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How to Write a Reflection Paper: An Easy-to-Follow Guide

Last Updated: May 1, 2024 Fact Checked

Sample Outline and Paper

Brainstorming, organizing a reflection paper, as you write, expert q&a.

This article was co-authored by Alicia Cook . Alicia Cook is a Professional Writer based in Newark, New Jersey. With over 12 years of experience, Alicia specializes in poetry and uses her platform to advocate for families affected by addiction and to fight for breaking the stigma against addiction and mental illness. She holds a BA in English and Journalism from Georgian Court University and an MBA from Saint Peter’s University. Alicia is a bestselling poet with Andrews McMeel Publishing and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets including the NY Post, CNN, USA Today, the HuffPost, the LA Times, American Songwriter Magazine, and Bustle. She was named by Teen Vogue as one of the 10 social media poets to know and her poetry mixtape, “Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately” was a finalist in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 3,820,856 times.

Reflection papers allow you to communicate with your instructor about how a specific article, lesson, lecture, or experience shapes your understanding of class-related material. Reflection papers are personal and subjective [1] X Research source , but they must still maintain a somewhat academic tone and must still be thoroughly and cohesively organized. Here's what you need to know about writing an effective reflection.

How to Start a Reflection Paper

To write a reflection paper, first write an introduction that outlines your expectations and thesis. Then, state your conclusions in the body paragraphs, explaining your findings with concrete details. Finally, conclude with a summary of your experience.

how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

  • These sentences should be both descriptive yet straight to the point.

Step 2 Jot down material that stands out in your mind.

  • For lectures or readings, you can write down specific quotations or summarize passages.
  • For experiences, make a note of specific portions of your experience. You could even write a small summary or story of an event that happened during the experience that stands out. Images, sounds, or other sensory portions of your experience work, as well.

Alicia Cook

  • In the first column, list the main points or key experiences. These points can include anything that the author or speaker treated with importance as well as any specific details you found to be important. Divide each point into its own separate row.
  • In the second column, list your personal response to the points you brought up in the first column. Mention how your subjective values, experiences, and beliefs influence your response.
  • In the third and last column, describe how much of your personal response to share in your reflection paper.

Step 4 Ask yourself questions to guide your response.

  • Does the reading, lecture, or experience challenge you socially, culturally, emotionally, or theologically? If so, where and how? Why does it bother you or catch your attention?
  • Has the reading, lecture, or experience changed your way of thinking? Did it conflict with beliefs you held previously, and what evidence did it provide you with in order to change your thought process on the topic?
  • Does the reading, lecture, or experience leave you with any questions? Were these questions ones you had previously or ones you developed only after finishing?
  • Did the author, speaker, or those involved in the experience fail to address any important issues? Could a certain fact or idea have dramatically changed the impact or conclusion of the reading, lecture, or experience?
  • How do the issues or ideas brought up in this reading, lecture, or experience mesh with past experiences or readings? Do the ideas contradict or support each other?

Step 1 Keep it short and sweet.

  • Verify whether or not your instructor specified a word count for the paper instead of merely following this average.
  • If your instructor demands a word count outside of this range, meet your instructor's requirements.

Step 2 Introduce your expectations.

  • For a reading or lecture, indicate what you expected based on the title, abstract, or introduction.
  • For an experience, indicate what you expected based on prior knowledge provided by similar experiences or information from others.

Step 3 Develop a thesis statement.

  • This is essentially a brief explanation of whether or not your expectations were met.
  • A thesis provides focus and cohesion for your reflection paper.
  • You could structure a reflection thesis along the following lines: “From this reading/experience, I learned...”

Step 4 Explain your conclusions in the body.

  • Your conclusions must be explained. You should provide details on how you arrived at those conclusions using logic and concrete details.
  • The focus of the paper is not a summary of the text, but you still need to draw concrete, specific details from the text or experience in order to provide context for your conclusions.
  • Write a separate paragraph for each conclusion or idea you developed.
  • Each paragraph should have its own topic sentence. This topic sentence should clearly identify your major points, conclusions, or understandings.

Step 5 Conclude with a summary.

  • The conclusions or understandings explained in your body paragraphs should support your overall conclusion. One or two may conflict, but the majority should support your final conclusion.

Step 1 Reveal information wisely.

  • If you feel uncomfortable about a personal issue that affects the conclusions you reached, it is wisest not to include personal details about it.
  • If a certain issue is unavoidable but you feel uncomfortable revealing your personal experiences or feelings regarding it, write about the issue in more general terms. Identify the issue itself and indicate concerns you have professionally or academically.

Step 2 Maintain a professional or academic tone.

  • Avoid dragging someone else down in your writing. If a particular person made the experience you are reflecting on difficult, unpleasant, or uncomfortable, you must still maintain a level of detachment as you describe that person's influence. Instead of stating something like, “Bob was such a rude jerk,” say something more along the lines of, “One man was abrupt and spoke harshly, making me feel as though I was not welcome there.” Describe the actions, not the person, and frame those actions within the context of how they influenced your conclusions.
  • A reflection paper is one of the few pieces of academic writing in which you can get away with using the first person pronoun “I.” That said, you should still relate your subjective feelings and opinions using specific evidence to explain them. [8] X Research source
  • Avoid slang and always use correct spelling and grammar. Internet abbreviations like “LOL” or “OMG” are fine to use personally among friends and family, but this is still an academic paper, so you need to treat it with the grammatical respect it deserves. Do not treat it as a personal journal entry.
  • Check and double-check your spelling and grammar after you finish your paper.

Step 3 Review your reflection paper at the sentence level.

  • Keep your sentences focused. Avoid squeezing multiple ideas into one sentence.
  • Avoid sentence fragments. Make sure that each sentence has a subject and a verb.
  • Vary your sentence length. Include both simple sentences with a single subject and verb and complex sentences with multiple clauses. Doing so makes your paper sound more conversational and natural, and prevents the writing from becoming too wooden. [9] X Research source

Step 4 Use transitions.

  • Common transitional phrases include "for example," "for instance," "as a result," "an opposite view is," and "a different perspective is."

Step 5 Relate relevant classroom information to the experience or reading.

  • For instance, if reflecting on a piece of literary criticism, you could mention how your beliefs and ideas about the literary theory addressed in the article relate to what your instructor taught you about it or how it applies to prose and poetry read in class.
  • As another example, if reflecting on a new social experience for a sociology class, you could relate that experience to specific ideas or social patterns discussed in class.

Alicia Cook

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  • ↑ https://www.csuohio.edu/writing-center/reflection-papers
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/assignments/reflectionpaper
  • ↑ Alicia Cook. Professional Writer. Expert Interview. 11 December 2020.
  • ↑ https://www.trentu.ca/academicskills/how-guides/how-write-university/how-approach-any-assignment/how-write-reflection-paper
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/thesis-statements/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/
  • ↑ https://www.anu.edu.au/students/academic-skills/writing-assessment/reflective-writing/reflective-essays
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/scholarlyvoice/sentencestructure

About This Article

Alicia Cook

To write a reflection paper, start with an introduction where you state any expectations you had for the reading, lesson, or experience you're reflecting on. At the end of your intro, include a thesis statement that explains how your views have changed. In the body of your essay, explain the conclusions you reached after the reading, lesson, or experience and discuss how you arrived at them. Finally, finish your paper with a succinct conclusion that explains what you've learned. To learn how to brainstorm for your paper, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

Guide on How to Write a Reflection Paper with Free Tips and Example

how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

A reflection paper is a very common type of paper among college students. Almost any subject you enroll in requires you to express your opinion on certain matters. In this article, we will explain how to write a reflection paper and provide examples and useful tips to make the essay writing process easier.

Reflection papers should have an academic tone yet be personal and subjective. In this paper, you should analyze and reflect upon how an experience, academic task, article, or lecture shaped your perception and thoughts on a subject.

Here is what you need to know about writing an effective critical reflection paper. Stick around until the end of our guide to get some useful writing tips from the writing team at EssayPro — a research paper writing service

What Is a Reflection Paper

A reflection paper is a type of paper that requires you to write your opinion on a topic, supporting it with your observations and personal experiences. As opposed to presenting your reader with the views of other academics and writers, in this essay, you get an opportunity to write your point of view—and the best part is that there is no wrong answer. It is YOUR opinion, and it is your job to express your thoughts in a manner that will be understandable and clear for all readers that will read your paper. The topic range is endless. Here are some examples: whether or not you think aliens exist, your favorite TV show, or your opinion on the outcome of WWII. You can write about pretty much anything.

There are three types of reflection paper; depending on which one you end up with, the tone you write with can be slightly different. The first type is the educational reflective paper. Here your job is to write feedback about a book, movie, or seminar you attended—in a manner that teaches the reader about it. The second is the professional paper. Usually, it is written by people who study or work in education or psychology. For example, it can be a reflection of someone’s behavior. And the last is the personal type, which explores your thoughts and feelings about an individual subject.

However, reflection paper writing will stop eventually with one very important final paper to write - your resume. This is where you will need to reflect on your entire life leading up to that moment. To learn how to list education on resume perfectly, follow the link on our dissertation writing services .

Unlock the potential of your thoughts with EssayPro . Order a reflection paper and explore a range of other academic services tailored to your needs. Dive deep into your experiences, analyze them with expert guidance, and turn your insights into an impactful reflection paper.

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Free Reflection Paper Example

Now that we went over all of the essentials about a reflection paper and how to approach it, we would like to show you some examples that will definitely help you with getting started on your paper.

Reflection Paper Format

Reflection papers typically do not follow any specific format. Since it is your opinion, professors usually let you handle them in any comfortable way. It is best to write your thoughts freely, without guideline constraints. If a personal reflection paper was assigned to you, the format of your paper might depend on the criteria set by your professor. College reflection papers (also known as reflection essays) can typically range from about 400-800 words in length.

Here’s how we can suggest you format your reflection paper:

common reflection paper format

How to Start a Reflection Paper

The first thing to do when beginning to work on a reflection essay is to read your article thoroughly while taking notes. Whether you are reflecting on, for example, an activity, book/newspaper, or academic essay, you want to highlight key ideas and concepts.

You can start writing your reflection paper by summarizing the main concept of your notes to see if your essay includes all the information needed for your readers. It is helpful to add charts, diagrams, and lists to deliver your ideas to the audience in a better fashion.

After you have finished reading your article, it’s time to brainstorm. We’ve got a simple brainstorming technique for writing reflection papers. Just answer some of the basic questions below:

  • How did the article affect you?
  • How does this article catch the reader’s attention (or does it all)?
  • Has the article changed your mind about something? If so, explain how.
  • Has the article left you with any questions?
  • Were there any unaddressed critical issues that didn’t appear in the article?
  • Does the article relate to anything from your past reading experiences?
  • Does the article agree with any of your past reading experiences?

