Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

Teaching Tips & Links for SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING

Issue 32 - Reflective Teaching for Learning

October 23, 2018

Reflective practice is a key learning skill that we teach and assess in our students. Following on from last week's issue on Reflective Teaching Practice, this week our focus shifts to our students.

There is a large body of literature related to reflective practice in professional contexts. The most common disciplinary literature relates to nursing, other medical and health care disciplines and teaching practice. However, reflective practice is also essential in a wide range of other disciplines. As teachers, our two main approaches to reflective practice for students involve equipping students with the necessary skills and resources and also assessing critical reflection learning outcomes.

In this week's bulletin, we explore Dr Barbara Jacoby's practical tips for teaching critical reflections and also draw on some teaching notes from CSU academics Dr Pam Roberts and Dr Karen Stanley.


Implementing the CSU Value INSIGHTFUL in your teaching.

In living the value of Insightful we act respectfully and perceptively to seek to understand why people think and behave in the ways that they do. Digging deep to understand the why in addition to the what, we shift beyond taking words or actions at face value.


How to Deepen Learning through Critical Reflection

By: Dr Barbara Jacoby

Source: https://www.magnapubs.com/magna-commons/?video=3039 (87 minutes)

This engaging and very practical webinar provides teaching strategies, case studies and practical examples to promote reflective practice for students at all stages of their degree study. Dr. Jacoby draws from the literature and from her own experience in teaching critical reflection.

The introduction provides definitions of critical reflection and argues for its benefits for professional practice and lifelong learning in our students.

QUOTE: … critical reflection is the powerful process of making meaning out of a purposeful combination of experiences and academic content. It adds depth and breadth to meaning by challenging simplistic solutions, comparing varying perspectives, examining causality, and raising more and more challenging questions.

The Four Cs of Critical Reflection is one practical model that is proposed, based on the work of Eyler, Giles & Schmiede (1996). It provides a framework for designing high quality reflections aligned to subject learning outcomes. Critical reflection is:
  • Continuous – occurs throughout the course, not just at the end – before, during and after experiences.
  • Connected – builds bridges between content, personal reactions and first-hand experiences.
  • Challenging – avoids simplistic conclusions, examines causality, raises deeper questions – but not so challenging that it is overwhelming, and students disengage.
  • Contextualised – form and process are guided by context (setting, critical incidents) – includes a long discussion on contexts.

It is also important to clarify with students that high quality critical reflection is not:

  • A didactic retelling of what happened
  • Only an emotional outlet – although consideration of emotional responses is helpful/important
  • A time for soap-boxing
  • A neat & tidy exercise that brings closure – rather it can be ongoing, messy, with more openings than closings.

Modes of Reflection

In this practical section of the webinar, Dr Jacoby expands on common modes of critical reflection with examples that can be used across various disciplinary contexts.

Telling – benefits apply both to the listener and to the speaker

  • Focus groups; Structured dialogue; Class discussions; Presentations; Teaching a class; Story telling; Preparing real or mock testimony; Poetry slam

Writing – challenges students to organise their thoughts and produces a permanent record

  • Journals, logs – e.g. the double entry journal; Problem analysis; Case studies; Essays; Theory-to-practice paper; Portfolios; Press releases; Drafting legislation; Letters to politicians, the editor, self; Published articles

Activities – (at the 30 min mark)

  • Role play – e.g. victims of domestic violence case study; Problem-based learning; Interviews; Program development; Yarn web; Forced choice exercise – includes extended explanation, and examples

Media – can capture subtle emotional truths – students can literally “see” their own growth

  • Photo or music collages; Musical compositions; Drawings, paintings; Collective murals; Digital stories

Critical Reflection: 4 Steps

with strategies and tips and examples from specific disciplines (at 44 min mark)

  1. Identify desired learning outcomes
  2. Design reflection activities to achieve learning outcomes
  3. Engage students in reflection
  4. Assess learning through critical reflection

Examples and case studies of the use of the four steps:

- Psychology of domestic violence

- Clinical nursing practice

- Contemporary art theory

- Chemistry subject

FOOTNOTE: Also worth watching is the webinar Dr Jacoby presented more recently, Designing and Teaching a High-Impact Capstone Course in which she presents her student experiences with critical reflection in her capstone subject Now What? Composing a Life of Meaning and Purpose.


Eyler, J., Giles, D., Schmiede, A., (1996). Practitioner’s guide to reflection in service-learning: Student voices and reflections. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University.

Web resources listing strategies and activities:

Service-Learning: Using structured reflection to enhance learning from service. Campus

Compact. [http://www.compact.org/disciplines/reflection/]

Facilitating reflection: A manual for leaders and educators. J. Reed & C. Koliba.


Presentation handouts, full transcripts and supplementary resources are available for download from the Magna Commons website if you don't have time to listen to the seminar.


On teaching reflective practice

Source: Dr. Pam Roberts and Dr. Karen Stanley, CSU

As with last week's bulletin on Reflective Teaching Practice, the key concepts of reflective practice trace back to seminal works by authors such as Dewey, Schön and Mezirow, and the learning cycles from the work of Kolb, Gibbs and others.

