writing Have for My Students? Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse; Rykkje, Linda. "The Tacit Care Knowledge in Reflective Writing: A Practical Wisdom." International Practice Development Journal 7 (September 2017): Article 5; Using Reflective Writing to Deepen Student Learning . Center for Writing, University of Minnesota.
How to Approach Writing a Reflection Paper
Thinking About Reflective Thinking
Educational theorists have developed numerous models of reflective thinking that your professor may use to frame a reflective writing assignment. These models can help you systematically interpret your learning experiences, thereby ensuring that you ask the right questions and have a clear understanding of what should be covered. A model can also represent the overall structure of a reflective paper. Each model establishes a different approach to reflection and will require you to think about your writing differently. If you are unclear how to fit your writing within a particular reflective model, seek clarification from your professor. There are generally two types of reflective writing assignments, each approached in slightly different ways.
1. Reflective Thinking about Course Readings
This type of reflective writing focuses on thoughtfully thinking about the course readings that underpin how most students acquire new knowledge and understanding about the subject of a course. Reflecting on course readings is often assigned in freshmen-level, interdisciplinary courses where the required readings examine topics viewed from multiple perspectives and, as such, provide different ways of analyzing a topic, issue, event, or phenomenon. The purpose of reflective thinking about course readings in the social and behavioral sciences is to elicit your opinions, beliefs, and feelings about the research and its significance. This type of writing can provide an opportunity to break down key assumptions you may have and, in so doing, reveal potential biases in how you interpret the scholarship.
If you are assigned to reflect on course readings, consider the following methods of analysis as prompts that can help you get started :
- Examine carefully the main introductory elements of the reading, including the purpose of the study, the theoretical framework being used to test assumptions, and the research questions being addressed. Think about what ideas stood out to you. Why did they? Were these ideas new to you or familiar in some way based on your own lived experiences or prior knowledge?
- Develop your ideas around the readings by asking yourself, what do I know about this topic? Where does my existing knowledge about this topic come from? What are the observations or experiences in my life that influence my understanding of the topic? Do I agree or disagree with the main arguments, recommended course of actions, or conclusions made by the author(s)? Why do I feel this way and what is the basis of these feelings?
- Make connections between the text and your own beliefs, opinions, or feelings by considering questions like, how do the readings reinforce my existing ideas or assumptions? How the readings challenge these ideas or assumptions? How does this text help me to better understand this topic or research in ways that motivate me to learn more about this area of study?
2. Reflective Thinking about Course Experiences
This type of reflective writing asks you to critically reflect on locating yourself at the conceptual intersection of theory and practice. The purpose of experiential reflection is to evaluate theories or disciplinary-based analytical models based on your introspective assessment of the relationship between hypothetical thinking and practical reality; it offers a way to consider how your own knowledge and skills fit within professional practice. This type of writing also provides an opportunity to evaluate your decisions and actions, as well as how you managed your subsequent successes and failures, within a specific theoretical framework. As a result, abstract concepts can crystallize and become more relevant to you when considered within your own experiences. This can help you formulate plans for self-improvement as you learn.
If you are assigned to reflect on your experiences, consider the following questions as prompts to help you get started :
- Contextualize your reflection in relation to the overarching purpose of the course by asking yourself, what did you hope to learn from this course? What were the learning objectives for the course and how did I fit within each of them? How did these goals relate to the main themes or concepts of the course?
- Analyze how you experienced the course by asking yourself, what did I learn from this experience? What did I learn about myself? About working in this area of research and study? About how the course relates to my place in society? What assumptions about the course were supported or refuted?
- Think introspectively about the ways you experienced learning during the course by asking yourself, did your learning experiences align with the goals or concepts of the course? Why or why do you not feel this way? What was successful and why do you believe this? What would you do differently and why is this important? How will you prepare for a future experience in this area of study?
NOTE: If you are assigned to write a journal or other type of on-going reflection exercise, a helpful approach is to reflect on your reflections by re-reading what you have already written. In other words, review your previous entries as a way to contextualize your feelings, opinions, or beliefs regarding your overall learning experiences. Over time, this can also help reveal hidden patterns or themes related to how you processed your learning experiences. Consider concluding your reflective journal with a summary of how you felt about your learning experiences at critical junctures throughout the course, then use these to write about how you grew as a student learner and how the act of reflecting helped you gain new understanding about the subject of the course and its content.
ANOTHER NOTE: Regardless of whether you write a reflection paper or a journal, do not focus your writing on the past. The act of reflection is intended to think introspectively about previous learning experiences. However, reflective thinking should document the ways in which you progressed in obtaining new insights and understandings about your growth as a learner that can be carried forward in subsequent coursework or in future professional practice. Your writing should reflect a furtherance of increasing personal autonomy and confidence gained from understanding more about yourself as a learner.
Structure and Writing Style
There are no strict academic rules for writing a reflective paper. Reflective writing may be assigned in any class taught in the social and behavioral sciences and, therefore, requirements for the assignment can vary depending on disciplinary-based models of inquiry and learning. The organization of content can also depend on what your professor wants you to write about or based on the type of reflective model used to frame the writing assignment. Despite these possible variations, below is a basic approach to organizing and writing a good reflective paper, followed by a list of problems to avoid.
In most cases, it's helpful to begin by thinking about your learning experiences and outline what you want to focus on before you begin to write the paper. This can help you organize your thoughts around what was most important to you and what experiences [good or bad] had the most impact on your learning. As described by the University of Waterloo Writing and Communication Centre, preparing to write a reflective paper involves a process of self-analysis that can help organize your thoughts around significant moments of in-class knowledge discovery.
- Using a thesis statement as a guide, note what experiences or course content stood out to you , then place these within the context of your observations, reactions, feelings, and opinions. This will help you develop a rough outline of key moments during the course that reflect your growth as a learner. To identify these moments, pose these questions to yourself: What happened? What was my reaction? What were my expectations and how were they different from what transpired? What did I learn?
- Critically think about your learning experiences and the course content . This will help you develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding about why these moments were significant or relevant to you. Use the ideas you formulated during the first stage of reflecting to help you think through these moments from both an academic and personal perspective. From an academic perspective, contemplate how the experience enhanced your understanding of a concept, theory, or skill. Ask yourself, did the experience confirm my previous understanding or challenge it in some way. As a result, did this highlight strengths or gaps in your current knowledge? From a personal perspective, think introspectively about why these experiences mattered, if previous expectations or assumptions were confirmed or refuted, and if this surprised, confused, or unnerved you in some way.