Here are some reflection paper topic examples for you to keep in mind before preparing to write your own:

  • How my views on rap music have changed over time
  • My reflection and interpretation of Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • Why my theory about the size of the universe has changed over time
  • How my observations for clinical psychological studies have developed in the last year

The result of your brainstorming should be a written outline of the contents of your future paper. Do not skip this step, as it will ensure that your essay will have a proper flow and appropriate organization.

Another good way to organize your ideas is to write them down in a 3-column chart or table.

how to write a reflection paper

Do you want your task look awesome?

If you would like your reflection paper to look professional, feel free to check out one of our articles on how to format MLA, APA or Chicago style

Writing a Reflection Paper Outline

Reflection paper should contain few key elements:


Your introduction should specify what you’re reflecting upon. Make sure that your thesis informs your reader about your general position, or opinion, toward your subject.

  • State what you are analyzing: a passage, a lecture, an academic article, an experience, etc...)
  • Briefly summarize the work.
  • Write a thesis statement stating how your subject has affected you.

One way you can start your thesis is to write:

Example: “After reading/experiencing (your chosen topic), I gained the knowledge of…”

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs should examine your ideas and experiences in context to your topic. Make sure each new body paragraph starts with a topic sentence.

Your reflection may include quotes and passages if you are writing about a book or an academic paper. They give your reader a point of reference to fully understand your feedback. Feel free to describe what you saw, what you heard, and how you felt.

Example: “I saw many people participating in our weight experiment. The atmosphere felt nervous yet inspiring. I was amazed by the excitement of the event.”

As with any conclusion, you should summarize what you’ve learned from the experience. Next, tell the reader how your newfound knowledge has affected your understanding of the subject in general. Finally, describe the feeling and overall lesson you had from the reading or experience.

There are a few good ways to conclude a reflection paper:

  • Tie all the ideas from your body paragraphs together, and generalize the major insights you’ve experienced.
  • Restate your thesis and summarize the content of your paper.

We have a separate blog post dedicated to writing a great conclusion. Be sure to check it out for an in-depth look at how to make a good final impression on your reader.

Need a hand? Get help from our writers. Edit, proofread or buy essay .

How to Write a Reflection Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: create a main theme.

After you choose your topic, write a short summary about what you have learned about your experience with that topic. Then, let readers know how you feel about your case — and be honest. Chances are that your readers will likely be able to relate to your opinion or at least the way you form your perspective, which will help them better understand your reflection.

For example: After watching a TEDx episode on Wim Hof, I was able to reevaluate my preconceived notions about the negative effects of cold exposure.

Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas and Experiences You’ve Had Related to Your Topic

You can write down specific quotes, predispositions you have, things that influenced you, or anything memorable. Be personal and explain, in simple words, how you felt.

For example: • A lot of people think that even a small amount of carbohydrates will make people gain weight • A specific moment when I struggled with an excess weight where I avoided carbohydrates entirely • The consequences of my actions that gave rise to my research • The evidence and studies of nutritional science that claim carbohydrates alone are to blame for making people obese • My new experience with having a healthy diet with a well-balanced intake of nutrients • The influence of other people’s perceptions on the harm of carbohydrates, and the role their influence has had on me • New ideas I’ve created as a result of my shift in perspective

Step 3: Analyze How and Why These Ideas and Experiences Have Affected Your Interpretation of Your Theme

Pick an idea or experience you had from the last step, and analyze it further. Then, write your reasoning for agreeing or disagreeing with it.

For example, Idea: I was raised to think that carbohydrates make people gain weight.

Analysis: Most people think that if they eat any carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believe in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. As a result, my blood glucose levels were very low. I needed to do a lot of research to overcome my beliefs finally. Afterward, I adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation” as a key to a healthy lifestyle.

For example: Idea: I was brought up to think that carbohydrates make people gain weight. Analysis: Most people think that if they eat any carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believe in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. As a result, my blood glucose levels were very low. I needed to do a lot of my own research to finally overcome my beliefs. After, I adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation” as a key for having a healthy lifestyle.

Step 4: Make Connections Between Your Observations, Experiences, and Opinions

Try to connect your ideas and insights to form a cohesive picture for your theme. You can also try to recognize and break down your assumptions, which you may challenge in the future.

There are some subjects for reflection papers that are most commonly written about. They include:

  • Book – Start by writing some information about the author’s biography and summarize the plot—without revealing the ending to keep your readers interested. Make sure to include the names of the characters, the main themes, and any issues mentioned in the book. Finally, express your thoughts and reflect on the book itself.
  • Course – Including the course name and description is a good place to start. Then, you can write about the course flow, explain why you took this course, and tell readers what you learned from it. Since it is a reflection paper, express your opinion, supporting it with examples from the course.
  • Project – The structure for a reflection paper about a project has identical guidelines to that of a course. One of the things you might want to add would be the pros and cons of the course. Also, mention some changes you might want to see, and evaluate how relevant the skills you acquired are to real life.
  • Interview – First, introduce the person and briefly mention the discussion. Touch on the main points, controversies, and your opinion of that person.

Writing Tips

Everyone has their style of writing a reflective essay – and that's the beauty of it; you have plenty of leeway with this type of paper – but there are still a few tips everyone should incorporate.

Before you start your piece, read some examples of other papers; they will likely help you better understand what they are and how to approach yours. When picking your subject, try to write about something unusual and memorable — it is more likely to capture your readers' attention. Never write the whole essay at once. Space out the time slots when you work on your reflection paper to at least a day apart. This will allow your brain to generate new thoughts and reflections.

  • Short and Sweet – Most reflection papers are between 250 and 750 words. Don't go off on tangents. Only include relevant information.
  • Clear and Concise – Make your paper as clear and concise as possible. Use a strong thesis statement so your essay can follow it with the same strength.
  • Maintain the Right Tone – Use a professional and academic tone—even though the writing is personal.
  • Cite Your Sources – Try to cite authoritative sources and experts to back up your personal opinions.
  • Proofreading – Not only should you proofread for spelling and grammatical errors, but you should proofread to focus on your organization as well. Answer the question presented in the introduction.

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How To Write A Reflection Paper?

How to start a reflection paper, how long should a reflection paper be, related articles.

How Long Should a College Essay Be: Simple Explanation


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How to Write a Reflection Paper

Why reflective writing, experiential reflection, reading reflection.

  • A note on mechanics

Reflection offers you the opportunity to consider how your personal experiences and observations shape your thinking and your acceptance of new ideas.  Professors often ask students to write reading reflections.  They do this to encourage you to explore your own ideas about a text, to express your opinion rather than summarize the opinions of others.  Reflective writing can help you to improve your analytical skills because it requires you to express what you think, and more significantly, how and why you think that way.  In addition, reflective analysis asks you to acknowledge that your thoughts are shaped by your assumptions and preconceived ideas; in doing so, you can appreciate the ideas of others, notice how their assumptions and preconceived ideas may have shaped their thoughts, and perhaps recognize how your ideas support or oppose what you read.

Types of Reflective Writing

Popular in professional programs, like business, nursing, social work, forensics and education, reflection is an important part of making connections between theory and practice.  When you are asked to reflect upon experience in a placement, you do not only describe your experience, but you evaluate it based on ideas from class.  You can assess a theory or approach based on your observations and practice and evaluate your own knowledge and skills within your professional field.   This opportunity to take the time to think about your choices, your actions, your successes and your failures is best done within a specific framework, like course themes or work placement objectives.  Abstract concepts can become concrete and real to you when considered within your own experiences, and reflection on your experiences allows you to make plans for improvement.

To encourage thoughtful and balanced assessment of readings, many interdisciplinary courses may ask you to submit a reading reflection.  Often instructors will indicate to students what they expect of a reflection, but the general purpose is to elicit your informed opinions about ideas presented in the text and to consider how they affect your interpretation.   Reading reflections offer an opportunity to recognize – and perhaps break down – your assumptions which may be challenged by the text(s). 

Approaches to Reflective Inquiry

You may wonder how your professors assess your reflective writing.  What are they looking for? How can my experiences or ideas be right or wrong?  Your instructors expect you to critically engage with concepts from your course by making connections between your observations, experiences, and opinions.   They expect you to explain and analyse these concepts from your own point of view, eliciting original ideas and encouraging active interest in the course material.

It can be difficult to know where to begin when writing a critical reflection.  First, know that – like any other academic piece of writing – a reflection requires a narrow focus and strong analysis.  The best approach for identifying a focus and for reflective analysis is interrogation.   The following offers suggestions for your line of inquiry when developing a reflective response.

It is best to discuss your experiences in a work placement or practicum within the context of personal or organizational goals; doing so provides important insights and perspective for your own growth in the profession. For reflective writing, it is important to balance reporting or descriptive writing with critical reflection and analysis.

Consider these questions:

  • Contextualize your reflection:  What are your learning goals? What are the objectives of the organization?  How do these goals fit with the themes or concepts from the course?
  • Provide important information: What is the name of the host organization? What is their mission? Who do they serve? What was your role? What did you do?
  • Analytical Reflection: What did you learn from this experience? About yourself? About working in the field? About society?
  • Lessons from reflection: Did your experience fit with the goals or concepts of the course or organization?  Why or why not? What are your lessons for the future? What was successful? Why? What would you do differently? Why? How will you prepare for a future experience in the field?

Consider the purpose of reflection: to demonstrate your learning in the course.  It is important to actively and directly connect concepts from class to your personal or experiential reflection.  The following example shows how a student’s observations from a classroom can be analysed using a theoretical concept and how the experience can help a student to evaluate this concept.

For Example My observations from the classroom demonstrate that the hierarchical structure of Bloom’s Taxonomy is problematic, a concept also explored by Paul (1993).  The students often combined activities like application and synthesis or analysis and evaluation to build their knowledge and comprehension of unfamiliar concepts.  This challenges my understanding of traditional teaching methods where knowledge is the basis for inquiry.  Perhaps higher-order learning strategies like inquiry and evaluation can also be the basis for knowledge and comprehension, which are classified as lower-order skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Critical reflection requires thoughtful and persistent inquiry.  Although basic questions like “what is the thesis?” and “what is the evidence?” are important to demonstrate your understanding, you need to interrogate your own assumptions and knowledge to deepen your analysis and focus your assessment of the text.

Assess the text(s):

  • What is the main point? How is it developed? Identify the purpose, impact and/or theoretical framework of the text.
  • What ideas stood out to me? Why? Were they new or in opposition to existing scholarship?

Develop your ideas:

  • What do I know about this topic? Where does my existing knowledge come from? What are the observations or experiences that shape my understanding?
  • Do I agree or disagree with this argument?  Why?

Make connections:

  • How does this text reinforce my existing ideas or assumptions? How does this text challenge my existing ideas or assumptions?
  • How does this text help me to better understand this topic or explore this field of study/discipline?

