Strategies for facilitating reflection

The goals of the Reflection Framework are:

  • To explore and explain the role of individual courses as part of a liberal arts education.
  • To explore and explain connections between different general education courses, individual majors, past experiences, and future goals.
  • To articulate and develop a sense of purpose and goals for meaningful life and work.

Student Learning Outcomes

To convert the Reflection Framework goals into student learning outcomes for your syllabus, adjust the language to make the outcome something you could assess. Student learning outcomes always have to be observable and measurable, i.e. can be demonstrated in an assignment or project.

Start with an action verb that denotes the level of learning expected, like (from Bloom’s Taxonomy) define, describe, explain, illustrate, summarize, compare, articulate, or connect. Then, add the outcomes.

For example, you could try…

  • “Successful students will be able to demonstrate that they have explored and can explain the role of [insert course name] as a part of a liberal arts education.”
  • or “Successful students will be able to describe and articulate the connections between [insert course name], other general education courses, past experiences, and future goals.”
  • or “Successful students will be able to demonstrate reflective thinking skills evidenced by their ability to connect learning from this course to their overall education and to their developing sense of purpose and life goals for meaningful life and work.”

Method of Assessment

Your syllabus should also indicate the assessment tool(s) you intend to use to measure how well students have met the learning goals. For example, you could consider participation in class discussions, informal writing assignments, formal writing assignments, exams, and/or oral presentations.

There are many ways to structure reflective activities in the classroom. Students might answer questions posed by the instructor verbally. Students might be asked to discuss these questions in partners or small groups. Students could write down their answers in a journal as an opportunity for ongoing reflection. The possibilities are endless.

  • Goal setting at the start of the semester with periodic opportunities to reflect on progress toward these goals.
  • What are your thoughts about what you just learned?
  • Why is this important?
  • How is this consistent/inconsistent with what you’ve learned in other settings?
  • What patterns are you noticing?
  • What does this mean for the way you will approach “real-world” situations?
  • In what ways does this knowledge make things more ambiguous or less ambiguous? How can you be comfortable with ambiguity moving forward?
  • What are some other points of view that are important to consider as you absorb this knowledge?
  • How does this knowledge align or conflict with your personal values?
  • In what ways have you needed to re-examine what you thought you knew about the world?
  • What have you learned about yourself?
  • Set a timer for one minute and ask students to write a one-minute paper on what they just learned. Ask for volunteers to share their papers.
  • Try a misconception check prior to introducing a novel concept. List some common misconceptions about this topic and ask students if they agree or disagree with these.
  • Pause and reflect activities provide students with one or two prompts to complete as an in-class reflective opportunity. Some ideas for prompts:
    • I changed my mind about…
    • I am more aware of…
    • I was surprised about…
    • I felt…
    • I related to…
    • I empathized with…
    • I am excited about…
    • I want to know more about…
    • I used to think…
  • Sketch reflections encourage students to create a visual representation of what they learned.
  • Create a classroom word cloud by asking all students to enter keywords that stand out to them from what they learned.
  • Students can build on each other’s reflections by writing a reflective statement on a sheet of paper, scrunch it into a ball and throw this to another student. The student who catches your ball adds onto the initial reflection and this keeps going until there are several sentences built onto each original sentence to illustrate the power of building off of each other’s ideas.
  • Use of journals can be integrated many different ways:
    • Periodic opportunities for students to freely journal on what is happening in class. This might be formal or informal, with or without instructor review.
    • More structured journaling with pre-assigned specific questions or key words for students to use within their entries.
    • Group journaling activities could involve posting questions around the room on large sheets of paper. Students can be given post-it notes for their individual responses which can be added to questions of their choosing.
    • Journal entries in response to famous quotes, song lyrics, pieces of art, etc.
  • Case studies allow students to apply concepts to real life situations.
  • Use mid-semester course evaluations - what is going well? What do you need that you are not getting so far? Students often have great ideas to offer us to help them learn!
  • Use exit reflection in which each student gets a post-it note to write a reflection of what they learned in class that day and hang it on the wall on their way out. The instructor can compile these to share with the class at the next meeting.