- Analyze how these experiences and your reactions to them will shape your future thinking and behavior . Reflection implies looking back, but the most important act of reflective writing is considering how beliefs, assumptions, opinions, and feelings were transformed in ways that better prepare you as a learner in the future. Note how this reflective analysis can lead to actions you will take as a result of your experiences, what you will do differently, and how you will apply what you learned in other courses or in professional practice.
Basic Structure and Writing Style
Reflective Background and Context
The first part of your reflection paper should briefly provide background and context in relation to the content or experiences that stood out to you. Highlight the settings, summarize the key readings, or narrate the experiences in relation to the course objectives. Provide background that sets the stage for your reflection. You do not need to go into great detail, but you should provide enough information for the reader to understand what sources of learning you are writing about [e.g., course readings, field experience, guest lecture, class discussions] and why they were important. This section should end with an explanatory thesis statement that expresses the central ideas of your paper and what you want the readers to know, believe, or understand after they finish reading your paper.
Drawing from your reflective analysis, this is where you can be personal, critical, and creative in expressing how you felt about the course content and learning experiences and how they influenced or altered your feelings, beliefs, assumptions, or biases about the subject of the course. This section is also where you explore the meaning of these experiences in the context of the course and how you gained an awareness of the connections between these moments and your own prior knowledge.
Guided by your thesis statement, a helpful approach is to interpret your learning throughout the course with a series of specific examples drawn from the course content and your learning experiences. These examples should be arranged in sequential order that illustrate your growth as a learner. Reflecting on each example can be done by: 1) introducing a theme or moment that was meaningful to you, 2) describing your previous position about the learning moment and what you thought about it, 3) explaining how your perspective was challenged and/or changed and why, and 4) introspectively stating your current or new feelings, opinions, or beliefs about that experience in class.
It is important to include specific examples drawn from the course and placed within the context of your assumptions, thoughts, opinions, and feelings. A reflective narrative without specific examples does not provide an effective way for the reader to understand the relationship between the course content and how you grew as a learner.
The conclusion of your reflective paper should provide a summary of your thoughts, feelings, or opinions regarding what you learned about yourself as a result of taking the course. Here are several ways you can frame your conclusions based on the examples you interpreted and reflected on what they meant to you. Each example would need to be tied to the basic theme [thesis statement] of your reflective background section.
- Your reflective conclusions can be described in relation to any expectations you had before taking the class [e.g., “I expected the readings to not be relevant to my own experiences growing up in a rural community, but the research actually helped me see that the challenges of developing my identity as a child of immigrants was not that unusual...”].
- Your reflective conclusions can explain how what you learned about yourself will change your actions in the future [e.g., “During a discussion in class about the challenges of helping homeless people, I realized that many of these people hate living on the street but lack the ability to see a way out. This made me realize that I wanted to take more classes in psychology...”].
- Your reflective conclusions can describe major insights you experienced a critical junctures during the course and how these moments enhanced how you see yourself as a student learner [e.g., "The guest speaker from the Head Start program made me realize why I wanted to pursue a career in elementary education..."].
- Your reflective conclusions can reconfigure or reframe how you will approach professional practice and your understanding of your future career aspirations [e.g.,, "The course changed my perceptions about seeking a career in business finance because it made me realize I want to be more engaged in customer service..."]
- Your reflective conclusions can explore any learning you derived from the act of reflecting itself [e.g., “Reflecting on the course readings that described how minority students perceive campus activities helped me identify my own biases about the benefits of those activities in acclimating to campus life...”].
NOTE: The length of a reflective paper in the social sciences is usually less than a traditional research paper. However, don’t assume that writing a reflective paper is easier than writing a research paper. A well-conceived critical reflection paper often requires as much time and effort as a research paper because you must purposeful engage in thinking about your learning in ways that you may not comfortable with or used to. This is particular true while preparing to write because reflective papers are not as structured as a traditional research paper and, therefore, you have to think deliberately about how you want to organize the paper and what elements of the course you want to reflect upon.
ANOTHER NOTE: Do not limit yourself to using only text in reflecting on your learning. If you believe it would be helpful, consider using creative modes of thought or expression such as, illustrations, photographs, or material objects that reflects an experience related to the subject of the course that was important to you [e.g., like a ticket stub to a renowned speaker on campus]. Whatever non-textual element you include, be sure to describe the object's relevance to your personal relationship to the course content.
Problems to Avoid
A reflective paper is not a “mind dump” . Reflective papers document your personal and emotional experiences and, therefore, they do not conform to rigid structures, or schema, to organize information. However, the paper should not be a disjointed, stream-of-consciousness narrative. Reflective papers are still academic pieces of writing that require organized thought, that use academic language and tone , and that apply intellectually-driven critical thinking to the course content and your learning experiences and their significance.
A reflective paper is not a research paper . If you are asked to reflect on a course reading, the reflection will obviously include some description of the research. However, the goal of reflective writing is not to present extraneous ideas to the reader or to "educate" them about the course. The goal is to share a story about your relationship with the learning objectives of the course. Therefore, unlike research papers, you are expected to write from a first person point of view which includes an introspective examination of your own opinions, feelings, and personal assumptions.
A reflection paper is not a book review . Descriptions of the course readings using your own words is not a reflective paper. Reflective writing should focus on how you understood the implications of and were challenged by the course in relation to your own lived experiences or personal assumptions, combined with explanations of how you grew as a student learner based on this internal dialogue. Remember that you are the central object of the paper, not the research materials.
A reflective paper is not an all-inclusive meditation. Do not try to cover everything. The scope of your paper should be well-defined and limited to your specific opinions, feelings, and beliefs about what you determine to be the most significant content of the course and in relation to the learning that took place. Reflections should be detailed enough to covey what you think is important, but your thoughts should be expressed concisely and coherently [as is true for any academic writing assignment].
Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; Critical Reflection: Journals, Opinions, & Reactions . University Writing Center, Texas A&M University; Connor-Greene, Patricia A. “Making Connections: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Journal Writing in Enhancing Student Learning.” Teaching of Psychology 27 (2000): 44-46; Good vs. Bad Reflection Papers , Franklin University; Dyment, Janet E. and Timothy S. O’Connell. "The Quality of Reflection in Student Journals: A Review of Limiting and Enabling Factors." Innovative Higher Education 35 (2010): 233-244: How to Write a Reflection Paper . Academic Skills, Trent University; Amelia TaraJane House. Reflection Paper . Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, University of Arkansas; Ramlal, Alana, and Désirée S. Augustin. “Engaging Students in Reflective Writing: An Action Research Project.” Educational Action Research 28 (2020): 518-533; Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; McGuire, Lisa, Kathy Lay, and Jon Peters. “Pedagogy of Reflective Writing in Professional Education.” Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2009): 93-107; Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; How Do I Write Reflectively? Academic Skills Toolkit, University of New South Wales Sydney; Reflective Writing . [email protected] University of Leeds; Walling, Anne, Johanna Shapiro, and Terry Ast. “What Makes a Good Reflective Paper?” Family Medicine 45 (2013): 7-12; Williams, Kate, Mary Woolliams, and Jane Spiro. Reflective Writing . 2nd edition. London: Red Globe Press, 2020; Yeh, Hui-Chin, Shih-hsien Yang, Jo Shan Fu, and Yen-Chen Shih. “Developing College Students’ Critical Thinking through Reflective Writing.” Higher Education Research and Development (2022): 1-16.
Focus on Reflecting, Not on Describing
Minimal time and effort should be spent describing the course content you are asked to reflect upon. The purpose of a reflection assignment is to introspectively contemplate your reactions to and feeling about an element of the course. D eflecting the focus away from your own feelings by concentrating on describing the course content can happen particularly if "talking about yourself" [i.e., reflecting] makes you uncomfortable or it is intimidating. However, the intent of reflective writing is to overcome these inhibitions so as to maximize the benefits of introspectively assessing your learning experiences. Keep in mind that, if it is relevant, your feelings of discomfort could be a part of how you critically reflect on any challenges you had during the course [e.g., you realize this discomfort inhibited your willingness to ask questions during class, it fed into your propensity to procrastinate, or it made it difficult participating in groups].
Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; Reflection Paper . Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, University of Arkansas.
Another Writing Tip
Helpful Videos about Reflective Writing
These two short videos succinctly describe how to approach a reflective writing assignment. They are produced by the Academic Skills department at the University of Melbourne and the Skills Team of the University of Hull, respectively.
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15 ways to spark student reflection in your college classroom
In a 2014 study from the Harvard Business School, researchers confirmed what many higher ed faculty members know already – reflection matters. The professors conducted three different experiments (with university students and people in the workplace), and the results were consistent. Simply asking test subjects to take a few minutes to reflect resulted in better performance over time – improvements of up to 25%.
Reflection can feel like just one more thing to cram into an already too-short course. But stopping to take a breath rather than jumping right to the next project or activity helps students learn from mistakes and recognize strengths and weaknesses. It can make the difference between success and failure, in school and beyond. And it can be done well whether students are in the classroom, online or both.
Are you looking for some new ways to increase student reflection in your college or university classroom? Here are 15 ideas you can try tomorrow.
1. Write the one-minute paper
How much could you explain in one minute? At the end of class, set a timer and ask students to record their most eye-opening revelations or biggest questions. This activity lets students reflect on learning and build writing skills – plus you’ll get a window into their understandings and misunderstandings. Here are some prompts you can use to get students writing.
2. Sketch reflections
Have you discovered sketchnotes ? It’s a visual notetaking style that mixes writing, drawing and other visual cues. And it’s not about the quality of the art – it’s about how a different medium prompts students to look at learning from a different perspective. Sketchnoting is often used for lecture notes, but it’s just as effective when students need to reflect.
3. Create reflection snowballs
This activity may not work with current health regulations, but it can be adapted for the new reality. In the pre-COVID version, after a mini lecture or presentation, all your students write a key reflection on a sheet of paper and crumple it up. Then they toss their papers to the other side of the room. Once students catch a “snowball,” they read it, add something new and repeat. If health regulations make this ill advised, or if your students are online, use randomized breakout rooms in your conferencing software to get students to pair up and share their reflections. Here’s how breakout rooms work in Zoom .
4. Develop a professional portfolio
Portfolio building is a mainstay of arts programs, where students need concrete ways to demonstrate the breadth of their knowledge and experience. But the act of choosing one’s best work – and articulating why – can increase reflection in many schools of study.
5. Use dedicated reflection journals
Journaling is a tried-and-true reflection activity – especially for practicum-based programs like nursing and education where it’s crucial that students connect theory to reality. But there may be some options you’re not aware of (ever used key phrase journals? Double-entry journals?). Here’s a run down on some ideas to try .
6. Get students blogging
If you’d like to take reflection into the cloud, blogs can be an excellent way to give student writing more value. And it’s simple to bring in links, images, videos and more. For a peek into how one university uses blogging to enhance student learning, check out Vanderbilt University’s resource page .
7. Take videos
To give your students a fresh perspective on a presentation, performance or practical skill development, pull out your phone or tablet and record it. Watching themselves can give them (and you) incredible insights into their progress. If your students are learning from home, they can record themselves with their phones and then post the videos to a shared class platform. Or you can record them during Zoom meetings and then share.
8. Write exit slips
Before students leave your class, ask them to quickly jot down what they’ve learned on a sticky note (or answer another reflection question). If your students are fully or partially online, go digital and have them add the ideas to an online whiteboard or other shared collaborative space.
9. Capture quotable learning highlights
Sometimes reflection comes from teasing out the ties between coursework and “real life.” Ask students to choose a famous quote and explain why it connects to a concept from class. They could also choose a song, a piece of art, a brand – anything that gets them thinking deeper and reveals a bit more about their passions and interests.
10. Take reflection breaks
Reflection can’t be forced, but it is a habit that can be instilled. Build reflective practice by stopping work periodically and encouraging students to record their thoughts about what they’ve learned. You can boost the reflection by having students share their thoughts with a peer – in person or in a video conferencing breakout room. Eventually, students will start to reflect on their own, without your direction.
11. Add regular sprint retrospectives
Take a page from the agile process (not just for software developers anymore) and introduce sprint retrospectives. Every few weeks, you can set aside time to encourage students to reflect on where they’ve been and where they’re going. This is especially useful in helping student project teams avoid the usual pains of group work.
