Reflection practices can take many forms. Common examples are:
- Group dialogue
- Journals or blogs
- Photo-journals or video productions
- Directed writing assignments
- Analytical papers
Ideally, reflection will happen at multiple points during the learning experience, repeatedly enforcing the identified learning objectives.
- Prior to the activity, reflection encourages the student to explore their individual purpose and goals.
- During the activity, reflection opportunities encourage students to document their actions and reactions to the situation.
- After the activity, reflection allows students to evaluate what happened and identify the connections between their curricular and experiential learning. This final reflection also provides an opportunity for students to evaluate their plans for the future, both in terms of coursework and their next planned experiences.
According to Bringle & Hatcher (1999), critical reflection activities should
- clearly link the experience to the learning objectives
- be structured
- occur regularly
- allow for feedback
- include opportunities for students to explore, clarify, and alter their personal values.
Ash & Clayton (2009) use the acronym D.E.A.L. (Describe, Examine, and Articulate Learning) to guide the creation of reflection.
- Describe your experience using concrete, descriptive details.
- Examine your experience in the context of pre-identified learning objectives.
- Articulate what you learned, including ideas for improvements in the activity and plans for next steps.
College life is a collection of experiences. These experiences are as varied as each individual student; courses, social life, leadership roles, jobs, field work, community service, research, studying abroad, and studying away commonly fill the lives of our students. While the collection of each student’s experiences is important, building the connections between these experiences provides meaning and direction. These connections – between experiences and curriculum and between disparate experiences – can be built through the practice of deliberate and active reflection (Crews, 1999; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Ribek, 2000; Bringle & Hatcher, 2003; Ash & Clayton, 2009). Reflection transforms an isolated experience into a learning experience which contributes to the holistic narrative of the student’s college career.
Reflection allows a number of important things to happen during a learning activity. By asking students to stop and take stock of what is happening, they become more aware of their learning and are able to step outside the process. Thinking about the learning process helps students engage rather than passively receive the information. Through reflection, students have the opportunity to use appropriate vocabulary, which reinforces fluency. They also have an opportunity to critically assess the activity as well as their own learning process. This self-awareness helps students prioritize and critically assess their own skills. When we evaluate our process of learning we are more apt to discover the filters (our personal histories, knowledge, and frames of reference) through which we view the world and then respond by expanding that view.
Our Program Assistants are also trained to assist in the development and facilitation of reflection activities. You can learn more about Program Assistants in general on our About Program Assistants for Faculty page, or get to know our current Program Assistants on our Meet Our Program Assistants page..
We offer a variety of workshops and events on many topics related to experiential learning, including reflection. These are listed on our Workshops and Events page. There is also a wealth of scholarly research on reflection and its value, some of which we have collected on our Further Reading page.