A Note on Mechanics

As with all written assignments or reports, it is important to have a clear focus for your writing.  You do not need to discuss every experience or element of your placement.  Pick a few that you can explore within the context of your learning.  For reflective responses, identify the main arguments or important elements of the text to develop a stronger analysis which integrates relevant ideas from course materials.

Furthermore, your writing must be organized.  Introduce your topic and the point you plan to make about your experience and learning.  Develop your point through body paragraph(s), and conclude your paper by exploring the meaning you derive from your reflection. You may find the questions listed above can help you to develop an outline before you write your paper.

You should maintain a formal tone, but it is acceptable to write in the first person and to use personal pronouns.  Note, however, that it is important that you maintain confidentiality and anonymity of clients, patients or students from work or volunteer placements by using pseudonyms and masking identifying factors. 

The value of reflection: Critical reflection is a meaningful exercise which can require as much time and work as traditional essays and reports because it asks students to be purposeful and engaged participants, readers, and thinkers.

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

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Reflective writing is a process of identifying, questioning, and critically evaluating course-based learning opportunities, integrated with your own observations, experiences, impressions, beliefs, assumptions, or biases, and which describes how this process stimulated new or creative understanding about the content of the course.

A reflective paper describes and explains in an introspective, first person narrative, your reactions and feelings about either a specific element of the class [e.g., a required reading; a film shown in class] or more generally how you experienced learning throughout the course. Reflective writing assignments can be in the form of a single paper, essays, portfolios, journals, diaries, or blogs. In some cases, your professor may include a reflective writing assignment as a way to obtain student feedback that helps improve the course, either in the moment or for when the class is taught again.

How to Write a Reflection Paper . Academic Skills, Trent University; Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; Tsingos-Lucas et al. "Using Reflective Writing as a Predictor of Academic Success in Different Assessment Formats." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 81 (2017): Article 8.

Benefits of Reflective Writing Assignments

As the term implies, a reflective paper involves looking inward at oneself in contemplating and bringing meaning to the relationship between course content and the acquisition of new knowledge . Educational research [Bolton, 2010; Ryan, 2011; Tsingos-Lucas et al., 2017] demonstrates that assigning reflective writing tasks enhances learning because it challenges students to confront their own assumptions, biases, and belief systems around what is being taught in class and, in so doing, stimulate student’s decisions, actions, attitudes, and understanding about themselves as learners and in relation to having mastery over their learning. Reflection assignments are also an opportunity to write in a first person narrative about elements of the course, such as the required readings, separate from the exegetic and analytical prose of academic research papers.

Reflection writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously. In no particular order, here are some of reasons why professors assign reflection papers:

  • Enhances learning from previous knowledge and experience in order to improve future decision-making and reasoning in practice . Reflective writing in the applied social sciences enhances decision-making skills and academic performance in ways that can inform professional practice. The act of reflective writing creates self-awareness and understanding of others. This is particularly important in clinical and service-oriented professional settings.
  • Allows students to make sense of classroom content and overall learning experiences in relation to oneself, others, and the conditions that shaped the content and classroom experiences . Reflective writing places you within the course content in ways that can deepen your understanding of the material. Because reflective thinking can help reveal hidden biases, it can help you critically interrogate moments when you do not like or agree with discussions, readings, or other aspects of the course.
  • Increases awareness of one’s cognitive abilities and the evidence for these attributes . Reflective writing can break down personal doubts about yourself as a learner and highlight specific abilities that may have been hidden or suppressed due to prior assumptions about the strength of your academic abilities [e.g., reading comprehension; problem-solving skills]. Reflective writing, therefore, can have a positive affective [i.e., emotional] impact on your sense of self-worth.
  • Applying theoretical knowledge and frameworks to real experiences . Reflective writing can help build a bridge of relevancy between theoretical knowledge and the real world. In so doing, this form of writing can lead to a better understanding of underlying theories and their analytical properties applied to professional practice.
  • Reveals shortcomings that the reader will identify . Evidence suggests that reflective writing can uncover your own shortcomings as a learner, thereby, creating opportunities to anticipate the responses of your professor may have about the quality of your coursework. This can be particularly productive if the reflective paper is written before final submission of an assignment.
  • Helps students identify their tacit [a.k.a., implicit] knowledge and possible gaps in that knowledge . Tacit knowledge refers to ways of knowing rooted in lived experience, insight, and intuition rather than formal, codified, categorical, or explicit knowledge. In so doing, reflective writing can stimulate students to question their beliefs about a research problem or an element of the course content beyond positivist modes of understanding and representation.
  • Encourages students to actively monitor their learning processes over a period of time . On-going reflective writing in journals or blogs, for example, can help you maintain or adapt learning strategies in other contexts. The regular, purposeful act of reflection can facilitate continuous deep thinking about the course content as it evolves and changes throughout the term. This, in turn, can increase your overall confidence as a learner.
  • Relates a student’s personal experience to a wider perspective . Reflection papers can help you see the big picture associated with the content of a course by forcing you to think about the connections between scholarly content and your lived experiences outside of school. It can provide a macro-level understanding of one’s own experiences in relation to the specifics of what is being taught.
  • If reflective writing is shared, students can exchange stories about their learning experiences, thereby, creating an opportunity to reevaluate their original assumptions or perspectives . In most cases, reflective writing is only viewed by your professor in order to ensure candid feedback from students. However, occasionally, reflective writing is shared and openly discussed in class. During these discussions, new or different perspectives and alternative approaches to solving problems can be generated that would otherwise be hidden. Sharing student's reflections can also reveal collective patterns of thought and emotions about a particular element of the course.

Bolton, Gillie. Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development . London: Sage, 2010; Chang, Bo. "Reflection in Learning." Online Learning 23 (2019), 95-110; Cavilla, Derek. "The Effects of Student Reflection on Academic Performance and Motivation." Sage Open 7 (July-September 2017): 1–13; Culbert, Patrick. “Better Teaching? You Can Write On It “ Liberal Education (February 2022); McCabe, Gavin and Tobias Thejll-Madsen. The Reflection Toolkit . University of Edinburgh; The Purpose of Reflection . Introductory Composition at Purdue University; Practice-based and Reflective Learning . Study Advice Study Guides, University of Reading; Ryan, Mary. "Improving Reflective Writing in Higher Education: A Social Semiotic Perspective." Teaching in Higher Education 16 (2011): 99-111; Tsingos-Lucas et al. "Using Reflective Writing as a Predictor of Academic Success in Different Assessment Formats." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 81 (2017): Article 8; What Benefits Might Reflective Writing Have for My Students? Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse; Rykkje, Linda. "The Tacit Care Knowledge in Reflective Writing: A Practical Wisdom." International Practice Development Journal 7 (September 2017): Article 5; Using Reflective Writing to Deepen Student Learning . Center for Writing, University of Minnesota.

How to Approach Writing a Reflection Paper

Thinking About Reflective Thinking

Educational theorists have developed numerous models of reflective thinking that your professor may use to frame a reflective writing assignment. These models can help you systematically interpret your learning experiences, thereby ensuring that you ask the right questions and have a clear understanding of what should be covered. A model can also represent the overall structure of a reflective paper. Each model establishes a different approach to reflection and will require you to think about your writing differently. If you are unclear how to fit your writing within a particular reflective model, seek clarification from your professor. There are generally two types of reflective writing assignments, each approached in slightly different ways.

1.  Reflective Thinking about Course Readings

This type of reflective writing focuses on thoughtfully thinking about the course readings that underpin how most students acquire new knowledge and understanding about the subject of a course. Reflecting on course readings is often assigned in freshmen-level, interdisciplinary courses where the required readings examine topics viewed from multiple perspectives and, as such, provide different ways of analyzing a topic, issue, event, or phenomenon. The purpose of reflective thinking about course readings in the social and behavioral sciences is to elicit your opinions, beliefs, and feelings about the research and its significance. This type of writing can provide an opportunity to break down key assumptions you may have and, in so doing, reveal potential biases in how you interpret the scholarship.

If you are assigned to reflect on course readings, consider the following methods of analysis as prompts that can help you get started :

  • Examine carefully the main introductory elements of the reading, including the purpose of the study, the theoretical framework being used to test assumptions, and the research questions being addressed. Think about what ideas stood out to you. Why did they? Were these ideas new to you or familiar in some way based on your own lived experiences or prior knowledge?
  • Develop your ideas around the readings by asking yourself, what do I know about this topic? Where does my existing knowledge about this topic come from? What are the observations or experiences in my life that influence my understanding of the topic? Do I agree or disagree with the main arguments, recommended course of actions, or conclusions made by the author(s)? Why do I feel this way and what is the basis of these feelings?
  • Make connections between the text and your own beliefs, opinions, or feelings by considering questions like, how do the readings reinforce my existing ideas or assumptions? How the readings challenge these ideas or assumptions? How does this text help me to better understand this topic or research in ways that motivate me to learn more about this area of study?

2.  Reflective Thinking about Course Experiences

This type of reflective writing asks you to critically reflect on locating yourself at the conceptual intersection of theory and practice. The purpose of experiential reflection is to evaluate theories or disciplinary-based analytical models based on your introspective assessment of the relationship between hypothetical thinking and practical reality; it offers a way to consider how your own knowledge and skills fit within professional practice. This type of writing also provides an opportunity to evaluate your decisions and actions, as well as how you managed your subsequent successes and failures, within a specific theoretical framework. As a result, abstract concepts can crystallize and become more relevant to you when considered within your own experiences. This can help you formulate plans for self-improvement as you learn.

If you are assigned to reflect on your experiences, consider the following questions as prompts to help you get started :

  • Contextualize your reflection in relation to the overarching purpose of the course by asking yourself, what did you hope to learn from this course? What were the learning objectives for the course and how did I fit within each of them? How did these goals relate to the main themes or concepts of the course?
  • Analyze how you experienced the course by asking yourself, what did I learn from this experience? What did I learn about myself? About working in this area of research and study? About how the course relates to my place in society? What assumptions about the course were supported or refuted?
  • Think introspectively about the ways you experienced learning during the course by asking yourself, did your learning experiences align with the goals or concepts of the course? Why or why do you not feel this way? What was successful and why do you believe this? What would you do differently and why is this important? How will you prepare for a future experience in this area of study?

NOTE: If you are assigned to write a journal or other type of on-going reflection exercise, a helpful approach is to reflect on your reflections by re-reading what you have already written. In other words, review your previous entries as a way to contextualize your feelings, opinions, or beliefs regarding your overall learning experiences. Over time, this can also help reveal hidden patterns or themes related to how you processed your learning experiences. Consider concluding your reflective journal with a summary of how you felt about your learning experiences at critical junctures throughout the course, then use these to write about how you grew as a student learner and how the act of reflecting helped you gain new understanding about the subject of the course and its content.