Sometimes it is helpful to include graded/ungraded reflective questions in assignments. This gives instructors an opportunity to understand the extent to which students are processing the material they are learning through your assignments.

  • What was the hardest part of this assignment for you? Why?
  • What was the easiest part of this assignment for you? Why?
  • What did you learn from this assignment?
  • What do you think was my intention for this assignment?
  • How might this assignment apply to your future work/career/community engagement?
  • How do you think I will/should evaluate your work on this assignment?
  • Post-exam reflection: What study strategies did you use? What worked well? What might have helped you do better? What is your plan for preparing for the next exam?


To align your course content with the goals of the Gen Ed Reflection Framework, you might consider adding questions to an assignment like the following:

  • Did anything in this assignment make you think of something you are learning or have already learned in one of your other classes or any of your co-curricular activities? Tell me about the other experience and explain the connection.
  • A liberal arts education is designed to make you use your brain in as many different ways as possible. Was there anything about this assignment that made you use your brain in a way you aren’t accustomed to? If so, can you explain? If not, can you reflect on the kinds of things you think come easily to you versus the kinds of things that make your brain work especially hard?
  • Is there anything you have learned in a class before that made this assignment easier for you than it might have been otherwise? Explain. Is there anything you feel you have learned in this assignment that will help you undertake certain kinds of tasks in the future? Share your thoughts with the person sitting next to you.


Sometimes, a pointed question at the end of a class activity or homework assignment can help connect the assignment to other important topics and clarify how your discipline is good at teaching a particular kind of skill. You might consider trying something like the following:

  • For an ART class: Sometimes people think making good art is all about having talent and creativity. Those are both important, but so are craftsmanship, patience, perseverance, and implementing feedback. Pick one of these abilities—or something else this assignment made you practice—and reflect on how you could use it in some other area of your life.
  • For a MATH class: Sometimes, the focus is on being “right” and “wrong” in math, and matching a predetermined correct answer. While calculating can be really useful, math is also about recognizing patterns, problem-solving, and thinking logically. What parts of this assignment made you practice these skills? How could strengthening these abilities prove useful in some other area of your life?
  • For a HISTORY class: Answering questions is a useful skill, but not if you were asking the wrong question to begin with. The discipline of history is especially good at teaching us how to ask the right question. Reflect on this assignment and discuss with a partner what makes a good question, and what makes a bad one. How could learning to ask the right question prove useful in some other area of your life?
  • For a COMPUTER SCIENCE class: People who have never done much coding sometimes think working with computers is unimaginative when the truth is that creativity is one of the most important skills in computer science. What about this activity made you stretch your creativity, and how could enhancing your creative side prove useful in some other area of your life?
  • Ask students to write a letter to their future self about some experience from this course (the instructor returns the letters in a later class or at another point in the student’s college experience, such as at graduation).
  • Ask students to write a letter to a future student who might take this course. What should they know? What do you wish you had known?
  • Self-assessment asks students to reflect on their performance in a certain area. This can be especially effective in areas such as class participation. For example, around the halfway point of the semester, students may be asked to grade themselves and provide feedback as to their quality of class participation. Asking them to reflect on what they could improve upon allows them to set goals for challenging themselves to become more productive contributors to class discussions.
  • Portfolios ask students to collect artifacts representing their best work and/or competency in areas relevant to their major and/or institutional learning outcomes.
  • Have each student free-write on what it would mean for them to live a life of purpose. Then, hold a class discussion where you ask if the material they learned in this class can play a part in living that life.
  • Give the class a few minutes in silence for students to imagine and jot down ideas about their own funeral, assuming they have lived a long and meaningful life. Who stands up to speak about them, and what do they say? Then, divide students into pairs. With a timer, have one student in each pair speak, without interruptions, to the other student, about what they imagined, for two full minutes. The silent partner should listen with their full attention. Then, the silent partner should ask the speaker questions about what they have heard. The speaker should then take another two minutes to try to answer the questions, with the only interruptions being further questions or requests for clarification. Then, the partners swap roles. After both partners have had the chance to both listen and speak, open the class up for discussion. After they have shared, you can ask if anything they have learned in this class might help them live a meaningful life.