Reflection Centre of Excellence

What is Reflection?

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as you might think! Reflections have been studied for decades, but as of now, there is no single definition of reflection that everyone can agree upon. Different papers and resources can have different interpretations of reflection and reflective practice. Despite this variety, there are still many ideas that are consistently repeated when talking about reflection. 

Reflection includes "thoughtful retrospection and judgment about experience, feelings or knowledge that provides new understanding and informs further action"

— The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (2016)

Reflections are seen as a way of learning and growing by processing existing knowledge and beliefs, analyzing experiences and practice, and using the two to learn from each other. They push people to learn from situations, successes, and mistakes, and apply that knowledge to grow personally and professionally.

Reflections can also be applied in many different contexts! You can find reflections within courses across different disciplines, experiential learning, and even as a part of professional practice.

There is no single way to reflect, but there are many ways of enhancing reflection and touching on different ideas and skills that can support learning and growth. Through the Reflection Centre of Excellence, we hope to provide you with the tools to create the reflection activities that are best suited for you and your needs.

Why is Reflection Important for Experiential Learning?

Reflections are a good way of integrating experience and practice with theory and pre-existing knowledge. This is key for experiential learning because it lets individuals understand how academic knowledge can be applied in the “real world”, and how the skills and information gained though experience can benefit academic learning. This can also help individuals to learn better overall, which will benefit them academically and professionally. 

Reflections also help with developing other skills that are important for professional and career development, such as:

  • Goal-Setting
  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication
  • Team-Building

Of course, the outcomes of reflection depend on the way reflections are structured and implemented. It is possible to adjust reflections to match the desired learning outcomes and unique needs of curricular and co-curricular experiential learning opportunities. As a result, reflections can look different for everyone!

How to Use the Reflection Centre of Excellence

The Reflection Centre of Excellence is a resource to help educators develop reflections based on the learning outcomes and unique criteria they want to address. All the information provided is based on the Literature Review of Reflections in Experiential Learning. This literature review was also used to develop our Framework for Reflection, which outlines the criteria and considerations for reflections across different course and experience levels. Please also feel free to access More Resources on Reflection, to see some additional resources and examples of reflection activities.

Some common terms you might see throughout the Reflection Centre of Excellence are defined below, based on the context of the information we will be providing. 

Term Definition
Learner The individual who will be participating in reflection
Facilitator The individual who will be learning and guiding the reflection
Reflective Practice Any reflection  work being conducted alongside experiential learning, by way of a single activity, or as embedded content throughout a course or experience

Resources Consulted

Review the Reflection in Experiential Learning literature review compiled by an EL Hub co-op student that informs the work of this reflection framework and the Reflection Centre of Excellence.

Experience Profiles

  • Andrew was a highly engaged student at the University of Guelph. He worked as student staff on campus in Athletics, Admissions and Student Experience. In addition to this, he was a student leader, engaging in the Board of Governors, Student Senate, the Central Students Association, College of Arts Student Union and other organizations.