How to Encourage Reflection

The University of North Texas is helping students make meaning from their college experiences by reflecting in the ePortfolio. Reflection is a meta-cognitive skill found to have critical utility in higher education context based on learning outcomes positively associated with the practice (Eyler, 2002). John Dewey (1910) defined reflection as an “active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tend.” Donald Schon later expanded Dewey’s conceptualization by emphasizing “reflection in action” or “learning by doing” which inspired a way of educational research implementing reflection (Carol, 2002). 

Reflection from a Kinesiology Major 

During this experience I identified that if I were to become a physical therapist, I would need to work on being able to create a comfortable environment for patients. The main difficulty for me would be the aspect of multitasking by talking to patients about how their day was or what they like to do while continuing to perform physical therapy on at least one patient every thirty minutes. This means that I would need to improve on making sure all four patients are comfortable and engaged at one time.

If students are participating in activities without any awareness of the experience's value (other than it was mandated or part of a course) then the potential intrinsic value can be lost. College is a traditionally transformative time in a student’s life where autonomy is gained and decisions about the future lie predominately within students’ own responsibility. Unfortunately, there may be a missed learning and application opportunity if a student is unable to reflect on a project, activity, or volunteer experience.  Research shows that students are unlikely to reflect on their educational experiences without being prompted (Eyler, 2002) or without clear guidelines, structure, and regular opportunities (Hatcher, Bringle, & Muthia, 2004). Career Connect fosters reflection on their experiences by integrating reflection questions in the ePortfolio.  

These reflections encourage students to collect their experiences in an electronic platform and reflect on the impact of these experience in their lives, for now and in the future.  Reflection encourages deeper learning that students can refer to throughout their college years and beyond.   

The goal is to engage students in reflection across their time at UNT and to make their collegiate career intentional and meaningful.  Students should have purpose when they enter the workforce, feeling equipped academically and personally, and have confidence in their skills. Additionally, this initiative involves data collection on the reflective process to enhance the usefulness of university educations for educators and students alike.   

Reflection from a Media Arts Major

It had a huge impact on me more than I thought it would considering the fact that the subject of suicide prevention resonated with so many different people and brought us all together. Some shared stories and others you could tell they'd either come across someone struggling or experienced this themselves and it was touching. Our environment was happy and uplifting which brought out good vibes from everyone and that was the best part because it showed that there was still some good in the world. Overall I think it’s important to use your voice no matter how touchy the subject is because anything helps and who knows maybe the 3 days we had our drive we could have changed someone’s mind if they were maybe contemplating it... You never know.

Reflection Models

There are several definitions of reflection and models that describe the process. Career Connect developed reflective prompts to guide students through the reflective process based on the existing literature. The reflective prompts developed considered the theoretical underpinnings of experiential and service learning, while also engaging students developmentally in order to foster and encourage continued awareness and growth. 

Below you will find a table that links the reflection prompts developed by Career Connect with existing literature, specifically the models of D.E.A.L and Kolb’s three step model in order to describe the parallels between all three.  

Kolb (1984) D.E.A.L. (2007) Career Connect
Start with a concrete experience Describe the experience objectively. What? Where? Who? When? Why?

Describe your experience while in engaging in the Connect activity. 

  • What activity?

  • What were your responsibilities?

  • How did you work (individually or team)?  

Consider reflective observations Examine the experience per reflection prompts by category or learning goal (personal growth, civic engagement, academic enhancement).

Explain how this experience connected you to the community. 

  • How did this activity affect your view of your responsibility in the community?

Process information through abstraction and conceptualization  Articulate Learning. What did I learn? How did I learn it? Why is it important? What will I do because of it?

Describe how your experience connected to your coursework, skills, and career interests and goals. 

  • Provide examples about how you could apply this experience toward your future.

Testing implication of concepts in new situations  

Discuss what you learned about yourself through this experience. 

  • Did you identify any personal strengths or areas for growth?

    • Was there an aspect that challenged you?

 

 

Describe how you felt about the experience. 

  • Did you notice any feelings before, during, or after the experience that influenced your previous thoughts about your career interests? 

  • What will you take away from this experience?