Reflective Practice

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Significant research has been central to the development of best practices in reflection. We list these pieces immediately below and offer article abstracts farther down the page. Every effort is made to list the abstracts in the same order as the pieces are listed above (generally by most recent publication). The list developed here is listed chronologically in reverse-order, to show the conceptual development and research foundation in this growing field. We kindly request that any individuals interested in adding to this wiki do so by following the guidelines we have established.

Peer-Reviewed Articles:



Dissertations, Theses, and Other Works:

Articles in Major Newspapers and Periodicals:


Article Abstracts: 

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

Applied learning pedagogies—including service-learning, internships/practica, study abroad, and undergraduate research—have in common both the potential for significant student learning and the challenges of facilitating and assessing that learning, often in non-traditional ways that involve experiential strategies outside the classroom as well as individualized outcomes. Critical reflection oriented toward well-articulated learning outcomes is key to generating, deepening, and documenting student learning in applied learning. This article will consider the meaning of critical reflection and principles of good practice for designing it effectively and will present a research-grounded, flexible model for integrating critical reflection and assessment.

Pagano, M., & Roselle, L. (2009). Beyond Reflection: Refraction and International Experiential EducationFrontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad. 18, 217-229.

Students today are becoming more interested in international opportunities for study, and are drawn to alternative programs such as international service learning and international internships. These programs, however, must be carefully designed. In this paper we have proposed using tools that go beyond our traditional understanding of reflection, in order to deepen the academic linkages to experience through reflection that leads to refraction. We introduce “refraction” as the transformative learning process that helps students understand and identify the intermediate processes of learning that aid the development of critical thinking skills. Refraction centers learning by integrating and elaborating the experience, the academic subject matter, and the context by examining assumptions and biases. Academic validation occurs only once we establish adequate tools to measure learning outcomes that are tied to the goals for a course. We believe that both purposeful design and the assessment of student work for reflection, critical thinking, and refraction moves us forward to the achievement of course objectives and learning goals within the international context.

Williams, T. R. (2009). The Reflective Model of Intercultural Competency: A Multidimensional, Qualitative Approach to Study Abroad AssessmentFrontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad. 18, 289-306.

This research demonstrates how an intentional approach to student learning outcomes can help students achieve and articulate those outcomes. Qualitative data can be collected from both student evaluations and other sources, such as photo contests, in order to measure how students are achieving the outcomes.While the idea of reading open-ended answers to five questions of hundreds of surveys each year can seem daunting, it is in fact an invigorating experience. For study abroad administrators who are not able to be on site while students are learning, the opportunity to read about their experiences and see their transformation provides a great deal of satisfaction. Most importantly, this approach also provides the students with a valuable tool for framing their experiences in their own mind, and for future discussion with parents, employers, and friends. The Reflective Model of Intercultural Competence uses multidimensional open-ended questions to gather data about student learning and to encourage student reflection. Future uses of the model could include comparisons of results between program types, program lengths, and program locations, as well as longitudinal studies. Encouraging students to reflect on their experiences abroad and to articulate their own outcomes, shows that students gain intercultural competence and the ability to articulate it, through specific instances and examples. By giving students multiple methods for reflection, this model provides opportunities for students with different learning styles to reflect on and articulate their experiences from studying abroad. Such a model provides an innovative and significant approach to outcome assessment for study abroad.

Correia, M. G., & Bleicher, R.E. (2008). Making connections to teach reflection. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. 14(2), 41-49.

Approaching reflection from the perspective of a teachable skill set implies that research may inform how to help students reflect. Employing a framework of making connections often used in reading comprehension, this study aimed to characterize how making connections between the service-learning experience (SLE) and prior experiences in similar settings, personal life experiences, and knowledge gained in the world, helped students make better sense of their SLE. We also discovered that particular words and phrases—reflection markers—are useful in teaching students how to write reflections. The study concludes with practical suggestions for service-learning instructors to facilitate quality student reflections.

Felten, P., Gilchrist, L. Z., & Darby, A. (2006). Emotion and learning: Feeling our way toward a new theory of reflection in service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 12(2), 38-46.

