Reflection: teaching tips

Without proper guidance and prompts, students tend to write descriptive summaries about their experience and little else. Students should understand the a reflection paper is more about their reaction to what happened than a full paper about what happened.



Using Bordon's What? So What? Now What? Model

1) What? (Introduction): Description of their service or what happened should be confined to a short summary.

2) So What? (Body): The body of the writing should be their reaction to their service. The instructor should provided guided prompts that are in line with learning goals.

3) Now what? (Conclusion): The conclusion can include how they plan to move forward, what they plan to do differently next time, or questions they are struggling with.

4) When students provide a reaction, they should follow-through and explain why they feel a certain way or why they agree or disagree with something.

5) Consider creating a rubric so students can understand what is expected of them and they are meant to articulate.


Four Levels of Reflection

David Kember and a group of collaborators have identified four levels of reflection.

1. Habitual action

Student offers an answer without attempting to understand it. Students exemplify this level when they follow the steps without any consideration of what they are doing or why. In writing, at this level students look for material that answers the question. When asked, they cannot explain what they have written.

2. Understanding

Students understand concepts in theory, but fail to apply the concepts to real-world events or to personal experiences.

3. Reflection

Students are able to not only understand concepts, but can apply concepts to real-world events or to personal experiences. Their personal insights go beyond theory.

4. Critical Reflection

Students experience transformative changes in their perspective. New information or experiences disrupt students’ assumptions that causes them to reconstruct belief systems. Students start by recognizing their beliefs and accompanying assumptions. When something new disrupts their belief system, they begin to reconstruct or reform it. Critical reflection takes place over time and may not happen with students new to critical reflection.

Kember, D., McKay, J., Sinclair, K., and Wong, F. K. Y. (2008). A four-category scheme for coding and assessing the level of reflection in written work. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33 (4), 363-379.