Course Activities - Reflective Activities

Overview | Instructional Use | Tips | Shortcomings | Potential Technology | Resources

Reflective writing encourages students to dive into reflective thinking and explore the process of their own learning in any situation as well as engage them in reflexivity on the way they are able to approach a task, take the challenges, overcome hurdles, and recognize their strength and weaknesses. Reflections are a great way to encourage students to understand their own learning process and progress.
Reflective thinking involves:

  • Looking back at the instructional material, which can be an idea, task, event, assignment, or project.
  • Dissecting and analyzing the instructional material and the process of one’s learning while tackling the task.
  • Thinking what the instructional material meant, or has come to mean to the self through the process of carrying out the task.




Reflective writings can be assigned as part of any activity, individually based or collaborative, or they can stand alone as a reflective writing assignment such as a reading analysis.

Most reflective assignments entail the following criteria:

  • Description of the specific task/event/project and what is being investigated or reflected on?
  • Interpretation of the important and interesting, or useful aspect of the task/event/ project. How did you tackle the task? What was the process of your thinking? How can it be explained practically and/or with theory? How different or similar is your thinking to others?
  • Outcome: what did you learn about yourself? About the project? About the process of your learning and thinking? And what does this mean for your future?
  • Application to practical life situations. How relative is this to your current life? How do you think this can apply to your current and/or future life and professional activities?

  • It is important to clarify what kind of reflection you expect the students to write: freeform, structures, assignment specific, etc.
    • Freeform/ informal reflections are informal writings in which students freely express their ideas and reflect on an issue, event, assignment, personal progress, etc. whether it is academic project or personally related. These types of reflections leave the student to explore their ideas in any direction and in as much depth as they like. Freeform reflections are great ways to allow student self-expression and exploration of ideas.

    • Structured/formal reflections are writings that are based on some sort of guidelines that specify what is needed in the reflection. Though guided in terms of criteria, these writings are also great in promoting reflexivity and encourage students to guide deeper in their reflections and concentrate on exploring certain aspects of the instructional material.

  • It is important to encourage students in writing reflections and in diving deeper into reflexivity and critical thinking. The following are some of the ways this can be done:
    • Positive and probing instructor feedbacks that encourage students to explore certain issues further or propose other avenues to broaden perspectives.
    • Positive and probing peer feedback through discussion of reflections or through peer reviews and comparison of experiences by sharing and commenting on each other’s reflections.
    • Follow-up reflections on previous reflections are a great way to encourage students to examine their own process and progress of thinking and working.

  • At times, freeform reflections may be vague and lack depth and reflexivity in the individual’s role and process of engagement in the assignment.

    In order to avoid this, it is best to let students know the purpose of each reflective assignment and the criteria for each reflection. Freeform reflections also have a certain objective and without knowing those objectives clearly, students can get lost in expressing their general views instead of being specific


Potential technologies/ resources:

Even though students could use any word processor to write their reflections, a recommended alternative is the use of a Blog system.

Blogs are web-based systems that allow anyone to write about practically anything. Most blog systems provide the feature of posting comments which might promote social interaction among students.

Oncourse has its own Blog tool but it's still in beta. Free popular blog platforms include: Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr. (Links are provided under the "Resources" section.)