ANOTHER NOTE: Regardless of whether you write a reflection paper or a journal, do not focus your writing on the past. The act of reflection is intended to think introspectively about previous learning experiences. However, reflective thinking should document the ways in which you progressed in obtaining new insights and understandings about your growth as a learner that can be carried forward in subsequent coursework or in future professional practice. Your writing should reflect a furtherance of increasing personal autonomy and confidence gained from understanding more about yourself as a learner.

Structure and Writing Style

There are no strict academic rules for writing a reflective paper. Reflective writing may be assigned in any class taught in the social and behavioral sciences and, therefore, requirements for the assignment can vary depending on disciplinary-based models of inquiry and learning. The organization of content can also depend on what your professor wants you to write about or based on the type of reflective model used to frame the writing assignment. Despite these possible variations, below is a basic approach to organizing and writing a good reflective paper, followed by a list of problems to avoid.


In most cases, it's helpful to begin by thinking about your learning experiences and outline what you want to focus on before you begin to write the paper. This can help you organize your thoughts around what was most important to you and what experiences [good or bad] had the most impact on your learning. As described by the University of Waterloo Writing and Communication Centre, preparing to write a reflective paper involves a process of self-analysis that can help organize your thoughts around significant moments of in-class knowledge discovery.

  • Using a thesis statement as a guide, note what experiences or course content stood out to you , then place these within the context of your observations, reactions, feelings, and opinions. This will help you develop a rough outline of key moments during the course that reflect your growth as a learner. To identify these moments, pose these questions to yourself: What happened? What was my reaction? What were my expectations and how were they different from what transpired? What did I learn?
  • Critically think about your learning experiences and the course content . This will help you develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding about why these moments were significant or relevant to you. Use the ideas you formulated during the first stage of reflecting to help you think through these moments from both an academic and personal perspective. From an academic perspective, contemplate how the experience enhanced your understanding of a concept, theory, or skill. Ask yourself, did the experience confirm my previous understanding or challenge it in some way. As a result, did this highlight strengths or gaps in your current knowledge? From a personal perspective, think introspectively about why these experiences mattered, if previous expectations or assumptions were confirmed or refuted, and if this surprised, confused, or unnerved you in some way.
  • Analyze how these experiences and your reactions to them will shape your future thinking and behavior . Reflection implies looking back, but the most important act of reflective writing is considering how beliefs, assumptions, opinions, and feelings were transformed in ways that better prepare you as a learner in the future. Note how this reflective analysis can lead to actions you will take as a result of your experiences, what you will do differently, and how you will apply what you learned in other courses or in professional practice.

Basic Structure and Writing Style

Reflective Background and Context

The first part of your reflection paper should briefly provide background and context in relation to the content or experiences that stood out to you. Highlight the settings, summarize the key readings, or narrate the experiences in relation to the course objectives. Provide background that sets the stage for your reflection. You do not need to go into great detail, but you should provide enough information for the reader to understand what sources of learning you are writing about [e.g., course readings, field experience, guest lecture, class discussions] and why they were important. This section should end with an explanatory thesis statement that expresses the central ideas of your paper and what you want the readers to know, believe, or understand after they finish reading your paper.

Reflective Interpretation

Drawing from your reflective analysis, this is where you can be personal, critical, and creative in expressing how you felt about the course content and learning experiences and how they influenced or altered your feelings, beliefs, assumptions, or biases about the subject of the course. This section is also where you explore the meaning of these experiences in the context of the course and how you gained an awareness of the connections between these moments and your own prior knowledge.

Guided by your thesis statement, a helpful approach is to interpret your learning throughout the course with a series of specific examples drawn from the course content and your learning experiences. These examples should be arranged in sequential order that illustrate your growth as a learner. Reflecting on each example can be done by: 1)  introducing a theme or moment that was meaningful to you, 2) describing your previous position about the learning moment and what you thought about it, 3) explaining how your perspective was challenged and/or changed and why, and 4) introspectively stating your current or new feelings, opinions, or beliefs about that experience in class.

It is important to include specific examples drawn from the course and placed within the context of your assumptions, thoughts, opinions, and feelings. A reflective narrative without specific examples does not provide an effective way for the reader to understand the relationship between the course content and how you grew as a learner.

Reflective Conclusions

The conclusion of your reflective paper should provide a summary of your thoughts, feelings, or opinions regarding what you learned about yourself as a result of taking the course. Here are several ways you can frame your conclusions based on the examples you interpreted and reflected on what they meant to you. Each example would need to be tied to the basic theme [thesis statement] of your reflective background section.

  • Your reflective conclusions can be described in relation to any expectations you had before taking the class [e.g., “I expected the readings to not be relevant to my own experiences growing up in a rural community, but the research actually helped me see that the challenges of developing my identity as a child of immigrants was not that unusual...”].
  • Your reflective conclusions can explain how what you learned about yourself will change your actions in the future [e.g., “During a discussion in class about the challenges of helping homeless people, I realized that many of these people hate living on the street but lack the ability to see a way out. This made me realize that I wanted to take more classes in psychology...”].
  • Your reflective conclusions can describe major insights you experienced a critical junctures during the course and how these moments enhanced how you see yourself as a student learner [e.g., "The guest speaker from the Head Start program made me realize why I wanted to pursue a career in elementary education..."].
  • Your reflective conclusions can reconfigure or reframe how you will approach professional practice and your understanding of your future career aspirations [e.g.,, "The course changed my perceptions about seeking a career in business finance because it made me realize I want to be more engaged in customer service..."]
  • Your reflective conclusions can explore any learning you derived from the act of reflecting itself [e.g., “Reflecting on the course readings that described how minority students perceive campus activities helped me identify my own biases about the benefits of those activities in acclimating to campus life...”].

NOTE: The length of a reflective paper in the social sciences is usually less than a traditional research paper. However, don’t assume that writing a reflective paper is easier than writing a research paper. A well-conceived critical reflection paper often requires as much time and effort as a research paper because you must purposeful engage in thinking about your learning in ways that you may not be comfortable with or used to. This is particular true while preparing to write because reflective papers are not as structured as a traditional research paper and, therefore, you have to think deliberately about how you want to organize the paper and what elements of the course you want to reflect upon.

ANOTHER NOTE: Do not limit yourself to using only text in reflecting on your learning. If you believe it would be helpful, consider using creative modes of thought or expression such as, illustrations, photographs, or material objects that reflects an experience related to the subject of the course that was important to you [e.g., like a ticket stub to a renowned speaker on campus]. Whatever non-textual element you include, be sure to describe the object's relevance to your personal relationship to the course content.

Problems to Avoid

A reflective paper is not a “mind dump” . Reflective papers document your personal and emotional experiences and, therefore, they do not conform to rigid structures, or schema, to organize information. However, the paper should not be a disjointed, stream-of-consciousness narrative. Reflective papers are still academic pieces of writing that require organized thought, that use academic language and tone , and that apply intellectually-driven critical thinking to the course content and your learning experiences and their significance.

A reflective paper is not a research paper . If you are asked to reflect on a course reading, the reflection will obviously include some description of the research. However, the goal of reflective writing is not to present extraneous ideas to the reader or to "educate" them about the course. The goal is to share a story about your relationship with the learning objectives of the course. Therefore, unlike research papers, you are expected to write from a first person point of view which includes an introspective examination of your own opinions, feelings, and personal assumptions.

A reflection paper is not a book review . Descriptions of the course readings using your own words is not a reflective paper. Reflective writing should focus on how you understood the implications of and were challenged by the course in relation to your own lived experiences or personal assumptions, combined with explanations of how you grew as a student learner based on this internal dialogue. Remember that you are the central object of the paper, not the research materials.

A reflective paper is not an all-inclusive meditation. Do not try to cover everything. The scope of your paper should be well-defined and limited to your specific opinions, feelings, and beliefs about what you determine to be the most significant content of the course and in relation to the learning that took place. Reflections should be detailed enough to covey what you think is important, but your thoughts should be expressed concisely and coherently [as is true for any academic writing assignment].

Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; Critical Reflection: Journals, Opinions, & Reactions . University Writing Center, Texas A&M University; Connor-Greene, Patricia A. “Making Connections: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Journal Writing in Enhancing Student Learning.” Teaching of Psychology 27 (2000): 44-46; Good vs. Bad Reflection Papers , Franklin University; Dyment, Janet E. and Timothy S. O’Connell. "The Quality of Reflection in Student Journals: A Review of Limiting and Enabling Factors." Innovative Higher Education 35 (2010): 233-244: How to Write a Reflection Paper . Academic Skills, Trent University; Amelia TaraJane House. Reflection Paper . Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, University of Arkansas; Ramlal, Alana, and Désirée S. Augustin. “Engaging Students in Reflective Writing: An Action Research Project.” Educational Action Research 28 (2020): 518-533; Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; McGuire, Lisa, Kathy Lay, and Jon Peters. “Pedagogy of Reflective Writing in Professional Education.” Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2009): 93-107; Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; How Do I Write Reflectively? Academic Skills Toolkit, University of New South Wales Sydney; Reflective Writing . Skills@Library. University of Leeds; Walling, Anne, Johanna Shapiro, and Terry Ast. “What Makes a Good Reflective Paper?” Family Medicine 45 (2013): 7-12; Williams, Kate, Mary Woolliams, and Jane Spiro. Reflective Writing . 2nd edition. London: Red Globe Press, 2020; Yeh, Hui-Chin, Shih-hsien Yang, Jo Shan Fu, and Yen-Chen Shih. “Developing College Students’ Critical Thinking through Reflective Writing.” Higher Education Research and Development (2022): 1-16.

Writing Tip

Focus on Reflecting, Not on Describing

Minimal time and effort should be spent describing the course content you are asked to reflect upon. The purpose of a reflection assignment is to introspectively contemplate your reactions to and feeling about an element of the course. D eflecting the focus away from your own feelings by concentrating on describing the course content can happen particularly if "talking about yourself" [i.e., reflecting] makes you uncomfortable or it is intimidating. However, the intent of reflective writing is to overcome these inhibitions so as to maximize the benefits of introspectively assessing your learning experiences. Keep in mind that, if it is relevant, your feelings of discomfort could be a part of how you critically reflect on any challenges you had during the course [e.g., you realize this discomfort inhibited your willingness to ask questions during class, it fed into your propensity to procrastinate, or it made it difficult participating in groups].

Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; Reflection Paper . Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, University of Arkansas.

Another Writing Tip

Helpful Videos about Reflective Writing

These two short videos succinctly describe how to approach a reflective writing assignment. They are produced by the Academic Skills department at the University of Melbourne and the Skills Team of the University of Hull, respectively.

