Reflective learning develops students’ critical thinking skills by analysing experiences to improve future performance.

Reflection has a rich history in education, striving for greater depth of learning through analysing events, activities or learning experiences. Benefits of reflective practice include greater student ownership of subject knowledge, improved meta-cognition, and more thorough comprehension of complex subject content.

While deep reflection is often the goal, this is unlikely to be achieved without planning and guidance for the students. Similarly, assessing student reflection can be difficult. How do I judge that you have effectively reflected when reflection is an inherently personal activity?

We recommend the following resources to provide some help in designing and assessing reflective tasks.

Best practice

There is a range of approaches to support reflective practice. You can use these models as the basis for activities and assessments that support reflection. In planning for reflective learning, adopt a model that is meaningful for you and your students.

SEAL for self-reflection

As a component of the UQ Employability Award, students must reflect upon their community engagement experiences. Consequently, the UQ Employability Office has adapted the SEAL framework for teaching and assessing reflection. SEAL is about the learning process that enables you to determine what you got out of an experience and what you can now do as a result.

S (Situation) What happened during the event, incident, activity or task?
E (Effect) What was the new experience you had to deal with, or challenges you faced, what impact did they have on you?
A (Action) What action did you take, or strategies did you use to deal with the challenges? Why did you choose to take the action you took?
L (Learning) What did you learn from it? What can you now do as a result? How would you handle a similar situation again in the future? Has this experience added to your development?

Five (5) Rs of reflective practice

Developed by Bain et al (2002), the 5 Rs of reflection provides a tiered student reflection hierarchy.

  • Students factually report the events or activities.
  • Students should describe in detail the events or activities as they occurred.
  • Students respond to the events or activities.
  • Students should form an opinion or emotional response.
  • Students relate the events or activities to their studies and prior knowledge.
  • Students may start to plan for future engagements, identifying resources, contacts and strategies.
  • Students use reasoning to engage with broader issues beyond the specific events.
  • Students may situate their experience within current debates or areas of exploration in the literature.
  • Students should reconstruct their thinking and practice.
  • Students may identify future best practices, show new ways of exploring the issues or identify new questions that have arisen from their experiences.

If you are interested in using the 5Rs of reflection as a model of reflection, consider using this reflection rubric to assess reflective practice.

Not satisfactory

The statement does not show evidence of reflection. This may involve simply reporting what happened or nominating key issues without presenting a personal response.

Below expectations

The statement reports what happened and/or what the key issues are. The statement responds to these by making observations, expressing opinions and/or asking questions.


The statement reports what happened and/or what the key issues are and provides personal responses to these. The statement relates these events and responses to the student’s existing skills, professional experience or discipline knowledge.

Above expectations

The statement reports and responds to key events and issues, relating this to their developing practice. The statement shows evidence of analysis and reasoning, making links to theory and literature where appropriate to demonstrate awareness of the broader academic/ professional context.


The statement reports and responds to key events and issues, relating this to their developing practice and the broader academic/professional context. The statement reframes or reconstructs the reflective statements to show potential impact on future practice or professional understanding.

Source: adapted from Ryan, M. (2013). The pedagogical balancing act: teaching reflection in higher education, Teaching in Higher Education, 18(2), 144-155 and Bain, J., Ballantyne, R., Mills, C. & Lester, N. (2002). Reflecting on practice: Student teachers’ perspectives. Flaxton: Post Pressed.

Top of page

Learning activities


Tutorial activity

Get your students thinking about their learning with a one-page reflection activity. Students will answer guided prompts to sketch their reflections (e.g. One-minute papers).

Ask students to think about the project/assignment/semester as a whole and break down any barriers that impacted their learning. Students who self-assess their productivity and methods for completing work can apply these skills to understand themselves as a learner better.

Bricolage (i.e. do what you can with what you have)

Students use everyday objects and materials (e.g. magazines, web-based images or memes shared to a PadletUQ or Zoom whiteboard) to devise and construct their thoughts and understanding. Engaging students with alternate ways to express ideas can help stimulate reflection and overcome the hesitancy some students have in reflecting on their experiences.


Reflection vlog (Video log)

Ask students to reflect on their understanding of the threshold concept through video. This approach can be particularly powerful for students on placement where the video reflections enable students to communicate about and reflect on their experiences quickly. Students vlog can be submitted through Blackboard assignment or ePortfolio.


ePortfolios provide an online space for students to collate, create and populate ideas, to think and understand experiences, artefacts and reflections. Instructors can structure learning with templates and reflective scaffolds. Portfolios can provide a model for ongoing professional development through reflection and documentation of experiences.

Top of page

Technology considerations

Centrally-supported tools

Blackboard journals

Journals can include links to resources, multimedia and text. It can only be viewed and commented on by teaching staff, and not by other students in the course.


An ePortfolio is an evolving online resource that acts to record, store and archive the artefacts of learning and reflection for an individual learner. Students can include text, multimedia, images or links as part of their reflection.


PadletUQ be used as an in-class active learning tool to gain immediate feedback from students, facilitate discussion, or as an online activity to check students' understanding of content and identify student misconceptions.

Other tools

  • Voice thread
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook.
Top of page

Case studies

Case study 1 – Creative genre writing with reflection

Dr Josephine Robertson

Students are assessed on their ability to reflect critically upon their writing process, organise their reflections into a coherent, logical and developmental structure, construct paragraphs that support and promote this logical development and write in a way that gives insight into their personal approach.

Read more

Case study 2 – Professional Poster Presentation on Employability

Dr Jan Ferguson

An internship, reflective activities and two reflective assessments scaffolded students to create posters evidencing their employability, graduate attributes and unique personal brand developed in workplace projects.

Read more
Case study 3 – Student video and written reflections

Associate Professor Peter Cabot

The benefits of using the UQ ePortfolio system to assess written and video reflections within the Master of Pharmaceutical Industry Practice placement courses.

Watch video (YouTube, 3m 22s)

View more case studies (UQ Assessment Ideas Factory)

Top of page

Reference and further reading

Session 2: Reflective thinking, reflective learning and academic writing (The Open University)

Bain, J., Ballantyne, R., Mills, C. & Lester, N. (2002) Reflecting on Practice: Student teachers’ perspectives. Flaxton, QLD: Post Pressed

Ryan, M. (2013). The pedagogical balancing act: teaching reflection in higher education, Teaching in Higher Education, 18(2), 144-155 and Bain, J., Ballantyne, R., Mills, C. & Lester, N. (2002). Reflecting on practice: Student teachers’ perspectives. Flaxton: Post Pressed

Online employability course, Employ101X MOOC.

Top of page

Community of Practice

To discuss ideas around reflective learning activities and other active learning methodologies, consider joining the Blended and Active Learning Innovation Community of Practice (BALI CoP).

Need help?

ITaLI offers personalised support services across various areas including reflective learning.