In our last ‘Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’ (SOTL) meetings we read and discussed An exploration of the nature and assessment of student reflection. I had selected this article, because many, maybe even all of our modules and programmes include the need for students to (learn to) reflect on their own knowledge, experience, learning and practice in order to become more self-aware and through that more effective learners and practitioners. I am also interested in this area as it is a subject closely related to contemplative practices, where the question of assessment is equally or even more complex.

For me it all comes back to QMU’s Student Experience Strategy which essentially guarantees that our students have a transformative experience while studying here. Reflection and contemplative practices are vital tools in helping students have such transformative experiences and to enhance their self-knowledge. We discussed some other related questions, for example around the potential for reflection and contemplation to result in encounters with difficult aspects of self. We also noted that assessing reflection and contemplation may drive students to trying to meet the marking criteria and therefore becoming very goal oriented, which is arguably not well aligned to the values intrinsic in reflection/contemplation, namely of validating the immediate lived experience of self and bring an attitude of ‘non striving’.

Lastly, we also noted that the article says very little about how to actually teach reflection. To me this is always a key question. Are you asking your students to reflect? Then, what time and space are you dedicating to working with them on understanding what this actually means and on practicing it in a low-stakes and safe environment? Once students are clearer on the nature and purposes of reflection, they should find it easier to integrate it into their work. The need to assess their ability to reflect, as a separate skill, is then perhaps less pressing?