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how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

  • Online Courses

Post-Lesson Reflection: What Do Students Think They Learned?

how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

In the last two blogs, I have focused on strategies teachers can use to 1) assess prior knowledge before a lesson and 2) check for understanding during a lesson. I’ve suggested that teachers build mechanisms into their lessons to collect formative assessment data. That way, they can use that data to design learning experiences that better meet the needs of their students. The third piece to this puzzle is a post-lesson reflection.

how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

The post-lesson reflection is an opportunity for students to pause and assess what they think they have learned in a lesson or series of lessons. It allows them to identify aspects of the lesson that they struggled with or found unclear. It provides an avenue for students to request additional help, instruction, practice, or support before moving on to the next batch of information or a new skill.

Below are strategies I have used to build a reflective practice into my lessons, so I can understand what students think they have learned during a lesson.

1. Sketchnotes

There are few activities more calming than drawing. Most students enjoy any excuse to put colored pencils, crayons, or markers to paper. Sketchnotes invite students to think creatively about how to show what they have learned. This artistic expression of learning encourages students to identify key points and show their relationships to one another in a free-form sketch that is not as restrictive as a concept map. However, if you have students who are not artistically inclined or struggle with sketchnotes, you can provide them with a concept map that provides more structure.

how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

If you are interested in teaching students how to create sketchnotes, you should check out Sylvia Duckworth’s book titled How to Sketchnote: A Step-by-Step Manual for Teachers and Students.

2. Exit Ticket

The exit ticket is a classic strategy that teachers can use to assess what students learned in a lesson quickly. Teachers can combine reflective questions with academic content questions to understand where students are at in terms of their knowledge of a topic or concept. The beauty of using a Google Form to create your exit ticket and collect student responses is that you can easily identify patterns in the data. This makes it more manageable to take what you’ve learned about your students to design the next lesson building on what they know or circling back to review a concept or skill.

how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

3. Tell Me How

It’s tempting to give students a series of problems or a writing task to assess what they learned in a lesson. I prefer to ask kids to tell me “how” they would do something. Thinking through the “how” of how to solve a problem, complete a task, or construct a type of written response encourage metacognition. It requires that students stop and think about what they would do in a series of concrete steps. What strategies would they use? In what order would they employ those strategies? Why is this the best approach?

how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

This provides insight into the student’s thought process, which makes it easier to identify misconceptions or areas of confusion. You can ask students to write out their “tell me how” explanation, type it in a Google Form, or record a short FlipGrid video explaining their approach.

4. Learning Log/Blog

A learning log or ongoing learning blog is a strategy you can use to encourage your students to spend time thinking about a particular assignment. What skills did they employ? What challenges did they encounter? How did they troubleshoot those challenges? What did they learn as a result of working on this assignment? What questions do they have about the work they did? Would additional support be valuable if they were to tackle a similar task in the future?

The goal of the learning log or blog is to help students to:

  • Appreciate their academic growth
  • View challenges as a natural part of the learning process
  • Understand the value of individual assignments
  • Develop their metacognitive muscles

how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

At the secondary level, I like the learning blog over individual documents. A learning blog encourages students to capture their reflections in one online location that is easy to access and review. If their learning blog is part of their digital notebook , they can use these reflections to prepare for their grade interviews .

5. High/Lows

High/lows is a strategy I adapted from my dinner table. When my family sits down to dinner, we often share a high from our day and a low. This started as a strategy to help my young children to engage in conversation at the dinner table, so I could hear about their days at school.

Then I had a moment in class at the end of a long week when I felt like I did not have a good read on the room. I was trying to check in with my class to figure out what they “got” and what they wanted to spend more time on the following week. My students were low energy and just kind of staring at me in response to questions about the work we had done that week. So, I told them to make a circle with their chairs, and we spent five minutes going around the circle so each person could share one high from the week and one low. I asked them to identify one concept, skill, or assignment they felt confident about (high) and one concept, skill, or assignment they were feeling frustrated by or unclear about (low).

how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

As students shared their highs and lows, I made notes on a clipboard. I did not interject with questions or comments. I simply listened. I wanted them to feel comfortable sharing their highs/lows.

By the end of the five-minute exercise, I had a clear sense of what they felt confident about and what they were struggling with. I was able to use this informal data to design subsequent lessons to provide additional instruction, practice, and support for students who identified specific concepts, skills, and assignments as challenging or unclear.

If you have a favorite strategy you use to help students reflect on a lesson or assignment, please post a comment and share it!

15 Responses

[…] a very good description of several end-of-lesson reflection activities from Catlin Tucker: ‘highs and lows’ […]

[…] Post-Lesson Reflection: What Do Students Think They Learned? | […]

I like your post. Thanks for sharing this blog.

[…] about their work. This is in addition to keeping track of what they think they’ve learned through post-lesson reflection tools like learning logs and […]

Keeping track could be a full time job itself hey?

I really like your post-lesson reflection this can help me in one of my teaching activities.

From AIMS TTP training I learned how to prepare a lesson by using Microsoft form and Google form ,also to day I am able to prepare online assessment form students who are in different corners of our country, during this training on ICT use in education we helped our students College de Rebero and the other from other schools to continue their learner, we hope at this bigining of the school we plan to facilitate the teachers who did not got the chance of being part in that training. Thanks for your skills and knowledge building.

I used to ask one student to post a short audio file (no more than one minute) explaining what was important learning from today’s lesson. Each day a different student was responsible for capsulizing the class. It was super interesting for me to listen to their response because often what they felt was important was rarely what I’d been aiming to teach. It provided valuable insight into where they were and what they focused on. I could then address that at the start of the next class.

That’s a great idea, Janice! In an online learning scenario, I could see FlipGrid being a great way to capture these reflections.

All of this is great information, and good to continue processing how to do this online / hybrid world we are in.

Great, very interesting and useful.

Sounds fun to have so many options for students.

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how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

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how to write a reflection paper on a lesson plan

3 Simple Ways to do a Lesson Reflection


One area that I consistently struggled with throughout my teaching career is taking time to have my students reflect on their learning.  The elusive evaluation portion of the ever perfect lesson plan.  I know in my heart that learners need to think about their thinking.  Getting students to do this is not always on the top of a busy teacher’s full day of exciting learning.  In this blog post, I am going to share 3 different ways to make lesson reflections easy and dare I say it, FUN!

Object Reflection

The first, and easiest way to create a reflection time in a classroom of learners is an object reflection.  A few years ago I began creating reflection questions based off of tangible objects.  At the end of a lesson we clean up and gather for a short reflection on the rug together.  Each object representing a different way to reflect on the day’s learning.

The rubberband would help us to share what stretched our thinking.

The puzzle piece is a tangible reminder to share a connection we made with the new learning.  Sometimes we would connect what we already knew to the new learning too! This sometimes spurred conversations about what is still ‘puzzling’ to us.

An eraser was a reminder that we are constantly changing our thoughts, beliefs, and understandings of the world around us each time we gain new knowledge!  We would share how our thinking changed , what mistakes we made along the way and how we overcame those mistakes, or perhaps we needed to get rid of some misconceptions that came to light!

It becomes easier and easier to think of ways to use objects to spur on critical thinking.  The purpose is to open up students to self-awareness not only after the learning, but during!  We want students to consider how they are learning, why they are learning, and to know it is all a process.  The process is just as important as the final product.

To help students to collaborate use an object that brings team work to light such as legos.  Put two legos together and ask students how a classmate helped them understand something new.  Using words like peer teach, collaborate, and teamwork often during lesson reflections make it an expectation and norm for part of the learning.

Graffiti Wall Reflection

A popular lesson reflection option is to create a graffiti wall which is a dynamic anchor chart that carries you through the duration of a particular skill or objective.  Much like an anchor chart, the graffiti houses information on a particular topic.  The difference is that a graffiti wall can be added to at any time by anyone.

To create a graffiti wall, simply write your topic, objective, or skill being studied in the center of butcher paper.  Place on the board, floor, or wall.  Students can put definitions on a graffiti wall.  They can put both examples and non-examples of the topic, and the best is that you can scratch out misconceptions and continue to build upon what is on the chart as you go!  Each day as you study a topic, add to your graffiti wall either as the teacher being the scribe, or as a chosen student.  After you do a graffiti wall for awhile, students will excitedly want to add to the chart during the learning time in order to share about their discoveries during the reflection time at the end.  That’s when you know that they are thinking about how they are learning!  Success!

Partner, Group, and Class Reflection Question Cards

One way that I like to make reflection time engaging is by using die cuts or clipart as a visual cue card .  Simply assign a question to a fun die cut or clip art picture and have students respond to the question stem.  Sometimes I drop the clipart question cards into a little bag and have a student come up and choose a picture card with a question for us.  Once students have had plenty of chances to reflect in a whole group setting, it is fun to have them break into groups to reflect around the circle.

At the end of a lesson, it is nice to have reflection questions to grab and go!  I recently added 120 different reflection question stem cards.  There are 20 themes with 6 questions per theme.  They can be used with any subject or lesson!  Now you can get that important component in with ease!

I chose to put the 6 themed question cards on small rings together.  Another idea is to glue the cover theme card to the front of a cute little bag and drop the question cards in.

Here is a look at a set of 5 out of the 6 recess themed cards.  I couldn’t make the last card fit in this neat and tidy grid… But it exists! Ha!

Peek at the animal antics set!  (6th card not pictured)

If  you are interested in the Reflection question cards, check them out HERE ! Or by clicking the picture below!

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A HUGE part of primary grades math is number sense and number relationships.  Seems easy enough.  I mean we’ve been doing this since day one right?   I decided to really…

Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln

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I’m interested in your guided math bundle but your scope and sequence does not match my district. Your center activities may not match since they are themed by month. Is there a solution for this? Thanks

Hello! The great news is that the guided math units can be taught in any order. I am currently adding stations by standards so they are not seasonal and they are sets by math concept. Which grade level are you looking at? I can link it for you.

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12 Reflective Teaching Examples

reflective teaching examples and definition, explained below.

Reflective teaching is a process where teachers reflect on their own teaching practices and learn from their own experiences.

This type of reflection allows teachers to see what works well in their classrooms and what needs improvement. Reflective teaching also helps teachers to understand the impact that their teaching has on students.

Examples of reflective teaching include observing other teachers, taking notes on your own teaching practice, reading about how to improve yourself, and asking for feedback from your students to achieve self-improvement.

Reflective Teaching Examples

1. reflection-in-practice.

Reflection in practice is a concept by David Schon which involves small moments of reflection throughout your day.

Instead of pausing at the end of your activities and reflecting upon what you did, Schon argues that good practitioners reflect in the moment and make tiny changes from moment-to-moment. This is the difference between reflection on practice and reflection in practice. “Reflection on” occurs once the lesson is over. Reflection in occurs during the lesson.

For example, as you’re doing a question-and-answer session with your class, you might realize that the students are tuning out and getting bored. In order to resolve this problem, you might choose to get the students all to stand up and play heads or tails for questions you ask them. This might get the kinesthetic learners re-engaged in the lesson and salvage it from its impending implosion.