12. Try reflecting out loud
Reflection doesn’t have to be purely solitary. Sometimes big insights come when students have the chance to share their reflections with a larger group. That’s why active learning classrooms should be easy to reconfigure for different activities, giving opportunities for both quiet reflection and group sharing. If some students are in the classroom and some are connecting from home, this can be tricky – make sure you choose audio conferencing tools that pick up all voices during classroom discussion. ( Here’s how Nureva can help .)
13. Incorporate revision into assessment
Some of the best opportunities for reflection occur during the assessment process. Rather than having students submit work for a grade and then promptly forget about it, try giving them descriptive feedback instead and let them resubmit until they achieve mastery.
14. Prototype and test
Take inspiration from design thinking and create more meaningful opportunities for reflection. The end stages of the process – prototyping and testing – are particularly helpful. Design thinking is often associated with creating something concrete, like an app, but any project could benefit from a design-focused lens.
15. Model your own reflection
Actions speak louder than words. So make sure to model the same reflection skills you teach. Don’t be quiet about it either – talk out loud through your thought process to show students that reflecting doesn’t stop in the undergrad years.
What are you doing in your courses to get students reflecting?
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published October 2015 and has been updated.
Topics: Higher education Active learning Hybrid learning Learning Activities
Posted on April 9, 2020
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Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Feedback & Grading > Rubrics > Assessing Reflection
Assessing reflection or reflective processes can be particularly challenging. A few examples of this challenge are:
- If reflection is meant to be a intimately personal experience, do we alter it simply by defining standards for assessment, making it a less personal and externally imposed process?
- Assessment of reflection depends on written or spoken language. How might this handicap students who are less familiar with conventional and discipline or context-specific linguistic expectations in a manner that has nothing to do with those students’ abilities to engage in refection?
- For example, will your students who are non-native speakers, or come from backgrounds with less exposure to common academic linguistic forms have a more difficult time demonstrating their ability to reflect well?
As there is not just one type of student in your classes/programs, there is not one answer to designing high quality assessment techniques for assessing reflection. You must design your reflection assignments as well as your assessments carefully considering your own context.
A few things to consider when you are designing your assessment strategies are:
- What is the purpose of the reflection?
- Are you interested in the process of reflection, the products of reflection or both?
- How will the assessment task itself promote reflection or reflective practices?
- How will you make judgements about reflection?
- How will you make it clear to students what you expect of them in terms of their reflection?
Examples of Models for Assessing Reflection
Hatton and smith (1995).
Hatton and Smith described four progressive levels of reflection, with each increased level indicating more/better reflective processes.
- Descriptive – this is not reflection, but simply describes events that occurred with no attempt to describe ‘why.’
- Descriptive Reflection – description includes reasons, but simply reports reasons.
- Dialogic Reflection – reflection as a personal dialogue (questioning, considering alternatives).
- wonder, what if, perhaps….
- Critical Reflection – takes into account context in which events occur, questions assumptions, considers alternatives, thinks about consequences of decisions/actions on others, and engages in reflective skepticism.
Ash and Clayton (2004)
Ash and Clayton describe a guided process for facilitating and assessing reflection. These researchers focus specifically on service learning, but their model could be applied to other types of learning experiences.
- Students describe the experience.
- Analyze the experience(s) from different categories of perspectives based on the learning objective:
- Identify learning in each category
- Artic ulate learning by developing a well-developed statement of learning (articulated learni ng), using the four guiding questions that structure articulated learning as a guide:
- What did I learn?
- How, specifically, did I learn it?
- Why does this learning matter, or why is it significant?
- In what ways will I use this learning?
- Analyze/revise articulated le arning statements by applying standards of critical thinking through:
- Student self-assessment
- Instructor feedback
- Finalize the articulated learning statements, aiming to fulfill all learning objectives in each categories and meet standards of critical thinking.
- Undertake new learning experiences, including when feasible, taking action on articulated learning statements to test the initial conclusions reached.
- Continue the reflection process, articulating additional complexity of the learning in articulated learning statements when possible.
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How to Write a Reflection Paper
Why reflective writing, experiential reflection, reading reflection.
- A note on mechanics
Reflection offers you the opportunity to consider how your personal experiences and observations shape your thinking and your acceptance of new ideas. Professors often ask students to write reading reflections. They do this to encourage you to explore your own ideas about a text, to express your opinion rather than summarize the opinions of others. Reflective writing can help you to improve your analytical skills because it requires you to express what you think, and more significantly, how and why you think that way. In addition, reflective analysis asks you to acknowledge that your thoughts are shaped by your assumptions and preconceived ideas; in doing so, you can appreciate the ideas of others, notice how their assumptions and preconceived ideas may have shaped their thoughts, and perhaps recognize how your ideas support or oppose what you read.
Types of Reflective Writing
Popular in professional programs, like business, nursing, social work, forensics and education, reflection is an important part of making connections between theory and practice. When you are asked to reflect upon experience in a placement, you do not only describe your experience, but you evaluate it based on ideas from class. You can assess a theory or approach based on your observations and practice and evaluate your own knowledge and skills within your professional field. This opportunity to take the time to think about your choices, your actions, your successes and your failures is best done within a specific framework, like course themes or work placement objectives. Abstract concepts can become concrete and real to you when considered within your own experiences, and reflection on your experiences allows you to make plans for improvement.
To encourage thoughtful and balanced assessment of readings, many interdisciplinary courses may ask you to submit a reading reflection. Often instructors will indicate to students what they expect of a reflection, but the general purpose is to elicit your informed opinions about ideas presented in the text and to consider how they affect your interpretation. Reading reflections offer an opportunity to recognize – and perhaps break down – your assumptions which may be challenged by the text(s).
Approaches to Reflective Inquiry
You may wonder how your professors assess your reflective writing. What are they looking for? How can my experiences or ideas be right or wrong? Your instructors expect you to critically engage with concepts from your course by making connections between your observations, experiences, and opinions. They expect you to explain and analyse these concepts from your own point of view, eliciting original ideas and encouraging active interest in the course material.
It can be difficult to know where to begin when writing a critical reflection. First, know that – like any other academic piece of writing – a reflection requires a narrow focus and strong analysis. The best approach for identifying a focus and for reflective analysis is interrogation. The following offers suggestions for your line of inquiry when developing a reflective response.
It is best to discuss your experiences in a work placement or practicum within the context of personal or organizational goals; doing so provides important insights and perspective for your own growth in the profession. For reflective writing, it is important to balance reporting or descriptive writing with critical reflection and analysis.
