Reflection is an essential component of process by which students learn through experience.

“Reflection is a key component of students’ experiential learning.

Defined as a cognitive process which requires active engagement on the part of the individual, reflection involves examining one’s responses, beliefs, and premises in light of the situation at hand.

The intention of reflection is to integrate new understanding into one’s experience.” (Rogers, 2001)

This resource includes information on:

  • The D.E.A.L. Model for Critical Reflection and the What? So what? Now what? reflection framework.
  • Examples of activities that can be used to facilitate reflection on student experience.
  • Frameworks for assessing the quality of students’ reflection.

Conditions of High-Quality Reflection

Scholars have outlined several important aspects of the reflective process that should be attended to if students are to achieve high-quality reflections:

  • Reflection should be connected to learning outcomes (Beard & Wilson, 2013).
  • Reflection should be continuous (Eyler et al., 1996).
  • Reflection activities should draw on personal experience as well as be situated within the broader community (Eyler et al., 1996).
  • Reflection activities should be guided by a deliberate connection between theory and practice (Bringle & Hatcher, 1999; Eyler et al., 1996).
  • Reflection should involve personal changes to the learner and emphasize consistently setting new goals (Zlotkowski & Clayton, 2005).
  • Learning is strengthened when activities emphasize inductive (e.g., experience followed by academic learning) and deductive (e.g., academic learning followed by experience) reflections (Rogers, 2001).

Types of Reflection

Distinguished based on the timing of the reflection, depth of the reflection, and the motivation behind the reflection, various types of reflection have been defined.

A combination of reflection types is recommended for optimal student learning. Please view the image below for an overview of the different types of reflection.


Reflection Defined

Popular reflection processes applied to students’ higher education learning experiences include the D.E.A.L. Model for Critical Reflection and the What? So what? Now what? reflection frameworks.

These frameworks can are useful in facilitating student reflection and provide tangible reflection questions that can be applied to student reflection activities.

Reflection Frameworks

The D.E.A.L. Model for Critical Reflection

  • Description of experiences in an objective and detailed manner.
  • Examination of those experiences in light of specific learning goals or objectives.
  • Articulation of learning, including goals for future action that can then be taken forward into the next experience for improved practice and further refinement of learning.

(Ash, & Clayton, 2004)

Please join Professor Tracey Bowen in the video below as she discusses the D.E.A.L. Model for Critical Reflection. Professor Bowen describes how students can use this framework to systematically ask themselves a series of questions to reflect upon their experiential learning experience, rather than asking them to reflect upon their experience in an unstructured manner.

Professor Tracey Bowen, Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology, University of Toronto Mississauga

Kuh’s Reflection Questions for High-Impact Student Learning

(Kuh, 2008)


There is no one way to engage students in the process of critical reflection.

In order to support reflection engagement, it is important to ensure variation in reflection activities.

Be creative and develop new activities for student reflection! Be creative and develop new activities for student reflection!

(Volpe White, 2015).

Listen below as Linzi Manicom and Atifa Karim each describe how to embed critical reflection components into experiential learning opportunities, as well as its benefits to students.

Linzi Manicom, PhD, Community Engaged Learning Coordinator, New College, University of Toronto

Atifa Karim, Lead Coordinator, Career Education, Career Exploration & Education, Division of Student Life

Below are some possible types of reflection activities you can incorporate in your experiences to support student learning. Be creative and develop new activities for student reflection.

(Volpe White, 2015)



Two Frameworks to Assess Reflection Quality

Below you will find two methods to assess reflection quality.

Critical Thinking Standards:

  • Integration – Experience related to learning.
  • Clarity – Expand on ideas and provide examples.
  • Accuracy – Facts correct and supported with examples.
  • Precision – Specific information.
  • Relevance – Relevant to central idea.
  • Depth – Reasoning beyond conclusions.
  • Breadth – Consider other points of views of other forms of interpretation.
  • Logic – Makes sense.
  • Significance – Addresses major issue raised by reflection.
  • Fairness – No bias or distortion in reflection.

(Ash & Clayton, 2009)

Reflection Evaluation for Learners’ Enhanced Competencies Tool (The REFLECT Rubric):

This tool assess the five main criteria (y-axis in the figure below):

  • Writing spectrum.
  • Presence.
  • Description of conflict or disorienting dilemma.
  • Attending to emotions.
  • Analysis and meaning making.

Across the six levels (x-axis in the figure below):

  • Habitual action (non-reflection).
  • Thoughtful action or introspection.
  • Reflection.
  • Critical reflection.
  • Transformative reflection and learning.
  • Confirmatory learning.

(Wald, Borkan, Taylor, Anthony, & Reis, 2012)

Other Reflection Assessment Frameworks:

  • Reflective Judgment Model (King et al., 1994).
  • Boenink et al.’s (2004) Instrument.
  • Kember et al.’s (2008) Questionnaire.
  • Hatton & Smith’s (1995) Levels of Reflection.
  • Wong et al.’s (1995) Coding Scheme.
  • There are various types of reflection including reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action.
  • The D.E.A.L. Model for Critical Reflection includes: describing, examining and articulating learning.
  • A variety of activities can be used to facilitate reflection.
  • A popular framework for assessing reflection is the REFLECT Rubric.


Ash, S. L., & Clayton, P. H. (2004). The articulated learning: an approach to reflection and assessment. Innovative Higher Education, 29(2), 137-154.

Ash, S. L., & Clayton, P. H. (2009). Generating, deepening, and documenting learning: The power of critical reflection in applied learning. Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education, 1, 25 – 48.

Beard, C., & Wilson, J. P. (2013). Experiential Learning: A Handbook for Education, Training and Coaching (3rd ed.). London, UK: Kogan Page Publishers.

Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1999). Reflection in Service-Learning: Making Meaning of Experience. Educational Horizons, 7(4), 179-185. Retrieved from

Eyler, J., Giles, D. E., & Schmiede, A. (1996). A Practitioner’s Guide to Reflection in Service-Learning. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University

Kember, D., McKay, J., Sinclair, K., & Wong, F. K. Y. (2008). A four-category scheme for coding and assessing the level of reflection in written work. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(4), 369-379.

King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kuh, G. D. (2008). Excerpt from High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access To Them, and Why They Matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Rogers, R. R. (2001). Reflection in Higher Education: A Concept Analysis. Innovative Higher Education, 26(1), 37-57.

Stirling, A., Kerr, G., Banwell, J., MacPherson, E., & Heron, A. (2016). A Practical Guide for Work-integrated Learning. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. Retrieved from

Volpe White, J. (2015). Reflection Handbook. The Center for Leadership & Civic Education, Florida State University. Retrieved from

Wald, H. S., Borkan, J. M., Taylor, J. S., Anthony, D., & Reis, S. P. (2012). Fostering and evaluating reflective capacity in medical education: developing the REFLECT rubric for assessing reflective writing. Academic Medicine, 87(1), 41-50.

Wong, K., Kember, D., Chung, L., & Yan, L. (1995). Assessing the level of student reflection from reflective journals. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 22, 48-57.

Zlotkowski, E., & Clayton, P. (2005, April). Reclaiming Reflection. Paper presented at the meeting of the Gulf South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, Cocoa Beach, FL.


These modules are grounded in A Practical Guide for Work-integrated Learning, funded by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO).

Contact the author:

Dr. Ashley Stirling
University of Toronto


A Powerpoint version of the content provided in each resource section is available for individuals wishing to use this material for local professional development programming.

The resource is licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License” using the following citation:

Stirling, A. (2019). Reflection. Presented at the Experiential Learning Hub. Retrieved from