Learning Strategy: Reflection


The reflection strategy invites students to think critically about themselves, their environments, and new information they are acquiring. Reflection first requires some type of interaction or experience that allows for contemplation (i.e., advising, supervision, training, conflict/crisis, or service). Dewey (1938) described reflection as "a transaction taking place between an individual and what, at the time, constitute his environment" (p. 41). The notion of reflection as a transaction suggests it is not something that simply occurs inside a person but it is an interaction between individuals, their experience, and their environment. Students are prompted to think about how an experience made them feel, what issues were raised, and what questions remain. Although every experience may not be used for reflection, every experience does offer an opportunity for reflection. Reflection can occur in different forms including personally or with others and is often written or spoken.

Learning strategies this strategy may be confused with

  • Journaling
  • Storytelling
  • Dialogue

Barriers to Reflection (Brown, Podolske, Kohles, and Sonnennberg, 1992)

  1. Demands of others
  2. Program or organizational culture
  3. Multiple responsibilities
  4. Lack of effective role models
  5. Lack of trust in facilitator, trainer, or instructor
  6. Lack of energy or attention
  7. Failure to set priorities
  8. Managing difficult emotions

Strategies for implementing reflection (Johnson, 2009)

  1. Create a collaborative environment where students are invested in its success.
  2. Facilitator models the use of reflection during each interaction.
  3. Incorporate reflection daily. Remember that it can happen anytime, anywhere.
  4. Continually question beliefs, recognize assumptions, and reconstruct future experiences.

Learning strategies that work well with this strategy

Examples at USD

  1. SLIC Emotionally Intelligent Leadership Coaching
  2. Assessment and counseling in a clinical setting (i.e., counseling sessions)
  3. Empower Retreat
  4. Restorative Justice Conference

Resources for using this strategy

Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle: Learning occurs when a person progresses through a cycle of four stages: of (1) having a concrete experience followed by (2) observation of and reflection on that experience which leads to (3) the formation of abstract concepts (analysis) and generalizations (conclusions) which are then (4) used to test hypothesis in future situations, resulting in new experiences (McLeod, 2013).

Ignatian Pedagogy: Five elements that shape students' learning experiences--context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. Recognizes that all learning is embedded in a specific content, rooted in previous experience, dependent upon reflection on those experiences, made meaningful when new knowledge is put into action, and reinforced by evaluation (St. Louis University, n.d.).

ORID Focused Conversation Method: A framework that enables detailed reflection and learning, and helps groups get to the heart of the matter efficiently. Process follows natural questions that ensure conclusions based on the widest possible base of data. The acronym "ORID" is derived from the first letters of the four stages of questioning (Bridgewater State University, n.d.):

  1. Objective (facts, data, senses): What images or scenes do you recall? What people, words, or ideas caught your attention and why?
  2. Reflective (reactions, heart, feelings): How did this experience affect you? What was the high point? What was the low point? What were you feeling during the experience?
  3. Interpretative (so what?): What was the most meaningful aspect of this activity? What can you conclude from this experience?
  4. Decision (now what?): How, if at all, has this experience changed your thinking?

The Daily Examen: Form of prayer connected to Jesuit Pedagogy and Catholic Social Teaching that helps us to see God's hand at work in our whole experience. This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced: (Loyola Press, n.d.)

  1. Become aware of God's presence.
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  5. Look toward tomorrow.


Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Bridgewater State University. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.bridgew.edu/sites/default/files/relatedfiles/ORID-discussion-method-6.3.14.pdf

Brown, R., Podolske, D., Kohles, R., & Sonnenberg, R. (1992). Becoming a reflective student affairs administrator. NASPA Journal, 29, 307-314.

Johnson, J. (2009). Defining reflection in student affairs: A new culture of approach. The Vermont Connection, 30, 87-97.

Loyola Press. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen

McLeod, S. (2013). Kolb-Learning Styles. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html

St. Louis University. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slu.edu/cttl/resources/teaching-tips-and-resources/ignatian-pedagogy

Rev. 7/18/17

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