Related Article: 15 Action Research Examples

2. Conducting Classroom Observations

Another way to do reflective teaching is to start a classroom observation routine. Create a template for your observations (e.g. listing each student’s name down the side, with notes beside it) and take notes on students’ work.

You could, for example, choose to observe how well students responded to a new classroom intervention. These written observations can form the basis for changes that you can make to your work as you progress.

Similarly, you could make observations about students’ interactions after changing the classroom layout. This can help you edit and refine your chosen layout in order to maximize student learning and figure out the best location for each student.

3. Pivoting based on Formative Feedback

Reflective teachers also try to obtain formative feedback from students in order to gather data that can form the basis of their reflection.

An example of formative feedback is a pre-test a month before the exams.

This pre-test can help the teacher understand the general areas of weakness for their students, and acts as the basis for a pivot in their teaching practices. The teacher may, for example, identify a specific math challenge that the majority of the students had trouble with. They can then put extra focus on that challenge for the next few weeks so the students can ace that challenge in the end-of-term test.

In this way, formative feedback is a core tool for teachers in their formative feedback toolkit.

4. Keeping a Teaching Diary

A personal teaching diary can help teachers to identify trends in their behaviors (and the behaviors of their students) that can help teachers to improve.

For example, in my teaching diary, I will often take notes about how I reacted to certain events. I’ll note my reaction as well as things I did well, ways I effectively self-regulated , and things I did poorly. If I’m taking notes on an answer to a student’s question, I might note that something I did well was “give a clear answer” but an area for improvement might be “I failed to follow-up later in the day to check my student’s comprehension”.

Incidentally, teaching diaries can be extremely useful for self-performance reviews . Bring your teaching diary into the performance review and go over it with your line manager. They will be super impressed with your reflective practice!

5. Receiving Student Evaluations

Despite how much we may despise student evaluations, they can contain important tidbits of information for us.

I often like to compare my evaluations from one to the next to see if there are changes in the student trend. I’ll also work really hard on one aspect of my teaching and see if I can get students to take notice and leave a comment in the evaluation.

For example, one semester, I decided to implement a tech intervention (I let students use an educational app in class). The students used the app, and it turns out – they didn’t like it!

Without the student evaluation, I wouldn’t have been able to identify this problem and work on solving it. You can read all about that study here, which I published in an academic journal.

6. Debriefing with a Mentor

Having a mentor has been invaluable for me in my career. By sitting down with a mentor, I learn a lot about my strengths and weaknesses.

Mentors tend to bring out reflectiveness in all of us. After all, they’re teachers who want us to improve ourselves.

Your mentor may ask you open-ended questions to get you to reflect, or discuss some new points and concepts that you haven’t thought about before. In this process, you’re being prompted to reflect on your on teaching practice and compare what you do to the new ideas that have been presented. You may ask yourself questions like “do I do that?” or “do I need to improve in that area?”

7. Using Self-Reflection Worksheets

Self-reflection worksheets are a good ‘cheat’ for figuring out how to do self-reflection for people who struggle.

You can find these worksheets online through services like Teachers Pay Teachers. They often involve daily activities like:

  • Write down one thing you struggled with today.
  • Write down one big win.
  • Write down one thing you will actively try to work on tomorrow.

These worksheets are simple prompts (that don’t need to take up too much time!) that help you to bring to the front of your consciousness all those thoughts that have been brewing in your mind, so you can think about ways to act upon them tomorrow.

See Also: Self-Reflection Examples

8. Changing Lesson Plans Based on Previous Experiences

At the end of each unit of work, teachers need to look at their lesson plans and self-assess what changes are required.

Everyone is aware of that teacher who’s had the same lesson plan since 2015. They seem lazy for failing to modernize and innovate in their practice.

By contrast, the reflective practitioner spends a moment at the end of the lesson or unit and thinks about what changes might need to be made for next time the lesson is taught.

They might make changes if the information or knowledge about the topic changes (especially important in classes that engage with current events!). Similarly, you might make changes if you feel that there was a particular point in the lesson where there was a lull and you lost the students’ attention.

9. Professional Development Days

Professional development days are a perfect opportunity for reflective teaching.

In fact, the leader of the professional development day is likely to bake reflectiveness into the event. They may prepare speeches or provide activities specifically designed for teachers to take a step back and reflect.

For example, I remember several moments in my career where we had a guest speaker attend our PD day and gave an inspiring speech about the importance of teachers for student development. These events made me think about what I was doing and the “bigger picture” and made me redouble my efforts to be an excellent teacher.

10. Implementing 2-Minute Feedback

The 2-minute feedback concept is excellent for reflective practice. For this method, you simply spend the last 2 minutes of the class trying to get feedback from your students.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to give students a post-it note at the end of the lesson. Have them write on one side something they liked about the lesson and on the other something they didn’t like. Then, you can read the feedback to reflect on how to improve.

With younger students, you can do ‘hands up’ for students and ask them how confident they are with the topic.

For online lessons, I’ve put a thermometer up on the screen and asked students to draw on the thermometer how confident that are (line at the top means very confident, line at the bottom means not confident at all).

11. Reading Books

Books are excellent for helping us to reflect and contemplate. There is a wide range of books for teachers, from philosophical ones like Pedagogy of the Oppressed to very practical workbooks.

Through reading, we encounter new ideas that challenge our current ideas. As we pick up new ideas and information, we interrogate our current thoughts and find ways to assimilate them into our new thinking. Sometimes, that requires us to change our own current opinions or thoughts, and challenge us to consistently improve.

In this way, reading books about teaching is an inherently reflective practice. It makes us better practitioners and more thoughtful people.

12. Listening to Podcasts

Like books, podcasts enable us to consume information that can help us pause and reflect.

I personally love podcasts because I find them easier to consume than books. The conversations and dialogue in podcasts help me to feel immersed in a conversation with close friends. Good podcasts hosts make you feel like they’re grappling with the exact same concerns and emotions as you are – and it’s a motivating experience.

Good podcasts for teachers include The Cult of Pedagogy and Teachers on Fire. These podcasts help me to reflect on my own teaching practice and continue to learn new things that I can compare to my own approaches and integrate when I feel they offer new insights that are valuable.

There are many ways to incorporate reflective practice into your teaching. By taking the time to reflect on your teaching, you can identify areas where you can improve and make changes to your practice. This will help you to become a more effective teacher and better meet the needs of your students. Through reflective practice, you can also develop a stronger sense of who you are as a teacher and what your personal teaching philosophy is.

Drew, C. & Mann, A. (2018). Unfitting, uncomfortable, unacademic: a sociological critique of interactive mobile phone apps in lectures. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education. doi: https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-018-0125-y

Lousberg, L., Rooij, R., Jansen, S. et al. Reflection in design education. Int J Technol Des Educ. 30, 885–897 (2020). doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10798-019-09532-6


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 5 Top Tips for Succeeding at University

2 thoughts on “12 Reflective Teaching Examples”

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Dr Chris Drew, this article is useful for teachers like me. I really appreciate your hard work. Thank you for being a helpful professor. Sandy

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Dr, Chris Drew. First of all Congratulations. This article is handy for me as I am doing my teacher training course. You did a good job, explaining in a simple manner so, anyone can understand easily. Thank you so much. Alka

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Lesson Planning: A tool for the reflective practitioner

You might not think of lesson planning as teaching innovation, lesson planning actually can help educators to focus their teaching style, technology use, and delivery techniques. Lesson planning is often taught in language teacher preparation programs, but have you thought about why we promote lesson planning (other than a response “you have to”)? While often required in some form in primary and secondary education, lesson planning has a place in postsecondary education as well. Lesson planning even has its place in conference presentations, educational or information workshops, and beyond!

Whether you use lesson planning on a regular basis, have let your planning practices lapse (or are just using old lesson plans again and again), are using publisher lessons without much adaptation, or are new to planning, this article highlights some ways in which you can approach or refocus yourself in this crucial practice. We will not cover detailed step-by-steps and how-tos of lesson planning here; instead, we will focus on what lesson planning can give us and ways in which we can incorporate reflective practices into the lesson planning process to help us improve our teaching techniques. 


Lesson planning helps an educator clarify their lesson goals, but also to keep focus in the lesson. You may have found yourself going on an unintended tangent during a lesson, forgetting to cover an essential element that might take away valuable time as you backtrack, or even run out of time in the class session. Lesson planning won’t completely eliminate all of this; it can help you keep on track toward your lesson goals. 

Tips for focusing (or refocusing) on lesson planning in your daily teaching:

  • Identify core and ancillary resources : By planning ahead of a lesson, you review what resources you have or might need access to. This can sometimes help you refresh yourself on a topic that you might not have checked out in a while or might be new to. Students can tell when an instructor might not be fully prepared, and planning can aid in this. Ask yourself what resources you might want to access and review prior to the lesson, be it a research article, textbook, web resources, or colleague. This will help you ensure that you have everything you need and are up-to-date on the content.
  • Unruly students versus poor planning: While not always the case, when things get out of control in the classroom, this can be as a result of not preparing a lesson that engages your learners. Learner engagement requires knowing your students and what motivates them, or what keeps them interested. Lesson planning can help you identify and stack activities that are of sufficient variety that keeps your learners on their toes. A top-down lecture for three hours would not seem like much fun for you either! Mixing up moments of lecture with discussions, group work, or tactile learning can have a major impact. These things do not happen by accident, and lesson planning can help with this.
  • Develop cohesion by connecting with colleagues: Where possible, connect with colleagues about your students. These could be current or prior instructors that your students had or even ones that your current students might eventually transition to. By connecting with your colleagues, you can understand the continuum of learning that students are on outside of the confines of your class. Ask a prior instructor what your students enjoyed in their class and/or what they may already know about a certain topic; if you had a prior group of students who transitioned from your class to another instructor, ask that instructor how well prepared the students were as they moved on. This can help you revisit your lessons to ensure that your students are engaged and have the skills/knowledge they need for the future. This is especially valuable if you are a seasoned educator and may be recycling lessons.


Lesson planning can also be an important element in assessment. You might wonder how planning can lead to better assessment practices, but keeping yourself organized can also help you to keep in mind and define assessment goals. By identifying the lesson and how it will be delivered, your assessment aims and strategies come into better focus. How often does your assessment mirror what and how you cover something in class? 

