Critical Reflection

Critical reflection is a reasoning process to make meaning of an experience.  Critical reflection is descriptive, analytical, and critical, and can be articulated in a number of ways such as in written form, orally, or as an artistic expression.  In short, this process adds depth and breadth to an experience and builds connections between course content and the experience. 

Often, a reflection activity is guided by a set of written prompts.  A best practice for critical reflection is that students to respond to prompts before, during, and after their experience; therefore, the prompts should be adjusted to match the timing of the reflection.  Critical reflection can be integrated into any type of experiential learning activity - inside the classroom or outside the classroom. 

It is important to understand what critical reflection is NOT.  It is not a reading assignment, it is not an activity summary, and it is not an emotional outlet without other dimensions of experience described and analyzed.  Critical reflection should be carefully designed by the instructor to generate and document student learning before, during, and after the experience. 

If you are considering using critical reflection, there are four steps to think about:

1.  Identify the student learning outcomes related to the experience.  What do you expect students to gain as a result of this activity?  Understand multiple points of view?  Be able to propose solutions to a problem? 

2.  Once you identify the outcomes, then you can design the reflection activities to best achieve the outcomes.  Remember, that critical reflection is a continuous process.

3.  Engage students in critical reflection before, during, and after the experience.

4.  Assess their learning.  A rubric that outlines the criteria for evaluation and levels of performance for each criterion can be useful for grading reflection products and providing detailed feedback to students.


Additional Resources

Bart, M.  (2011, May 11).  Critical reflection adds depth and breadth to student learning.  Faculty Focus.  Retrieved from

Colorado Mountain College.  (2007).  Critical reflection. Retrieved from



Jacoby, B.  (2010).  How can I promote deep learning through critical reflection?  Magna Publications.  Retrieved from