April 2021 Bulletin

Resources to Enhance Teaching and Learning at Clark University

Reflection as a Learning Tool

During the learning process, students will encounter situations that they may find confusing, contradictory to prior beliefs, complex, and uncertain. Reflection is a powerful tool that can be used during a learning experience to enhance connections to one’s self, the community, and the world around us. While instructors often hold the ability to reflect as an expectation for students, we don’t often provide instruction on effective reflection techniques. This resource bulletin outlines what reflection can entail, and what it is not, in addition to tips on implementing reflection in the classroom, types of reflection practices, and further reading on reflection as a learning tool.


Reflection – What it is and what is isn’t?

Reflection isn’t

  •  Didactic retelling of events.
  • A straight-forward exercise to ‘sum up’ experiences.
  •  A “one size fits all” activity for classroom learning.

Reflection is

  • Critical thinking and analysis that supports learning objectives.
  • Fostering independence in learners through their generation of questions that they then are inspired to answer.
  • The activation of learning by making connections from academic content to other contexts. 

Tips on Reflection in the Classroom

  • Tips on Reflection in the Classroom
  • Base reflection activities on identified student learning outcomes
    Use critical reflection continuously throughout the learning experience – before, during, and after. Reflection shouldn’t be saved for at the end- it is ongoing!
  • View reflection as a way to enhance learning


Methods for Reflection in Learning

Reflection in a “reflexive pedagogical balancing act of attending to different levels of reflection as a way to stimulate focused, thoughtful and reasoned reflections that show evidence of new ways of thinking and doing” (Ryan 2012).

Methods of Reflection



Students create a “story” about their learning experience. The act of writing the story (or paper) helps facilitate connections and allows student to reflect on the story of themselves as they have moved through their learning process.


Can be private, individual, or shared. Journals can be a collaborative effort between students where one student reflects on their learning on the top half of the page and a peer responds on the bottom half.

Structured/Free Structured Conversations

Done in smaller groups or as a class and allows for students to share ideas about learning based on an open ended question. Conversation length can vary.


Students respond in 1-2 minutes to an open ended prompt. Quick-write leaves student the ability to reflect on the elements they found most striking or important. Students can also revisit their writing at a later date and use it as a prompt for their next quick-write. 

Concept Maps

Students create a visual diagram of a topic or concept, and uses the diagram to make connections to other ideas. Can be built over a period of time as student’s learning expands and allows for more connections.