Overview

Using Reflection to Facilitate and Assess High-Impact Practices
How do we help our students make sense of their experiences?
This site describes how instructors can use reflection to address various levels of student learning. Also provided are ideas for implementing and assessing reflection activities to meet different kinds of learning environments (i.e., various disciplines, time factors, class sizes, and teaching styles). 

Why is reflection important to learning?
While students may demonstrate that they have mastered the materials and skills a course teaches, can they transfer what they have learned to other experiences, including other courses, co-curricular activities, and even the workplace? For example, a student in an English literature class may have learned analytical skills through an assignment requiring him or her to explicate a poem. In doing so, the student has likely honed key skills of observation and analysis, the same kinds of skills that will benefit him or her in the careful examination of a specimen a Biology 101 lab. However, does the student see the connections between the two assignments? Reflection can help the student connect what he or she has learned in one context to the skills and content learned in other contexts. Essentially, reflection activities engage the student in learning how to identify what he knows, make sense of what he knows, and transfer that knowledge to new contexts.

Key questions regarding the use of reflection include:
What are the benefits of using reflection for learning? 
  • Reflection provides opportunities for frequent feedback about student performance
  • Any class that challenges students to think beyond their classrooms, their disciplines, their histories, or their personal identifications can be fertile ground for integrative moments
In addition, the value of reflection to promote learning is noted by the research efforts of academic directors and practitioners across various disciplines.
  • “When students do not ‘know what they know,’ they are less prepared for work and life.  They are less likely—compared to those who can identify their knowledge and skills—to develop adaptive expertise, the ability to consciously and flexibly apply their knowledge and skills to everyday challenges. They are less likely to know how to learn from their own experiences” (Peet, p.1).
  • "Effective lifelong learning requires people learn how to retrieve and identify tacit knowledge gained from life experience, and integrate it with explicit knowledge gained through formal education" (Peet p. 2).
  • “Students develop the ability to apply new learning to new contexts and situations when they have opportunities to meta-reflect (to think about how and what they have learned and the process of learning itself), to integrate learning (to think about how one learning experience connects to another), and to consciously connect learning to their own values, beliefs, identities, and life experiences” (Peet, p. 2).

What are the challenges of integrating reflection into a course or other learning environments?

Challenges to reflection often focus on understanding what it is and how it can be assessed. How will a facilitator know if deep thinking is occurring? Is reflection observable? Key purposes for resources provided at this site include showing how reflection can be facilitated in different environments, including 10 transformative or high-impact experiences identified by the AAC&U, and explaining how reflection can be integrated and assessed at different levels.