How can I use reflection?

How does it align with the module learning outcomes? Does it assess  skills and knowledge that are key to the discipline?

Reflection is key to learning, so formative reflective tasks align with all programmes of study. However, summatively assessed reflection should directly connect to learning outcomes of the module.  Reflection is useful for courses where there is a strong focus on self-regulated learning, critical thinking and analysing experience. It is particularly useful for all courses with a practical element, professional or service placement, or internship. It can also be useful for students undertaking projects or group work.

Will it be formative or Summative? If summative, how will I give opportunities for practice? When will it occur in the term/module? What will the weighting be?

A task on its own? If the skills assessed by reflection are a core Learning Outcome, it can be a stand-alone summative assignment.

Integral to another task? Students might be given a summative assignment in which reflection forms a small percentage of the weighting. This can either be graded or its completion can be assessed using a merit, pass, fail system.

A formative part of a larger summative task? Students can be given a reflective task on the process of completing a summative assignment which identifies what has been learned so far, what sources they have found and how, and what could have been done differently. Setting the deadline a few weeks before the final assessment could deter students from procrastination on the summative task. Students should be informed that if they fail to complete the task, they will miss out on valuable feedback.

Separate or repeated small tasks to be completed throughout a module? Reflection is often more useful when it is an iterative process and students have opportunities for practice and feedback. These tasks can be summative or formative. They should be small but meaningful to prevent can  surface learning where students prioritise studying for traditional summative assessments.

What criteria will I use? How will I give feedback?

This depends on the use of the reflective task. It can be quite difficult to assess equitably unless a fairly rigid structure for the writing is in place, which can stymy honesty and creativity.

Formative tasks should be given feedback but not grades.

Summative tasks are more difficult to assess and different tasks and disciplines will require different definitions of ‘good’ reflective writing. This should be discussed in module or programme teams.

Some examples of criteria for assessment are provided by DePaul

Plack et al (2005)  and Wald et al (2012) provide more complex frameworks for how to assess reflective journals. These can also be used as training for students on writing reflectively in academia.

How will I address potential challenges?

Do I need to make any modifications for accessibility/inclusivity? Can I build these into the design?

Many students are uncomfortable with reflection as they might feel aspects of their personality are being judged. Perhaps offer students the choice of how to reflect (through a presentation, journal or video diary) OR make the reflection a formative assessment.

Do I need to make any modifications for large cohort sizes?

Assessing reflection can be quite time-consuming, although you can integrate reflective tasks into larger assignments or use digital technology to embed reflection within the course.

  • You can use Moodle to generate self-reflection quizzes. Students can test themselves on the content of the lectures and reflect on their learning on the same platform OR create a personal development plan for their revision.
  • Pebblepad- students can set up and run their own reflective journals or create personal learning environments

It is unlikely that students will engage with reflection in the same way if they feel it is not an inherent part of the course.

How can I introduce it to students?

It is important to provide clear assignment briefs and exemplars, as well as preferably a formative assessment for practice.