Tips for using lesson planning to understand and improve your assessment practices:

  • Ask yourself what you want your learners to do at the end of the lesson: This seems very basic, but this practice is one of the first steps in the assessment process. Without thinking through your intended lesson or course goals, you might not be approaching the assessment phase of your teaching in an organized way. Good assessment practices require a cohesive and connected learning experience that are well organized and on a path toward specific goals from before the lesson even starts. Write down what your goals are and how you will eventually assess them. Also remember that we are constantly collecting “assessment data” through informal assessment practices just as much as those formal assessments.
  • Identify how the lesson fits into your wider course/unit goals: Reflecting on the goals of a course, unit, or lesson, you keep the focus on the end goal. Whether you are thinking of course, program, or organizational goals here, this simple practice helps to both hone the content of the lesson, but also to help you identify potential formal and informal assessment practices and strategies. 
  • Consider the last time you (or the prior instructor) taught the lesson: As is likely evident, reflection is an important practice for an educator. It helps us to improve our techniques, but also areas in which we have strengths. Thinking back on the last time you taught a lesson (or ask a colleague who might have taught the same course/lesson before) can help you to understand whether your activities will have an impact. If, for example, your students did not enjoy a quiz app or certain speaker or resource you used previously, you might want to avoid or adapt your practices this time around.
  • Identify what is next: Before you wrap up your planning, identify what the next steps will be (i.e., what is the next lesson and how does it connect to this one?). Instructional effectiveness is not simply an accident. It requires having thought through and planned the prior step, the current step, and the next step. By focusing on where you will go next, you can develop connections from one lesson to another. Remember that we are building a cohesive novel, as opposed to disparate short stories. 


When we create lesson plans, we make decisions about what will be taught in the moment, but it can also be used as a tool to focus on ways in which your delivery technique can be improved. By thinking of lesson planning as a professional development tool, it reframes the whole experience from a single, time bound activity, to one that has a longer-term emphasis on you and your development as a practitioner.

Tips for making lesson plans helpful for your professional development:

  • Add questions for reflection at the end of your lesson : When you create your plan, ask yourself some things that you might like to consider at the end of the lesson. These could be questions like, “How well did students engage in the lesson?” or “How did implementing XX new technology go?” or “What could I do differently if I did this again?” These types of questions will help you be more aware of certain aspects within your lesson, and then provide you with space to re-think how things went post-lesson.
  • Identify the technology you will use in the lesson : By clearly identifying technology, you begin to make yourself more aware of how you use the technology and what success (or areas for improvement) you may have in the application of technology. This is especially important when you are trying out a new technology, website, or other resource for the first time. You might recognize in the planning process, for example, that you need to seek help downloading or accessing certain technology ahead of time. Ask yourself questions like, “Does this require downloading prior to use in my lesson?” or “Do the terms of service meet my organization’s technology or privacy protocols?” or “Do I really know how to use this?” or “Do I have all of the tools I need to launch this in my lesson?” Some simple questions can help you avoid lost time in the classroom if thought out ahead of time.
  • Test for 404 errors prior to the lesson: A 404 error is what you find when you click on a link and then see “oops, we can’t find what you are looking for.” This has happened to all of us at some point whether personally or professionally. Sometimes the resource has moved or might be available in a new format now. We have also all been in a position where software might need updating, which means you have to wait for it to finish loading. Checking links, software, or other technology resources prior to use can help you ensure that they are in working order. This can again take valuable lesson time away from what might otherwise be a very engaging and motivating activity.


Reflection is a core part of the work that we do as educators. Make time to reflect on a lesson once it is complete by allotting 10-15 minutes after the class to make notes or simply to think about what worked and did not. The more we can build in reflection time and learn from what works and what does not work, the better we can become at our craft. Afterall, none of us is born a teacher, and we are alway learning and growing professionally. Revisiting lesson planning with a reflective lens can help you get back on track or keep on track with this crucial part of our work.

In all, lesson planning has a lot that it can offer us in our work. By building these practices into planning, you can have an even greater impact on your teaching, the learning that takes place, and your own professional development. 


Whatever your planning might look like, we can all use refreshers on basic practices. Below are some resources that you can explore if you would like to learn more about or update your practices:

Book Resources

Horowitz, E. K. (2020). Becoming a language teacher (2 ed.). Castledown. (c.f. Chapter 10)

McConnell, C., Conrad, B., & Uhrmacher, P. B. (2020). Lesson Planning with Purpose: Five Approaches to Curriculum Design . Teachers College Press.

Schoenfeldt, M. K., & Salisbury, D. E. (2009). Lesson planning: A research-based model for K-12 classrooms . Pearson.

Web Resources

  • Lesson Planning for Language Classrooms: https://www.edutopia.org/article/flexible-lesson-planning-world-language-classes  
  • ESL Lessons from ESL Library: https://esllibrary.com/courses  
  • Share My Lesson: https://sharemylesson.com/
  • Tips and tools for increasing accessibility of lessons from UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Lesson Builder: http://lessonbuilder.cast.org/ 
  • Planning for Project Based Learning: https://www.pblworks.org/

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Reflection Toolkit

Structure of academic reflections

Guidance on the structure of academic reflections.

Academic reflections or reflective writing completed for assessment often require a clear structure. Contrary to some people’s belief, reflection is not just a personal diary talking about your day and your feelings.

Both the language and the structure are important for academic reflective writing. For the structure you want to mirror an academic essay closely. You want an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion.

Academic reflection will require you to both describe the context, analyse it, and make conclusions. However, there is not one set of rules for the proportion of your reflection that should be spent describing the context, and what proportion should be spent on analysing and concluding. That being said, as learning tends to happen when analysing and synthesising rather than describing, a good rule of thumb is to describe just enough such that the reader understands your context.

Example structure for academic reflections

Below is an example of how you might structure an academic reflection if you were given no other guidance and what each section might contain.  Remember this is only a suggestion and you must consider what is appropriate for the task at hand and for you yourself.


Identifies and introduces your experience or learning

  • This can be a critical incident
  • This can be the reflective prompt you were given
  • A particular learning you have gained

When structuring your academic reflections it might make sense to start with what you have learned and then use the main body to evidence that learning, using specific experiences and events. Alternatively, start with the event and build up your argument. This is a question of personal preference – if you aren’t given explicit guidance you can ask the assessor if they have a preference, however both can work.

Highlights why it was important

  • This can be suggesting why this event was important for the learning you gained
  • This can be why the learning you gained will benefit you or why you appreciate it in your context

You might find that it is not natural to highlight the importance of an event before you have developed your argument for what you gained from it. It can be okay not to explicitly state the importance in the introduction, but leave it to develop throughout your reflection.

Outline key themes that will appear in the reflection (optional – but particularly relevant when answering a reflective prompt or essay)

  • This can be an introduction to your argument, introducing the elements that you will explore, or that builds to the learning you have already gained.

This might not make sense if you are reflecting on a particular experience, but is extremely valuable if you are answering a reflective prompt or writing an essay that includes multiple learning points. A type of prompt or question that could particularly benefit from this would be ‘Reflect on how the skills and theory within this course have helped you meet the benchmark statements of your degree’

It can be helpful to explore one theme/learning per paragraph.

Explore experiences

  • You should highlight and explore the experience you introduced in the introduction
  • If you are building toward answering a reflective prompt, explore each relevant experience.

As reflection is centred around an individual’s personal experience, it is very important to make experiences a main component of reflection. This does not mean that the majority of the reflective piece should be on describing an event – in fact you should only describe enough such that the reader can follow your analysis.

Analyse and synthesise

  • You should analyse each of your experiences and from them synthesise new learning

Depending on the requirements of the assessment, you may need to use theoretical literature in your analysis. Theoretical literature is a part of perspective taking which is relevant for reflection, and will happen as a part of your analysis.  

Restate or state your learning

  • Make a conclusion based on your analysis and synthesis.
  • If you have many themes in your reflection, it can be helpful to restate them here.

Plan for the future

  • Highlight and discuss how your new-found learnings will influence your future practice

Answer the question or prompt (if applicable)

  • If you are answering an essay question or reflective prompt, make sure that your conclusion provides a succinct response using your main body as evidence.  

Using a reflective model to structure academic reflections

You might recognise that most reflective models mirror this structure; that is why a lot of the reflective models can be really useful to structure reflective assignments. Models are naturally structured to focus on a single experience – if the assignment requires you to focus on multiple experiences, it can be helpful to simply repeat each step of a model for each experience.

One difference between the structure of reflective writing and the structure of models is that sometimes you may choose to present your learning in the introduction of a piece of writing, whereas models (given that they support working through the reflective process) will have learning appearing at later stages.

However, generally structuring a piece of academic writing around a reflective model will ensure that it involves the correct components, reads coherently and logically, as well as having an appropriate structure.

Reflective journals/diaries/blogs and other pieces of assessed reflection

The example structure above works particularly well for formal assignments such as reflective essays and reports.  Reflective journal/blogs and other pieces of assessed reflections tend to be less formal both in language and structure, however you can easily adapt the structure for journals and other reflective assignments if you find that helpful.

That is, if you are asked to produce a reflective journal with multiple entries it will most often (always check with the person who issued the assignment) be a successful journal if each entry mirrors the structure above and the language highlighted in the section on academic language. However, often you can be less concerned with form when producing reflective journals/diaries.

When producing reflective journals, it is often okay to include your original reflection as long as you are comfortable with sharing the content with others, and that the information included is not too personal for an assessor to read.

Developed from:

Ryan, M., 2011. Improving reflective writing in higher education: a social semiotic perspective. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(1), 99-111.

University of Portsmouth, Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (date unavailable). Reflective Writing: a basic introduction [online].  Portsmouth: University of Portsmouth.

Queen Margaret University, Effective Learning Service (date unavailable).  Reflection. [online].  Edinburgh: Queen Margaret University.

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6 Tips to Writing a Solid Reflection Paper (With a Sample Essay)

Tonya Thompson

A reflection paper is an essay that focuses on your personal thoughts related to an experience, topic, or behavior. It can veer toward educational as a reflection of a book you've read or something you've been studying in class. It can also take a more professional slant as you reflect on a certain profession or your experiences within that profession.

A lot of students enjoy writing this type of essay, especially if they find it easy to discuss their feelings and experiences related to a topic or profession. However, some students find this type of subjective writing to be difficult and would rather a more objective writing assignment.

Whether you're the former or the latter, for this article, we're going to look at 6 tips for writing a solid reflection paper that will help you get through the outlining and writing processes. We've also provided a sample reflection paper so you can see these tips in action.

A reflection paper is an essay that focuses on your personal thoughts related to an experience, topic, or behavior.

Tip #1—Choose a topic you're passionate about

However you choose to focus your reflection paper, if you're able to choose your own topic, choose one that is highly interesting to you or that you find important. You'll find that your paper will be much easier to outline and draft if you do. There are a range of potential topics that have been used or have the potential of turning into a great reflection paper. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Describe your internship experience.
  • Discuss a recent book you read that changed you.
  • What is "family" to you and why?
  • What are some of the qualities demonstrated by your favorite employers and/or managers? What makes them your favorite?
  • Discuss music that has altered your way of thinking or made you see the world from a different perspective.
  • Reflect on your favorite memory of a pet or loved one.

