Active Learning: Critical Reflection

Critical reflection would be another useful activity to do. Students are given a writing prompt requiring them to reflect on what they have learned or need more help with. This need not be a very lengthy assignment. Just a few minutes at the beginning or end of the class would work (Fink & Fink, 2009). These could be taken up and reviewed each time or collected into a larger reflection paper later in the course (Laureate Education, Inc., 2012).

The prompts need not be terribly complicated. They could include things like these:

  • What’s the most important thing you learned today?
  • What point do you feel unclear about?
  • What would help you understand this concept better?
  • What could your instructor do differently to help you understand the concept?
  • What could you do differently to improve your understanding of this concept?

Critical reflections encourage students to both consider the learning process, their personal strengths, and their weaknesses. The responses are quickly done and allow students to express concerns before the problems get out of hand (Brookfield, 2006).

Students analyze their own learning processes, which helps establish relevance for what they are learning (Barkley, 2010). This also helps students figure out what assumptions they have, which can be important for developing a deeper understanding of the material (Brookfield, 2006).


Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses (Rev.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fink, L. D., & Fink, A. K. (Eds.) (2009). Designing courses for significant learning: Voices of experience [Special Issue]. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (119).

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). 2012. Strategies for engaging students. Baltimore, MD: Author.




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