Service-learning researchers and practitioners agree that reflection is the essential link between community experience and academic learning: “reflection is the hyphen in service-learning” (Eyler, 2001, p. 35). The theoretical and pedagogical foundations for service-learning reflection pay scant attention to the emotional content and context of student service experience or to the positive role emotion may play in helping students connect experience with academic study. This neglect needs to end. Recent research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience reveals emotion’s central role throughout the thinking and learning process. We explore how inattention to emotion has molded service-learning research and practice, and then suggest ways to reorient an approach to reflection to acknowledge the continuous interplay between the intellectual and the emotional throughout the reflective learning process.

Ash, S. L., Clayton, P. H., Atkinson, M. P. (2005). Integrating Reflection and Assessment to Capture and Improve Student Learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 11(2), 49-60.

Intentionally linking the assessment of student learning outcomes of service-learning with reflection allows each to inform and reinforce the other. This paper traces the evolution of a strategy that uses reflection products as data sources to assess and improve both individual student learning and program-wide approaches to reflection. Two tools were developed to guide the process of reflective writing in two courses. Associated rubrics were used to evaluate the quality of thinking demonstrated in the written reflection. Results suggest that these tools can improve students’ higher order reasoning abilities and critical thinking skills relative to academic enhancement,civic engagement,and personal growth,and as a result,can improve the overall quality of their thinking and learning. However,this assessment has also surfaced the need for further improvement, particularly with respect to academic learning outcomes.

Hatcher, J. A., Bringle, R. G., & Muthiah, R. (2004). Designing effective reflection: What matters to service-learningMichigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 11(1), 38-46.

A multi-campus research survey of undergraduate students enrolled in service-learning courses asked students to describe how the service-learning course was designed in terms of the degree of integration of the learning and service component,the nature of the reflection activities,and the quality of the learning experience. Results indicated that the degree of integration of academic content with the service experience and the nature of the reflection activities were significant correlates of course quality. Three characteristics of reflection that each independently predicted course quality were (a) reflection activities that clarified personal values, (b) reflection activities that were a regular part of the course, and (c) reflection activities that were structured with clear guidelines and directions. Implications for service-learning educators are discussed.

Kiely, R. (2004). A chameleon with a complex: Searching for transformation in international service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 10(2)5–20.

This article reports findings from a longitudinal case study investigating how students experience perspective transformation from their participation in international service-learning program with an explicit social justice orientation. Findings indicate that each student experienced profound changes in their world-view in at least one of six dimensions: political, moral, intellectual, personal, spiritual, and cultural. Importantly, the study found that students who initially expressed a willingness to change their lifestyle and work for social justice experienced ongoing conflict and struggle in their attempts to translate their critical awareness into meaningful action.

Waldbaum, R. (2003). International service learning and student values: Seeking higher ground. Retrieved September 7, 2007, from

Discovering ourselves in the reflective gaze of the other requires the construction of a number of carefully crafted mechanisms that enhance self-awareness and develop humane values and ethical behavior. It also requires a learning environment that is conducive to the discovery of the self and the other. Moreover, the gaze of the other by which we seek to define ourselves is reflective of the extent to which we are able and willing to tolerate and embrace diversity.

This paper explores these issues and suggests that institutions of higher education play a critical role in the development of educational means for looking both inward and outward in the promotion of the values that facilitate positive social change. The growing field of international service learning, which combines academic study and volunteer service abroad, provides the lens by which to examine the issues. The establishment of the University of Denver/University of Bologna International Center for Civic Engagement, housed at the University of Bologna, Italy, serves as an example of the contribution of American universities to service-learning and civic engagement in an international setting with the two partner universities envisioning the Center as a site for the coordination of community problem-solving activities which build humanitarian values. The underlying mission of the DU/Bologna Center is based on the fundamental principle that service learning contributes to moral development, to the promotion of values and a service ethic, and to the appreciation and acceptance of diversity. Placing students into carefully selected and planned environments that promote ethical and character development while serving a community need diverts emphasis away from the self to the other. This form of education abroad challenges traditional and lingering notions of study abroad as the modern counterpart of the Grand Tour in which immersing oneself in a different culture was considered de riguer for self-enrichment and for gaining the trappings of cultural literacy. Insights gleaned from this initiative suggest that education abroad with a service-learning component builds humanitarian values and affects students propensity for engaged world citizenship, civic commitment and social responsibility.