Consider these questions:
- Contextualize your reflection: What are your learning goals? What are the objectives of the organization? How do these goals fit with the themes or concepts from the course?
- Provide important information: What is the name of the host organization? What is their mission? Who do they serve? What was your role? What did you do?
- Analytical Reflection: What did you learn from this experience? About yourself? About working in the field? About society?
- Lessons from reflection: Did your experience fit with the goals or concepts of the course or organization? Why or why not? What are your lessons for the future? What was successful? Why? What would you do differently? Why? How will you prepare for a future experience in the field?
Consider the purpose of reflection: to demonstrate your learning in the course. It is important to actively and directly connect concepts from class to your personal or experiential reflection. The following example shows how a student’s observations from a classroom can be analysed using a theoretical concept and how the experience can help a student to evaluate this concept.
For Example My observations from the classroom demonstrate that the hierarchical structure of Bloom’s Taxonomy is problematic, a concept also explored by Paul (1993). The students often combined activities like application and synthesis or analysis and evaluation to build their knowledge and comprehension of unfamiliar concepts. This challenges my understanding of traditional teaching methods where knowledge is the basis for inquiry. Perhaps higher-order learning strategies like inquiry and evaluation can also be the basis for knowledge and comprehension, which are classified as lower-order skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Critical reflection requires thoughtful and persistent inquiry. Although basic questions like “what is the thesis?” and “what is the evidence?” are important to demonstrate your understanding, you need to interrogate your own assumptions and knowledge to deepen your analysis and focus your assessment of the text.
Assess the text(s):
- What is the main point? How is it developed? Identify the purpose, impact and/or theoretical framework of the text.
- What ideas stood out to me? Why? Were they new or in opposition to existing scholarship?
Develop your ideas:
- What do I know about this topic? Where does my existing knowledge come from? What are the observations or experiences that shape my understanding?
- Do I agree or disagree with this argument? Why?
- How does this text reinforce my existing ideas or assumptions? How does this text challenge my existing ideas or assumptions?
- How does this text help me to better understand this topic or explore this field of study/discipline?
A Note on Mechanics
As with all written assignments or reports, it is important to have a clear focus for your writing. You do not need to discuss every experience or element of your placement. Pick a few that you can explore within the context of your learning. For reflective responses, identify the main arguments or important elements of the text to develop a stronger analysis which integrates relevant ideas from course materials.
Furthermore, your writing must be organized. Introduce your topic and the point you plan to make about your experience and learning. Develop your point through body paragraph(s), and conclude your paper by exploring the meaning you derive from your reflection. You may find the questions listed above can help you to develop an outline before you write your paper.
You should maintain a formal tone, but it is acceptable to write in the first person and to use personal pronouns. Note, however, that it is important that you maintain confidentiality and anonymity of clients, patients or students from work or volunteer placements by using pseudonyms and masking identifying factors.
The value of reflection: Critical reflection is a meaningful exercise which can require as much time and work as traditional essays and reports because it asks students to be purposeful and engaged participants, readers, and thinkers.
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A reflection by students on their own experiences, views and suggestions for action in relation to their learning and or work/life experiences (in written or multimedia formats). It can be in the form of a journal, log, blog or diary, and may be incorporated into a collection of evidence in the form of a portfolio .
What can it assess ?
Reflective assignments can assess the extent to which students learn from their experience, as well as the critical thinking and reflective skills that enable them to make sense of information and/or situations that are not straightforward. These tasks can be used to assess students’ ability to reflect on the development of their own learning and self-generate feedback that can be used to improve their performance.
Advantages and Disadvantages
- Supports learning that is personally meaningful
- Students develop the ability to reflect on the progress of their learning and/or practice and identify areas for improvement
- Encourages deep learning as students are required to make sense of material as it relates to their own experience
- Students can be encouraged to incorporate reflection on any formative feedback.
- Reflective writing is unfamiliar to many students who will need support and guidance to help with the task of reflection
- Can be challenging to assess and mark; requires the use of clear and transparent assessment criteria, rubrics and assessment guidance for students
- Issues of trust may arise when assessing personal reflections.
Design and Online Assessment Considerations
When designing reflective writing assessments, consider the following questions:
- How will students be prepared to conduct reflective writing exercises?
- Should reflective writing tasks take place throughout the module or only at specific points in the trimester? What’s the rationale for the chosen approach?
- How will reflective writing assignments be assessed? What criteria will be used?
Be clear about the reasons that reflection is embedded into the module and how it supports learning. Students may be instructed to use specific Reflective Practice Models which can offer guidance on how to structure reflective writing and also support the development of clear assessment criteria for the assignment. Consider using a rubric, or similar, to help clarify your expectations and to support student feedback and/or opportunity for self/ peer review before submission of their work.
Journals and reflective assignments often start off as purely descriptive, however with support students can develop their writing to be more dialogic and critical (Rivera, 2017). It is important that students demonstrate reflective thinking on the development of their learning and/or practice. Sensitive issues related to student trust may arise when writing about personal and/or difficult encounters or situations, as well as issues around privacy and confidentiality if any of the work is shared.
Although Brightspace does not include a specific journaling tool, lecturers can use the VLE to provide students with the opportunity to keep a reflective journal. For example, s tudents could do this very simply online by keeping a word document that they build up over time and then submit at the end. Alternatively, by setting up private groups with restricted discussions using Brightspace’s Groups and discussion forum in Brightspace, students can keep a private journal which may be shared with the lecturer. You can view step-by-step instructions on how to set up reflective journals for students using Private Discussions in Brightspace . Please note that there is an upper limit of 200 groups per group set.
Other tools and technologies to support this assessment type include;
- Video assignment ( supported by Bongo integrated in Brightspace )
- File/text assignment submission in Brightspace .
- Creating a Discussion Forum in Brightspace
It is important to start out with a clear understanding of what you mean by reflection as well as the process involved. Be able to clearly articulate the key elements of a reflective assignment, providing guidance on how students can engage in the reflective process, and set out clear criteria used to assess performance. Keep in mind that reflective writing will be unfamiliar to most students, and it can be helpful to set aside time in a class to enable students to discuss their understanding of reflection as well as the requirements for the assessment. Initially, short and structured reflective activities might help students to become more familiar with the idea of reflection. As students become accustomed to reflective approaches to learning, more complex assignments can be used to deepen their reflective practice.
