Making Things Clear Through Reflection

August 3, 2023

Whenever I think of reflection, I visualize a Disney movie scene where the main character has this major breakthrough. They stare at themselves in a body of water, a mirror, or some other reflective object. And then, all of a sudden, everything makes sense.

As a facilitator and professor, I often use reflection in my courses and workshops. However, not in the way you may think.

In my own experiences, I have seen reflection used to summarize what they have learned and discuss what their “muddiest” points still may be. My version of reflection is quite different. Rather than open-ended opportunities to think and identify still confusing areas, each reflection has guided questions. These questions are based on the covered content and guide learners to apply the information to their lives and contexts. When taken seriously, this allows learners to take a moment to digest the content and consider how their experiences and contexts impact their learning. They can also see right away how the content can be applied.


In one of my workshops, the goal is to create an action plan for implementing alternative assessments in one of their courses. Weekly reflections directly related to the content are implemented through the workshop.

Before creating the action plan, I ask participants to consider everything they have learned and discuss which technique(s) would be the best to implement in their context. This assignment then informs the final action plan. While reading and providing feedback on these reflections, I often see ideas form that are then drafted out in the final action plan in more detail. This reflection allows the learners to write all of their thoughts and make connections prior to the final assessment.

Important Components of Reflection

While reflection seems like it could be an open-ended assignment (it is the learners’ thoughts, after all), it is still important to establish boundaries. Below are some boundaries that I have implemented that have helped my students:

  • Create a safe environment where students feel comfortable sharing their reflections.
  • Reflections should include guided questions that students consider as they reflect.
  • Encourage students to set a timer for five minutes and free write. This helps them get ideas out of their head and start making connections they may not have seen before.

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