Eyler, J., Giles, D. E. Jr., Stenson, C. M., & Gray, C. J. (2001). At a glance: What we know about the effects of service-learning on college students, faculty, institutions and communities, 1993-2000. Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN.

Summarizes findings of service-learning research in higher education from 1993-2000, including an annotated bibliography. Part one describes the effects of service-learning; there are citations for personal, social, learning, and career development outcomes for student. Part two includes citations about the effect of program design on students (e.g., reflection, duration). Part three cites literature on impact of service-learning on faculty. Part four cites literature on impacts on universities. Part five cites literature on community impact. A section of graphs illustrates the kinds of populations, study measures, and outcome measures that were used in the cited literature.

Mills, S. D. (2001). Electronic journaling: Using the web-based, group journal for service-learning reflection. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 8(1), 27-35.

Student journaling is a fundamental reflective activity in many service-learning classrooms. This paper introduces the Web-based, interactive group journal as a potent, highly efficient, and research-based alternative to traditional, privately-kept journals. This journaling alternative is described in detail as it has been used in the last four semesters of an undergraduate service-learning course,and instructor and student assessments of this approach are presented.

Ziegahn, L. (2001). Reflection and transformation in the intercultural context. Proceedings of the Adult Education Research Conference. 

Abstract: The context of this qualitative study of the ways in which students approach new learning around culture and social justice is an online course devoted to the study of inclusive community building. Results suggest both nonreflective and reflective orientations as students attempted to integrate new theories into their present and past intercultural experiences.

Glesne, C. (1997). That rare feeling: Re-presenting research through poetic transcriptionQualitative Inquiry, 3(2), 202-221.

This article explores an experimental form of writing that I’m terming poetic transcription. Inspired by Laurel Richardson (1992, 1994a, 1994b), I define poetic transcription as the creation of poemlike compositions from the words of interviewees. In this article, I present six poetic transcriptions of Dona Juana, an elderly Puerto Rican researcher and educator; describe my poetic transcription process; and examine issues that experimental writing—specifically, poetic transcription—raises for research re-presentation.

Brookfield, S. (1995). Adult learning: An overview. In A. Tuinjman (Ed.). International Encyclopedia of Education. Oxford, Pergamon Press.

Adult learning is frequently spoken of by adult educators as if it were a discretely separate domain, having little connection to learning in childhood or adolescence. This chapter will examine critically this claim by exploring four major research areas (self-directed learning, critical reflection, experiential learning and learning to learn) each of which have been proposed as representing unique and exclusive adult learning processes.

Brookfield, S. (1994). Tales from the dark side: A phenomenology of adult critical reflection. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 13 (3), 203-216.

Encouraging adults to undertake critical reflection is one of the most frequently espoused aims of graduate programmes of adult education. A considerable body of adult educational literature has been produced in this area, most of it focusing on conceptual analysis or on debate reflecting the strains between progressive, humanistic and liberal interpretations of these processes and radical, critical, socialist interpretations. Missing from the debate surrounding critical reflection as an adult capacity has been attention to the way adults feel their way through critically reflective episodes ‐ to understanding the visceral, emotive dimensions of this process. This paper uses Marton’s concept of phenomenography ‐ the exploration and portrayal of how learners experience and interpret learning ‐ to outline a phenomenography of critical reflection as it pertains to one group of adults who happen to be adult educators. Five themes emerge from journals, conversations and autobiographies: impostorship (the sense that participating incritical thought is an act of bad faith), cultural suicide (the recognition that challenging conventional assumptions risks cutting people off from the cultures that have defined and sustained them up to that point in their lives), lost innocence (the move from dualistic certainty toward dialectical and multiplistic modes of reasoning), roadrunning (the incrementally fluctuating flirtation with new modes of thought and being) and community (the importance of a sustaining support group to those in critical process). The paper elaborates these themes and describes how developmental activities for adult educators in criticalprocess can be grounded in participation in critical conversations within learning communities.