Clarify your expectations in terms of indicative word count for reflective pieces -this will also be important in terms of lecturer’s grading workload.
The following are some key resources that are currently available if you would like to learn more about this key assessment type.
- Learning Journals and Logs
- Reflective practice models
- UCD IT Services Bongo Video Assignment Setup
- University of Edinburgh Reflection Toolkit
- Bracken, R. C., A. Major, A. Paul and K. Ostherr (2021). " Reflective Writing about Near-Peer Blogs: A Novel Method for Introducing the Medical Humanities in Premedical Education. " Journal of Medical Humanities : 1-35 .
- Moon, J (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development, Kogan Page, London
- Rivera, Roja (2017) The reflective writing continuum: Re-conceptualizing Hatton & Smith’s types of reflective writing International Journal of Research Studies in Education , Volume 6 Number 2, 49-67
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Research in learning sciences illustrates the many benefits of reflective writing. When provided with clear and authentic prompts and given repeated opportunities to think about their course work and educational, professional, or clinical experiences, students are better able to retain and transfer learning to new contexts. Reflective writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously, enabling students to deepen their component skills and conceptual understanding within a specific field of study while also developing their metacognitive knowledge of their own learning habits and practices. In effect, while reflection involves looking back, it also serves as a mental rehearsal for future practice.
Why should I assign reflective writing?
Because the act of reflecting requires retrieval, elaboration, and generation of information, it can make learning more durable for students, as Brown, Roediger III, and McDaniel demonstrate in Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (2014). Simply worded prompts—such as What went well? What could have gone better? What other knowledge or experiences does this remind you of? and What other strategies might you use next time to get better results? (210)— encourage students to actively monitor their learning processes, which can then cue them to maintain or adapt their strategies in other contexts. Reflective writing prompts can also be used to cue students to think about their conceptual learning: What do I already know? What do I wonder? What do I want to find out? How does this new information relate to the old stuff I thought I knew? How does this new knowledge impact other things I think I know? As detailed by Ambrose et al. (2010 ), becoming more “consciously competent''—developing component skills, becoming fluent with them, and applying them to relevant contexts—enables mastery of concepts (95).
Beyond the rich gains it provides students, reflective writing can also yield valuable insights for instructors about how to adjust their teaching, their course designs, and their assignments to address student-identified areas of struggle.
How and when should I use reflective writing?
Reflective writing can take many different forms, including routine entries in lab, design, or fieldwork notebooks, revision memos , and blog and video postings; and it can range from brief, informal assignments (such as one-minute papers , muddiest points , or exit slips ) to formal components of large capstone-level projects. Reflective writing can even be used beyond one’s course to integrate and deepen learning across the curriculum when integrated with eportfolios .
Regardless of its form or length, reflective writing is most effective when it is integrated into the design of a course, when it supports key learning aims, and when it is intentionally sequenced within an assignment—that is, when its purpose and relevance are clear to students. If students are asked to reflect on their learning experiences only once at the end of a course, they might approach such a task as a course evaluation or a generic description of their learning experiences.
Providing specific and purposeful reflective activities throughout the semester—before a unit of study, during or after a course lecture or class discussion, or before and after an exam—can help students identify challenges and setbacks along with developing strategies for overcoming them. For example, Dr. Mary Pat Wenderoth assigns weekly learning paragraphs in her large physiology class in order to (1) have students identify their preconceptions about biological systems so those preconceptions can be challenged and prevented from interfering with their learning; (2) develop students’ conceptual frameworks to better retain factual knowledge; and (3) offer practice in metacognition.
Here are seven ways to integrate authentic and purposeful reflective writing.
- Ask students to combine reflective writing with goal setting. Prior to reviewing for a test or drafting an essay, ask students to anticipate concerns and challenges they may face and the strategies they might use to overcome them. For example, if students identify procrastination as a key challenge to producing a full draft of a paper or project, they can then identify strategies such as turning off their phones, working in wi-fi cold spots, or meeting with a consultant at Student Writing Support —strategies that may help them to get started with their drafts. Inviting students to share their methods for overcoming procrastination can also be an easy, useful, and inclusive way to crowdsource effective strategies.
- Ask students to reflect on their work before they revise it . When students write a reflective or revision memo to themselves, they can better process the feedback they have received and determine how they are going to use it. Likewise, asking students to insert a reflective comment (pdf) on a draft of their paper that they are going to discuss with others, either in a peer response session , an appointment with Student Writing Support , or a conference with the instructor, can establish more agency for the student writer.
- Ask students to reflect throughout the process of writing a paper, preparing for and taking an exam, or during a group project. Jose Bowen (2012) provides a number of examples for how to integrate exam or cognitive wrappers into assignments that can help students to process and self-regulate their learning experiences over the course of a project.
- Ask students to reflect on their learning throughout the entire term . Learning logs with simple prompts that ask students to summarize their learning at the end of class, identify points of insight and confusion, and establish connections between key concepts can motivate students to participate more actively in their learning and provide instructors with an important gauge for modifying their teaching.
- Ask students to reflect at the end of the term on their development as a writer. An end-of-the term reflective essay that requires students to cite passages from their own work and to reflect on the ways those passages indicate growth, struggle, and learning can provide a strong impetus for writing transfer .
- Ask students to reflect upon completion of a major task or learning event. Many reflective writing tasks can take just a few minutes to complete. However, a significant learning milestone, such as an internship, a mentorship project, or a capstone assignment, will likely benefit from a more extensive reflective writing task. For these kinds of reflective writing tasks, it is helpful to offer guidelines and a series of open-ended prompts, such as those provided by Grose, Burke and Toston (2017) , that will encourage students to elaborate on and synthesize their learning experiences.
- Ask students to reflect on their learning for future students of your course. As recounted by James Lang (2014) , a professor at the University of Richmond invites students to share their most effective learning strategies with future students in their accounting course. The incoming students read the former students’ reflections and use those insights to guide their study habits. Adapting this practice to your own course has two vital benefits: it acknowledges the hard work and successes of current students, and it clearly signals the importance and value of reflective writing in your course.
How do I respond to and assess reflective writing?
