Review or assessment of reflections

Should the reflection be assessed?

If your activity is extra-curricular there is likely no requirement for the reflection to be assessed (however you may like to review student reflections or make them a mandatory component of your activity to support or evidence learning).

However, for experiential learning activities within the curriculum, such as Work Integrated Learning or Co-operative Learning activities, it is fairly common for reflection to be assessed, and in many instances, especially where the anticipated learning may not be replicable in classroom contexts, it is considered the most appropriate way to determine whether a student has achieved particular learning outcomes.

Assessing the reflection emphasises its importance to the learning process and may make it more likely that students will take the task seriously, and engage meaningfully.  However, if students know that their reflection is assessed (i.e. that there is an audience for the reflection) they may be less inclined to write honest, deep and open reflection and more inclined to ‘write what the assessors want to read’.

The most important question to consider is whether the reflections will adequately evidence the students’ achievement of the learning outcomes set out for the course or, will it support the attainment of these learning outcomes.  If you can answer yes then assessment of self-reflection may be appropriate for your activity.

Reflection can be used as either formative or summative assessment.  As summative assessments have ‘higher stakes’ for the students it is recommended that they have the opportunity to engage in self-reflection elsewhere in the course or experience to prepare them for this.

What does good look like?

For students to be able to reflect meaningfully they will need to be given clear instructions on what they should be reflecting on, how they should be reflecting, and what good reflection looks like.  For assessed reflection, it is particularly important to have clear marking guides or assessment rubrics available so that students know what they need to do.

Good self-reflection may look slightly different for different reflective models, styles, learning outcomes and whether or not it will be assessed, however in general, good reflective writing will:

  1. Be selective.  There is no need for the student to describe every little detail of what happened.  But it is important to capture the key events or ideas to provide context.
  2. Move beyond just describing what happened. The reflection will need to consider why things happened, what the consequences were, and what has been learned from a particular experience, and how that is important for the student’s development.
  3. Be personal. Self-reflection should use personal pronouns (I, we) and concentrate on what the student thinks about the situation, even if that involves considering the actions of others. The student is contemplating an experience rather than arguing a particular view and justifying it with evidence.  There will be no right or wrong answer – it is what the student got out of an experience.
  4. Evidence self-awareness. The reflection should demonstrate that the student knows themselves and why they behaved the way they did.  Self-awareness is also important for employability as it allows the individual to monitor their behaviour and attitudes and adjust accordingly to the context and the requirements of the task at hand.
  5. Be honest. The student may admit to mistakes and errors of judgement, which is important for learning.  The reflection should demonstrate that they understand why things happened and what they did or can do to improve.
  6. Look to the future. The student should consider what happened in the past and how it will have an impact on the way they think or behave in the future.

An example of good reflective writing can be found here.

Educators should ask themselves:

  1. What does good reflection in my context look like?
  2. Will I be providing feedback on the reflection? How much? For what purpose?
  3. What criteria will I use to determine if the reflection is ‘good enough’?

It is possible to find rubrics or marking guides for most common reflective models.  An assessment rubric for the SEAL self-reflection process can be found here.