Integrative Learning: Use of Pre-flection/Reflection

Students and instructor gathered around a computer in a chemistry lab
 Archeology dig with several studies working different parts of the site.
 A student in another country with a baby elephant.  Elephant has trunk draped over student's neck.
 Two students using a large tube to draw water from an artificial test pool.
 Instructor and several students measuring diameter of small tree in the forest.
 Student holding bird with several other students looking on.  Instructor showing student how to band leg.
 Instructor and two students wearing  protective gear and looking at paperwork in a lab.
 Grad student holding large species of cockroach native to South America.
 Students sitting outside in a circle, one with drum.
 Four students sitting outside Armstrong Center at a cafe table discussing a group project.
 Botany class outside, gathered around a tree and doing an identification exercise.
 Group of students sitting outside painting pottery bowls.

Critical Reflection

"Critical reflection is the process of analyzing, reconsidering and questioning one's experience within a broad context of Issues and content knowledge."

Jacoby, 2012

What critical reflection is not:

  • A didactic retelling of what happened
  • A time for soap boxing
  • A neat and tidy exercise that closes an experience
  • An emotional outlet for feeling good or for not feeling guilty

Benefits of critical reflection:

  • Provides an opportunity to establish expectation
  • Gives meaning to the learning experience
  • Relieves tension and provides renewal
  • Can create a sense of accomplishment
  • Can improve future performance


"Preflection" is a strategy designed as a tool to enhance and enrich the reflection process. It is actually a reflective session that is held prior to the service experience. Students are encouraged to imagine what the experience will be like and to express any feelings they might have as they anticipate their involvement. Comments are recorded and are reviewed with the students after the service has been completed. Being able to look back on their pre-service thoughts and feelings and compare and contrast them to the reality of the actual experience has the effect of promoting and focusing discussion and deepening insights into the relevance of the service for all participants. (Falk, 1995)

Design Considerations

Example 1: Considerations for Designing Your Pre-reflection Strategy

Below are some suggestions for incorporating pre-reflection.

  • Distribute pre-reflection statements about the experience/program and have students review and discuss them in small groups. Have each group record there reactions.
  • Ask students to write a paragraph about what they hope to experience before the program or event.
  • Ask students to create a collage of how they expect to be changed or impacted by the program or experience

Example 2: Considerations for Designing Your Reflection Strategy (Jacoby, 2015)

What learning outcomes do you want students to achieve through reflection?

  • When and how often will reflection occur? Will it be at regular intervals, for example, weekly or biweekly?
  • Will students reflect iteratively so that reflection becomes a habit and builds on itself over the course of the semester?
  • Where will reflection occur? Inside or outside the classroom? At the service site? In the van on the way back to campus?
  • Who will facilitate reflection? The faculty member? The staff advisor? Trained student leaders? Community organization staff?
  • Who will participate in reflection? Will the faculty member join in? Community organization staff or clients
  • Through what medium or mediums will reflection occur? Speaking, writing, activities, media?
  • Will students reflect individually, in small groups, as a group of the whole? Through a combination of these
  • What prompts will guide reflection?
  • How will you know whether students achieve your desired learning outcomes?