Reflective writing can generate quite a bit of reading for instructors. However, responses to reflective writing can be brief, synthetic, and periodic. For more developed reflective writing assignments, such as those described in five and six above, instructors will want to allot more time for providing feedback, and they should consider developing a rubric that identifies the key criteria used to evaluate the reflective writing. Members of the Writing Across the Curriculum team are pleased to consult with instructors on developing reflective assignments and assessments.
For the majority of reflective tasks students do, instructors can respond with a strategy of minimal marking (pdf) and a simplified grading scheme (credit/partial credit/no credit). Since a primary goal of reflective writing is for the student writer to become more aware of their own learning and writing processes, instructors can respond in ways that affirm students' insights and encourage their ongoing efforts of reflection and transfer. While such responses can be brief, they are vital and should be timely. Responses can be written, oral, or presented in audio-video formats, depending on the medium.
Here are four ways to ensure responses to reflective writing are timely and manageable.
- Afterclass, quickly read student responses and then summarize key themes from the responses at the start of the next class . If instructors are teaching a large class, they and their teaching assistants can read and respond to half of the class responses and then read and respond to the other half in subsequent reflective responses.
- Upon completion of in-class reflective writing tasks, invite students to share their responses with a partner or in small groups.
- For reflective pieces submitted through Canvas, instructors can provide brief responses that use the audio feedback tool , which can take less than a minute while also establishing instructor presence .
- For multimodal reflections using tools such as flipgrid , instructors can respond in writing or video and encourage classmates to respond to each other’s postings as well .
How can I foster authentic reflective writing?
For some students, reflecting on their learning may be difficult, and it may be an unfamiliar practice based on socio-cultural backgrounds and schooling histories. For neurodivergent students, reflective activities may require additional or modified instructions and different ways of responding to a prompt. To accommodate all learners and to demonstrate the value of reflective writing, instructors should consider the following:
- Signal the importance of reflective writing by including a rationale for its use in the course syllabus. When students know in advance that they will be asked occasionally to reflect on their learning, they can seek out clarification and accommodations based on their needs.
- Model reflective practice in your class. For flipgrid assignments , for example, where responses are visible to the entire class, it is useful for instructors to post their own responses. Likewise, similar to metateaching , modelling reflective practice in class can demonstrate its utility to students.
- For most reflective activities, particularly informal ones, simplify the assessment schema. Grading students on their use of grammar, mechanics, and standard written conventions may undercut the purpose of a quick reflective activity.
- When possible, allow students the opportunity to opt out of sharing their reflections. If students do share their reflections in class, a quick word of thanks for sharing is valuable.
- When conferring with students about their work, call attention to the insights they have generated about their learning and experiences. Building on the reflective work of students can be a powerful way to leverage feedback.
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Reflection is an important part of learning and growing. Students are expected to complete 6 reflections during their time in the program.
Some of the reflections have more than one option to complete the assignment. The full assignments can be found in the CESP google drive in CESP Student Resources->CESP Reflection Assignments.
Summary of Themes
1. Ethic of Engagement (EOE): Explores the way an individual approaches community work, including their philosophy, motivations, and understanding of the intended outcome of the work.
2. Sense of Self (SOS): Explores what lies behind values and aspirations, what forms the core of who you are as a person, both in your own right and in relation to others.
- Create a Self Portrait
- Interview a Community Partner
- Write a “This I Believe Essay”
- Write a letter to a friend/family member
3. Collaboration and Community Building (C&C): RAP sessions provide the opportunity for students in the program to hear from each others’ diverse perspectives about issues that impact community work while also building community within the program. More than getting to know each other, It means seeing each other as collaborators, resources, and partners with a common goal of having an impact on the broader community around us. RAP session are meant to challenge students to think outside of their own existing frameworks of understanding and take in new and different ways of knowing from peers who are also engaged in the community.
- Attend a RAP Session
4. Identities, Power, and Privilege (IPP): A chance to delve more into identities, social groups, and the privileges that students’ carry with them in community work. To reflect on these topics is to consider unearned power and advantages that play themselves out in our social, political, economic, and cultural worlds.
- Critically Analyze Media
- Curator of Images
- Develop and Organization Case Study
5. Agency (AG): In the context of community work, agency can be thought of as your ability to effect change on issues you care about. We make judgments about the world around us and take action, especially if we see a gap between how the world is and how we think it should be. One aspect of the Community Engagement Scholars Program is the development as an agent of change and recognition of the intersection between power and service.
- Analyze Your Community Organization’s Agency
- Create a Video Documentary
- Lead a RAP Session
- Write a Blog Post
- Write a Letter to a Legislator
6. Integration and Contextualization (I&C): This is an opportunity for scholars to reflect personally on their participation in the Community Engagement Scholars Program, their commitments to community work over time, and how they have come to understand their work in the world, which in some contexts is referred to as vocation. Digital Story, completed in CESP 3901 as an assignment
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The Importance of Self-reflection Assignments Between Essays
- November 10, 2021
- Julia Colella, PhD
Each semester I have students complete different writing assignments in my critical thinking and writing course, including two essays: essay 1 (20%) and essay 2 (30%). In between these two essays, students submit a self-reflection of essay 1; assigning this assignment after essay 1 is completed provides students with the opportunity to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work as well as where they should make changes as they complete essay 2.
Completing a self-reflection provides students with several benefits; this practice, which is supported by research, provides students with the opportunity to make sense of and develop from an experience (Purdue University, 2020). As such, students are encouraged to consider what worked for them when they completed essay 1 as well as what changes they can implement for essay 2. By reflecting, students can develop their skills (The Open University, 2020). For example, being asked to reflect on different aspects of an assignment, including the steps taken to complete the assignment, can help students determine a better plan when completing the next assignment.
Guided self-reflections, where students are provided with specific criteria to focus on or specific questions to answer, provide learners with prompts to help get them started on the assignment. The intent of my self-reflection assignment is for students to consider how they will use my feedback, what their strengths are, and how they will ensure they submit the next assignment by the due date.
Not all students take the time to review my feedback on their written assignments. I have found that the self-reflection assignment is a great way to encourage students to review my feedback so they do not repeat the same mistakes on their next essay. Additionally, this assignment can help students restore their confidence from essay 1, especially if their mark was not that great as they are asked to highlight a strength from their current essay (see chart below).
The self-reflection I use consists of three questions. You are more than welcome to use any of these questions as you’d like or to modify the questions so they fit your learning outcomes. In addition to having students respond to the three questions below, I provide other guidelines (word count, paragraph format, topic sentence, etc.) which were assessed in essay 1 and will also be assessed in essay 2.
