Active critical reflection gets students out of their seats and out of their “heads”, often yielding unexpected interpretations of their learning experience. These reflections take students outside their traditional-learning comfort zones, engaging each student’s creativity and encouraging the student to consider their learning from a new direction. Since these assignments require group interactions, the students also benefit from experiencing their peers’ reflections which clarifies and enlarges their own learning.

Applicability: Active critical reflection assignments are great at getting the conversation started between students and as an introduction to the reflection process. By the nature of these activities, deep contemplation is less likely. The insights for each student, however, are no less valuable. These activities work well with non-traditional classrooms and for students with a range of learning and communication styles (Harris and Johnson).

Sample assignments:

“It’s My Bag”, an exercise developed by James Wolf (Halcrow), instructs students to fill a bag with an item or two which remind them how they feel about their EL activity. At the reflection session they explain their choice, relating it to the learning objective.

“Graffiti” allows students to honestly and anonymously express their feelings about a common learning experience. On poster boards scattered throughout the room, the facilitator writes a topic or word related to the EL activity. Students are then invited to walk around the room and, using colorful markers, write on the posters their own thoughts/feelings/experiences with respect to the topic on the poster. A group discussion follows.

Role plays are a fun way for students to interpret their learning experience (Reed and Koliba, 2003). In one approach, students are asked to role-play a problem they encountered during their experience. The student’s peers can then react to the problem, suggesting possible solutions.


Halcrow, Katie. (2014) “Reflection Activities: Service-learning’s not-so-secret weapon” on Civic Leadership Initiative Online.

Harris, Pamela and Ralph Johnson. Non-Traditional Teaching and Learning Strategies. Montana State University Center for Faculty Excellence.

Reed, Julie and Christopher Koliba. (2003) Facilitating Reflection: A Manual for Leaders and Educators. University of Vermont.