1. The reflection cycle
    1. Record:
    2. Reflect:
    3. Analyze:
    4. Action:
  2. Types of reflections

“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” -Anais Nin

Reflective writing is another essential component of active learning, which focuses on the process of learning itself.

  • Substantive writing, like essays or term papers, which focus on the topic of discussion or the subject of the course and present an organized argument on learner’s perspective on that topic allowing for a deeper understanding on the concepts and ideas
  • Reflective writing explores the learning process and attempts to unravel the importance of the learning experience and allows for monitoring the progress of meaning making processes, analyzing the personal value of the experience and considers options for future learning potential. The value of reflective writing lays on the construct of acquiring personal awareness on the process of creating meaning and self-consciousness in regards to learning.

The reflection cycle

Reflective portfolios can be used as fundamental methods to monitor students’ progress over a period of time. John Dewey (1910) argues that reflective engagement can be very powerful for learning, since it is an “active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed from of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it , and the further conclusions to which it tends”. Students who engage in reflective writing consciously inquire about the origins, the conditions and the context of the issue at hand. Therefore, in every reflective engagement, students may be in an state of “perplexity, hesitation, doubt”, which then leads them to  directly investigate and unravel the facts and factors of the challenge they encounter. There are four stages through which progress can be captured. The image below illustrates these stages:

Image: The Reflection Cycle – Study & Learning Centre, RMIT University


Some of the prompts and questions that can be used to help students reflect at this stage are:

  • Describe the incident, concept, issue, course, context
  • What happened? Who was involved and in what ways?


  • What are your thoughts in regards to the way you reacted, addressed or thought about the incident?
  • How did you feel?
  • What are the pros and cons of the situation?
  • What was learned from the situation?


  • How would you explain the reasons behind the situation?
  • How could you integrate theory to explain concepts and ideas?
  • How can you provide evidence of your learning awareness and progress of thinking?


  • How do the situation and the conclusions you generated inform your future decisions, actions, thinking processes?
  • What is your action plan on how to address such incidents?

Types of reflections

There are several different types of reflections that students can engage in during class time. For example, students can complete one-minute papers that can serve as a quick reflection on what they have learned. Moreover, students can use double entry journals, learning logs, and learning portfolios. Click here for more information on different types of reflections, as well as tips and ideas regarding how to use reflective journals in your course!