Tip #2—Outline your reflection paper before you write

Be sure to outline your reflection paper first before you start to write. Even though this sort of essay is written as a personal reflection, you'll still need to make sure you stay on topic and organize your writing in a clear, logical way. As with other traditional essays, there should be an introduction with a thesis statement, a body, and a conclusion. Each paragraph within your body should focus on a different sub-topic within the scope of your overall topic.

Tip #3—Write in first-person singular

Write in first-person singular. Format the essay according to your teacher's instructions, using whatever citation style required. Your teacher will likely request that it is double-spaced, with 1" indentation in each margin, in 12 pt. font. Also keep in mind that most reflection papers will be around 750 words or less.

Tip #4—Avoid too much description

Avoiding adding too much description of events. This is not the kind of essay where you need to discuss a play-by-play of everything that happens. Rather, it is the kind of essay that focuses on your reflection of the topic and how you felt during these experiences.

Tip #5—Avoid colloquial expressions or slang

Avoid colloquial expressions or slang—this is still an academic assignment. Also, be sure to edit your essay thoroughly for any grammar or spelling mistakes. Since a reflection paper is written in first-person point of view, it's easy to mistake it for an informal essay and skip the editing. Regardless of the type of essay you submit to your professor, it should always be edited and error-free.

Tip #6—Critical reflection goes deeper

If your assignment asks you to write a critical reflection paper, it is asking for your observations and evaluations regarding an experience. You'll need to provide an in-depth analysis of the subject and your experience with it in an academic context. You might also provide a summary, if the critical reflection paper is about a book or article you've read.

Sample reflection paper

My student teaching experience with the Master's in Education program has been a great learning opportunity. Although I was nervous at first, it didn't take long to apply lessons I have been learning in my academic program to real-world skills such as classroom management, lesson planning, and instruction.

During my first week of student teaching, I was assigned a mentor who had been teaching middle school grades for over 12 years. She assured me that middle school is one of the most difficult grades to teach and that there is a high turnover rate of teachers, which worried me. However, once the week got started and I began to meet the students, my fears abated. These young people were funny, inquisitive, and eager to begin reading the assigned book, Lord of the Flies —especially after we started with a group project scenario that included kids being stranded on an island without adults.

The first few weeks of applying classroom management skills I had read about in my Master's program were a definite learning experience. I had read enough about adolescent development to know that they were not yet at the age where they were able to control all of their impulses, so there were moments when some would yell out an answer or speak without raising their hand first. So, at my mentor's suggestion, I worked with the students to create their own classroom rules that everyone would agree to abide by. Since they played a role in coming up with these rules, I believe it helped them take more personal responsibility in following them.

When we finished that initial group project, I began to see how tasks such as lesson planning—and plans that have to be turned in to the administration weekly—can easily become overwhelming if not worked out on the front-end of the semester. My mentor explained that most seasoned teachers will work on their lesson plans over the summer, using the proper state curriculum, to have them ready with the school year begins. Having scrambled to get my lesson planning done in time during the first few weeks, I saw the value in this and agreed with her that summertime preparation makes the most logical sense. When the school year gets started, it's really a whirlwind of activities, professional development and other events that make it really difficult to find the time to plan lessons.

Once the semester got well underway and I had lesson planning worked out with as little stress as possible, I was able to focus more on instructional time, which I found to be incredibly exciting. I began to see how incorporating multiple learning styles into my lesson, including visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles, helped the students stay more actively engaged in the discussion. They also enjoyed it when I showed them short video clips of the movie versions of the books we were reading, as well as the free-write sessions where they were able to write a scene and perform it with their classmates.

Finally, my student teaching experience taught me that above all else, I have truly found my "calling" in teaching. Every day was something new and there was never a dull moment—not when you're teaching a group of 30 teenagers! This lack of boredom and the things I learned from the students are two of the most positive things for me that resulted from the experience, and I can't wait to have my own classroom in the fall when the school year begins again.

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Digital Reflections: Expressing Understanding of Content Through Photography

Digital Reflections: Expressing Understanding of Content Through Photography

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Students explore both facts and feelings about a topic and make self–text–world connections as they prepare a presentation using word-processing and presentation software. Possible topics span many content areas, including science (animals, climate, space), geography (landforms), and historical events. Students select photos from websites that demonstrate their content understanding and communicate their feelings on the topic. They write and record a two-minute descriptive or persuasive script and pair the script with the photos using presentation software. Students and teacher assess the effectiveness of the presentation using the rubric and handouts provided.

Featured Resources

Guidelines for Writing a Digital Reflection Script : Students can use this sheet to find instructions for writing their digital reflection scripts.

From Theory to Practice

  • Literacy includes the ability to understand multimedia including audio, video, hypermedia and hypertext.
  • New technologies are continually being developed to support student communication. Students can be encouraged to use media and new technologies flexibly to compose and communicate their ideas.
  • The electronic world is transforming the ways in which traditional forms of alphabetic literacy (reading and writing) are used to communicate.
  • Project-based activities in an electronic environment can ground concepts contextually in authentic learning tasks while establishing meaningful communication and social interactions.
  • Teachers need to demonstrate awareness of everyday literacy practices that are important to students by including technology in their literacy teaching.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • One classroom computer with projection capability
  • Computers with Internet access that are equipped with a printer and word-processing and presentation software, such as AppleWorks, PowerPoint, or iMovie (and optional sound recording capability)
  • Network server or other file storage device with the capacity to hold large multimedia files
  • Topics for a Digital Reflection about Nature
  • Choices, Choices, Choices
  • Guidelines for Writing a Digital Reflection Script
  • Checklist for the Digital Reflection Project
  • Reflection Statements
  • Digital Reflection Review
  • Digital Reflection Rubric


Student objectives.

Students will

  • Practice descriptive or persuasive writing on a topic of their choice (connected with nature or history) integrating self-to-text, text-to-text, or world-to-text connections that demonstrate their understanding of and emotional connection to the topic
  • Examine techniques used in photography in the context of the presumed motivation or purpose of the photographer
  • Organize selected images to reveal and reinforce the feelings and message conveyed by a script, in order to influence the viewers' perspective on the topic
  • Practice technology skills necessary for assembling a multimedia file with presentation software (select, download, and save images; word process text file; record sound files; design slide formats; sequence the selected images and pair them with the recorded sound)
  • Learn the importance of acknowledging sources for images (and other materials) and practice a format for attributing Internet sources in a bibliography
  • Apply their understanding of effective writing and imagery to evaluate the content and design of the electronic presentations of their classmates

Note: Because of the brevity of the script, it is likely that some groups will complete a first draft in Session 2 and will be ready to select photographs immediately. Other groups may need more writing time. According to your assessment of the work habits, skill levels, and progress of each group, determine whether the group:

  • Is ready to select photographs and move immediately to Session 4
  • Should collect only a few photographs to act as writing stimuli and then return to the drafting process before moving to Session 4
  • Should continue working collaboratively to complete the script before collecting any photographs

Sessions 5 and 6

Note: The features of the presentation software selected dictate the procedure for assembling the presentation. For example, if students are using iMovie, they will import the photos and order them by placing them in the clip tray; if they are using PowerPoint or AppleWorks, they will copy and paste one photo onto each of 10 to 12 slides. Students will need to be familiar with the applicable procedures to complete the activities in Sessions 5 and 6. In addition to the directions available in the Help menu of the programs, online tutorials for these programs can be found at:

  • AppleWorks 6 Manuals
  • iMovie Tutorial
  • iMovie Support
  • PowerPoint in the Classroom
  • Examine and discuss a photo through the eyes of a historian using the Image Detective on the Picturing Modern America 1880–1920 website. Although the activity is described as “Historical Thinking Exercises for Middle School and High School Students,” photos in the categories “Leisure and Amusement” or “The West” are appropriate for older elementary students. This activity is designed to build students’ skills in analyzing historical photographs.
  • Visit the eduScapes website to learn about Visual Literacy . As suggested in the “Reading Visuals” section, select a photo and “read” it, guided by the Visual Literacy Challenge questions provided. You can use a photo from the American Memory website (linked from the Visual Literacy page), or you could select a photograph from a recent publication, or examine a famous work of art.
  • Study the work of a famous illustrator of children’s books, examining the artist’s technique and sensitivity to the author’s language and style. Yahoo lists many illustrators and author/illustrators in the Yahoo! Kids Directory .

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • As students work in collaborative groups, circulate among the groups and make notes about students’ contributions or lack of participation. Also review the group members’ own notes to determine how effectively students shared their ideas and knowledge.
  • At the close of Session 2, read the first drafts of the scripts to determine where students need assistance or guidance from you or need to consult additional print or electronic resources.
  • Review each group’s Checklist for the Digital Reflection Project . Use the checklist and the final copy of their script in evaluating the success of their efforts. Note any revisions they may have made in response to the Action portion of the checklist.
  • Complete the Digital Reflection Rubric using your notes gathered after Sessions 2, 3, and 6. Compile an evaluation packet for each presentation that comprises the teacher-completed Digital Reflection Rubric and the students’ Digital Reflection Reviews for that specific presentation.
  • Review students’ individual Reflection Statements . These can be placed in students’ portfolios or returned to them at the end of the project.
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Kelsey Reavy

Easy Reflection for Lesson Plans


The most simple way for reflection for a lesson plan? Keep the same notebook as your students. 

There’s a lot of reasons to take the same notes as your students. I promise, the amount of work is certainly worth the amount of time you’ll save in the long run.  (This is a HUGE part of the All Star Planning Method !) It’s only a shred more work, and it’s totally worth it.  You may not even need to do this each year. Trying this just once or twice may be all you need, but there certainly is an advantage to doing this each year. 

Lesson Reflection and Pacing

Keeping the notes your students take will help you with your pacing.  You will be able to figure out almost exactly how much content to deliver each day.  I like to aim for one to two pages (without any math examples taking up space).  It’s sometimes hard to judge how much should be taught in a single day and it will change depending on the age and subject you teach.  

Easy Way to Help Absent Students

Keeping a notebook that students keep makes helping absent students easy.  You know that whatever notes are taken are legible and accurate. You can take pictures of these notes and email them to students are post them on Google classroom.

Reflection for Lesson Plan

If you have the same notebook you require your students to have, you can use for reflection for lesson plan.  You can write directly in your notes about how your lesson went.  If things are good, write them down so you do those things again.  If things don’t go well, you can write those things down and fix them.  Then, next year when you edit your lessons, you know exactly HOW to fix them next year.  This is my favorite way to detail my lesson reflection.  Learn more here . 

Watch Your Teaching Evolve

Last up, the reason you should have the same notebook as your students, is to see the evolution of your teaching.  If you keep everything year by year, you can take a look back and see how you’ve evolved.  This is especially true if you’re kind of mushy, like I am.  It’s nice to literally see that all of this work we do as teachers really means something and helps us to grow. 

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