Reflective Teaching for Learning


Extract from Issue#32 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link

How to Deepen Learning through Critical Reflection

By: Dr Barbara Jacoby

Source: (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 reflectionis 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. []

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