Excerpts from reflective practice in the Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education are reproduced below. Variations on these notes can be produced and augmented for specific disciplines where reflective practice is a key professional competence. In Nursing, articles by Jasper (2013) and Johns (1994) provide a common starting point to guide reflective practice. Contact Pam Roberts paroberts@csu.edu.au or Karen Stanley kstanley@csu.edu.au for further information.

Reflective practice and professional knowledge

Reflective practice has become a key goal of modern education programs because of its recognised benefits in helping us to make meaning of our experiences and to transform them into knowledge for future action.

Developing reflective practice by writing

Boud, Keogh and Walker (1985) describe reflection as an activity in which people “recapture their experience, think about it, mull it over and evaluate it”. They identify three elements that include awareness and emotion.

  • Returning to experience - that is to say recalling or detailing salient events.
  • Attending to (or connecting with) feelings - this has two aspects: using helpful feelings and removing or containing obstructive ones.
  • Evaluating experience - this involves re-examining experience in the light of one's intent and existing knowledge etc. It also involves integrating this new knowledge into one's conceptual framework.

A key means used for developing reflective practice is through reflective writing and documenting evidence of our learning in discussion forums, learning journals and portfolios. Reflective writing encourages us to:

  • explore our experiences
  • deepen our learning by gaining further insights
  • examine alternative perspectives informed by theory and other people’s views, and
  • hence, to expand our awareness of broader possibilities for action.

Reflection is often presented as a cycle that begins with a situation or experience that you would like to explore more deeply. A common representation of the cycle is shown in the diagram below developed by Gibbs (1988 in Moon 2004). Evaluating the outcomes of our actions, which may include unintended outcomes, leads into a new cycle of reflection and action.

Typical questions used to guide your reflection at each stage of the cycle are:

  • Description: What was the experience? What happened? What was I trying to achieve?
  • Feelings: What are my reactions and feelings?
  • Evaluation: What was good and bad about the experience? What did I do well? What would I like to change?
  • Analysis: What sense can I make of the experience? What else is knownabout this kind of experience?
  • Conclusions: What could I have done differently? What can I generalise about the experience?
  • Action plan: What did I learn about my way of working? How can I do things better next time?

Other frameworks for supporting reflective practice define different levels of engaging with experience for gaining deeper insight and enhancing your learning (Mezirow, 1991; Moon, 2004. The most important differences between levels of reflection are:

  • Descriptive writing: a description of events without further analysis of purposes, impacts and alternatives.
  • Reflective writing: being reflective suggests there is a ‘stepping back’ from the events and actions which leads to different level of thinking. There is a sense that you are ‘mulling about’, engaging in a dialogue with self to explore your own role in events and actions. You are also considering and judging possible alternatives for explaining and hypothesising the relationship between experiences, actions and consequences.
  • Critical reflection: this is considered the highest level of reflection and, in addition to being reflective, shows evidence that the learner is aware that actions and events may be examined from different perspectives and the outcomes and impacts that we consider to be right or important are influenced by social and political contexts.

CLICK on the table (below) to expand a description with examples of these levels.

Further Reading

Reflective Practice Journal - available from CSU Library; published since 2000.

Beauchamp, C. (2015). Reflection in teacher education: issues emerging from a review of current literature. Reflective Practice, 16(1), 123-141. doi:10.1080/14623943.2014.98252 - includes criticisms, recommendations and current issues.

Cheng, I. K. S. (2010). Transforming practice: reflections on the use of art to develop professional knowledge and reflective practice. Reflective Practice, 11(4), 489-498. doi:10.1080/14623943.2010.505714 - the use of metaphor to promote clinical reflection.

Hickson, H. (2011). Critical reflection: reflecting on learning to be reflective. Reflective Practice, 12(6), 829-839. doi:10.1080/14623943.2011.616687 - critical reflection in social work.

Ryan, M. (2013). The pedagogical balancing act: teaching reflection in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(2), 144-155. doi:10.1080/13562517.2012.694104


Boud, D., Keogh. R., & Walker, D. (1985). Reflection: Turning experience in to learning. London: Kogan Page

Jasper, M. (2013). Beginning reflective practice (2nd Ed.) Andover, Hampshire: Cengage Learning.

Johns, C. (1995) The value of reflective practice for nursing. Journal of Clinical Nursing 4, 23–30.

Kolb D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Mezirow, J. (1991). Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: A guide to transformative and emancipatory learning. San Francisco: Jossey‑Bass.

Moon J. (2004). A Handbook of reflective and experiential learning. Routledge Falmer, London.

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1. Teaching support resources at CSU

You have access to a range of quality CSU resources to help you incorporate educational resources and techniques into your teaching. Check out the following:


3. Bonus CSU resource - Lynda.com

All CSU students and staff members have access to Lynda.com,

an online subscription library that teaches the latest business,

creative and software skills through high-quality instructional videos.


4. Magna Commons Subscription

All staff with a CSU email address have free access to our annual

CSU subscription to the Magna Commons series of online seminars

Presentation handouts, full transcripts and supplementary resources are available for download if you don't have time to listen to the seminar.

How to subscribe

Staff with a CSU email address can obtain the Magna Commons CSU subscription code from Ellen McIntyre elmcintyre@csu.edu.au

Magna Commons suggests seminars to watch this month related to QUALITY: Evaluation, assessment, development, measuring quality through feedback and testing.

Seminars you might want to review as you focus on quality:


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