*Note: Although you may not be able to add a self-reflection to your course at this point in the semester, you may consider providing students with the option to complete the self-reflection or to complete one question for a bonus mark on the final exam/assignment.
Julia Colella is a communications professor at Lambton College in Sarnia, Ontario. Colella’s PhD is in education, and her research interests include student engagement, online learning, and academic integrity.
Purdue University. (2020). The purpose of reflection. Why is reflection important in the writing classroom? https://cla.purdue.edu/academic/english/icap/assessment/purpose.html
The Open University. (2020). The Open University and Unison in Partnership. http://www.open.ac.uk/choose/unison/develop/my-skills/self-reflection
Reflections should demonstrate that the student critically engaged the provided materials. Reflections will be assessed on the following criteria: Accurate description of the theme/thesis of the provided materials. Robust discussion regarding the parts of the provided materials that were most interesting.
Reflection - the actual process of examining thoughts If you want to see the detailed aspects of reflectors' thought processes, and want to follow each step in their reasoning, concerns, and learnings, ask the reflectors to submit their actual reflections.
Reflection Questions For Learning 1. What do you remember about what you learned today? Write down as many things as you can in 30/60/90 seconds. 2. Of what you remember, what seemed to be the most important ideas? Write down 3-5 things in bullet-point format. 3. What was your role in the learning process today? Did you find information?
Reflection takes time, and often students think that once their work is complete, they should be finished. Often, the younger the student, the more difficult it can be to get them to reflect on what they've done. Here are a few of our favorite reflection questions to use in your instruction.
Student Reflection & Self-Assessment. Project-based learning is a student-centered approach to learning, so it is natural to make student self-evaluation an integral part of the process. Providing time for students to reflect on their work, helps them make connections to previous learning and experience. As Rachel Showalter observes ...
Being able to notice, name, and reflect on their emotions gives children the emotional vocabulary they need to feel heard, valued, and accepted, which helps them in accomplishing their goals. Written Reflection Another great way to reflect with young children is through their written work.
Student Reflection Questions Page 1 Categories for Reflection Questions to Consider Reflections ... Did you give your best effort on this most recent assignment? I don't really think I gave my best effort because it wasn't Were the strategies, skills and procedures you used effective for this assignment? challenging.
A reflective essay is a type of written work which reflects your own self. Since it's about yourself, you already have a topic to write about. For reflective essay examples, readers expect you to evaluate a specific part of your life. To do this, you may reflect on emotions, memories, and feelings you've experienced at that time.
Many students may be unfamiliar with reflection, confusing "reflection" with "reporting" and missing the critical step of self assessment that is at the core of reflection. Where students are asked to reflect in writing, their focus may be simply on the writing, rather than the content. For students to improve their reflective abilities, 1
Reviewing and reflecting on your academic progress is important for growth. Students should know what content areas are your strengths and what areas need improvement. Fill in the information below. My Courses and Teacher: 2nd Period TEACHER Grade: _______ Think about the list of Key skills that successful students do listed below.
Once students get to know me, this feedback can be eerily correct! This helps students to see their work from a new perspective, and often will encourage students to make revisions before they submit their final work! 7. Scrapbook. I have asked my students to create a scrapbook reflection on larger projects; this is especially effective for ...
Reflection allows students to make sense of material/experience in relation to oneself, others, and the conditions that shaped the material/experience; Reimagine material/experience for future personal or social benefit (p. 147). Recurring reflection activities encourage students to think critically about their writing practices and to make ...
The impact of this experience was heightened as John and the other students engaged one another in class on their experiences writing these reflections. (You will find the actual instructions for this assignment under the Paper Assignments tab.) November 5, 2013 Phil 389 Reflection 2
Types of reflective writing assignments A journal requires you to write weekly entries throughout a semester. May require you to base your reflection on course content. A learning diary is similar to a journal, but may require group participation. The diary then becomes a place for you to communicate in writing with other group members.
Reflection assignments are also an opportunity to write in a first person narrative about elements of the course, such as the required readings, separate from the exegetic and analytical prose of academic research papers. Reflection writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously.
Are you looking for some new ways to increase student reflection in your college or university classroom? Here are 15 ideas you can try tomorrow. 1. Write the one-minute paper How much could you explain in one minute? At the end of class, set a timer and ask students to record their most eye-opening revelations or biggest questions.
You must design your reflection assignments as well as your assessments carefully considering your own context. A few things to consider when you are designing your assessment strategies are: ... Ash and Clayton recommend several ways instructors may use their framework to assess students' reflection. One way is to use a rubric; they provide ...
Reflection offers you the opportunity to consider how your personal experiences and observations shape your thinking and your acceptance of new ideas. Professors often ask students to write reading reflections. They do this to encourage you to explore your own ideas about a text, to express your opinion rather than summarize the opinions of others.
2 What makes a question researchable/viable? Generally, the research question is the key focus of any study. It centers and guides the research. After the study problem has been examined and interpreted, the conclusion will always have the answer to the research question. Therefore, the research question needs a solid empirical and theoretical framework, which makes the question researchable ...
Reflective Assignment. A reflection by students on their own experiences, views and suggestions for action in relation to their learning and or work/life experiences (in written or multimedia formats). It can be in the form of a journal, log, blog or diary, and may be incorporated into a collection of evidence in the form of a portfolio.
Research in learning sciences illustrates the many benefits of reflective writing. When provided with clear and authentic prompts and given repeated opportunities to think about their course work and educational, professional, or clinical experiences, students are better able to retain and transfer learning to new contexts. Reflective writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously ...
Reflection Assignments. Reflection is an important part of learning and growing. Students are expected to complete 6 reflections during their time in the program. Some of the reflections have more than one option to complete the assignment. The full assignments can be found in the CESP google drive in CESP Student Resources->CESP Reflection ...
In between these two essays, students submit a self-reflection of essay 1; assigning this assignment after essay 1 is completed provides students with the opportunity to reflect on what worked and what didn't work as well as where they should make changes as they complete essay 2. Completing a self-reflection provides students with several ...
Examples of Poor Reflection Prompts. No prompt--students have to guess. Add some reflection to your ePortfolio for this class/assignment. Reflect on something. Reflect on what you liked about this class. Summarize what we did in this class.