Clark, C., & Wilson, A. L. (1991). Context and Rationality in Mezirow’s Theory of Perspective TransformationAdult Education Quarterly, 40, 75-81.

Transformational learning is fundamentally concerned with construing meaning from experience as a guide to action. In his theory of perspective transformation, Mezirow presents a significant conceptualization of that process, but it is flawed in one major aspect: It fails to account for context. We examine the absence of context in the theory itself, then focus on the decontextualized form of rationality that underlies the process of critical reflection central to perspective transformation. Finally, we propose a contextualized view of rationality which maintains the essential link between meaning and experience.

Book Summaries: 

Brookfield, S. (2004). The power of critical theory: Liberating adult learning and teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

The Power of Critical Theory is Brookfield’s attempt to put the “critical” back into critical thinking by emphasizing that it is an inherently political process. The book presents powerful arguments for the importance of critical theory in fostering the kind of learning that leads to a truly democratic society, and it explores a number of tasks for adult learners including learning to challenge ideology, contest hegemony, unmask power, overcome alienation, learn liberation, reclaim reason, and practice democracy.

Carson, J. S., Burn, B. B., Useem, J., & Yachimowicz, D. (1990). Study abroad: The experience of American undergraduates. New York: Greenwood Press.

While it is assumed that American undergraduates who study abroad derive unique benefits from the experience, until now its actual impact has not been assessed. This book, which presents the findings of a long-term evaluation project, provides the kind of systematic and comprehensive data needed to document and give future guidance to programs of study abroad. Using comparative measures, the authors examine the effects of overseas study in terms of education, career, personal satisfaction, and cultural values.

Undergraduates in four U.S. college and university programs involving nearly thirty European institutions were chosen for the study. The focus of the research is the role of study abroad in students’ acquisition of foreign language proficiency, knowledge of and concern for foreign cultures and international issues, attitudes toward their home country and its values, and career objectives and accomplishments. Student profiles indicate consistent patterns in motivation, achievement, and satisfaction that relate to the experience abroad. In their conclusion, the authors look at the implications of their findings in the context of our times and society and offer suggestions for some new directions for study abroad in the coming years. This analysis will be relevant for educational decision-makers, funding organizations, government, and the research community.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

First published in Portuguese in 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated and published in English in 1970. The methodology of the late Paulo Freire has helped to empower countless impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Freire’s work has taken on especial urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm. With a substantive new introduction on Freire’s life and the remarkable impact of this book by writer and Freire confidant and authority Donaldo Macedo, this anniversary edition of Pedagogy of the Oppressed will inspire a new generation of educators, students, and general readers for years to come.

Chapter Summaries:

Brookfield, S. (2000a) The concept of critically reflective practice. In A. Wilson, & B. Hayes (Eds.), Handbook of adult and continuing education (pp. 33-50).  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

For nearly seventy years, the handbooks of adult and continuing education have been definitive references on the best practices, programs, and institutions in the field. In this new edition, over sixty leading authorities share their diverse perspectives in a single volume–exploring a wealth of topics, including: learning from experience, adult learning for self-development, race and culture in adult learning, technology and distance learning, learning in the workplace, adult education for community action and development, and much more. Much more than a catalogue of theory and historical facts, this handbook strongly reflects the values of adult educators and instructors who are dedicated to promoting social and educational opportunity for learners and to sustaining fair and ethical practices.

Brookfield, S.  (2000b). Transformative learning as ideology critique.  In Mezirow & Associates, Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress (pp. 125-148).  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

This volume continues the landmark work begun by Jack Mezirow over twenty years ago–revealing the impact of transformative learning on the theory and practice of adult education. Top scholars and practitioners review the core principles of transformation theory, analyze the process of transformative learning, describe different types of learning and learners, suggest key conditions for socially responsible learning, explore group and organizational learning, and present revelations from the latest research. They also share real-world examples drawn from their own experiences and assess the evolution of transformative learning in practice and philosophy. Learning as Transformation presents an intimate portrait of a powerful learning concept and invites educators, researchers, and scholars to consider the implications of transformative learning in their own professional work.