Reflection is a response developed to make meaning from the integration of knowledge and experience, or theory and practice.

While reflection as assessment encompasses reflective practice in professional contexts, it is also relevant for assessing critical reflection on learning (Thompson & Pascal, 2012).

Reflection is the process of engaging the self in attentive, critical, exploratory and iterative interactions with one’s thoughts and actions, and their underlying conceptual frame, with a view to changing them and with a view on the change itself. (Nguyen et al., 2014)

The development of graduates who are reflective practitioners is a key goal in higher education. Critically reflective practice applies the learning from reflection to professional practice in a continual cycle. Reflective writing, where students reflect on placements in the light of the theoretical learning, is often a component of professional placement subjects such as nursing, other medical and health care disciplines and teaching practice. However, reflection can also be the final assessment task in a wide range of other disciplines.

Advantages and limitations

  • Supports student development as reflective practitioners, an authentic form of assessment.
  • Can be assessed through a range of different outputs.
  • Promotes creativity and originality.
  • Can link to future employability.
  • Promotes ‘deep’ thinking about the learning (metacognitive).
  • Aligns with learning outcomes and cognitive processes related to demonstrating knowledge and understanding, review and analysis, critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, judgement, lifelong learning, reflection and academic writing.
  • Getting the balance right for student engagement is challenging. Too much support limits the cognitive challenge; too much challenge can overwhelm and limit responsiveness.
  • Reflective practice must be scaffolded throughout the subject before it is used as a final assessment.
  • Subjectivity of reflection creates challenges for moderation and grading and feedback.
  • Responses risk being based on narrative rather than reflection, especially in journal tasks.

Reflective models

There are a range of models for reflection that can be used. Explore the additional resources, below, for some of these options:

Some forms of reflective output for assessment

  • Reflective essays.
  • Short answer responses that have a reflective focus.
  • Journals.
  • Portfolios that include artefacts/evidence, accompanied by reflections.
  • Presentations that have a reflective component.
  • Creative artworks where an artefact is produced or performed, e.g. poetry, painting, photography, dance, role play.
  • Digital story.

Some considerations when developing a reflection as an assessment task

  • Ensure the topic is aligned with learning outcomes and subject content.
  • Be clear about the purpose of the reflection as you write the task and communicate the rationale to students.
  • Specify the reflective model to be used.
  • Ensure the task identifies the required balance between subject content and reflection, or evidence/artefact and reflection.
  • Ensure the rubric specifies the standards of reflection.
  • Design reflection activities into the subject content so there is scaffolding.
  • Show and discuss examples of format, structure and style

Additional resources

Assessing Reflection. DePaul University. Retrieved from on April 15, 2020.

Critically Reflective Practice. Thompson, N., & Pascal, J. (2012). Developing critically reflective practice. Reflective Practice, 13(2), 311-325. doi:

Facilitating Reflection – University of Vermont. Retrieved from on April 15, 2020.

Facilitator’s Toolkit. University of Edinburgh, Reflection Toolkit. Retrieved from on April 16, 2020.

Guided Reflection and Assessment. Ash, S. L., & Clayton, P. H. (2004). The Articulated Learning: An Approach to Guided Reflection and Assessment. Innovative Higher Education, 29(2), 137-154. doi:

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle – University of Leicester, David Kolb. Retrieved from on April 16, 2020.

Nguyen, Q. D., Fernandez, N., Karsenti, T., & Charlin, B. (2014). What is reflection? A conceptual analysis of major definitions and a proposal of a five-component model. Medical Education, 48(12), 1176-1189. doi: 10.1111/medu.12583

Sustainable Assessment. Boud, D., & Soler, R. (2015). Sustainable assessment revisited. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1-14. doi: See particularly p. 6 and the questions on p.12.

The Active Reviewing Cycle – Roger Greenaway. Retrieved from on April 16, 2020.

Using Reflection for Assessment – University of Iowa. Retrieved from on April 15, 2020.

Sample reflection tasks

  • Barton, G., & Ryan, M. (2014). Multimodal approaches to reflective teaching and assessment in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 33(3), 409-424. doi:
  • Critical Incident Accounts. Race, P. (2020). The Lecturer’s Toolkit (5th ed.), pp. 115-118. Routledge: Abingdon. Available online through Charles Sturt University library.
  • Examples of Reflection and Reflective Assessment. Canadian Council on Continuing Education in Pharmacy. Retrieved from on April 14, 2020.
  • Gibbs’ reflective cycle. University of Cumbria. Retrieved from on April 16, 2020.
  • Teaching Patterns for Reflectionan excellent resource. QUT Australian ePortfolio Project. Retrieved from on April 15, 2020.

Instructional and assessment resources

The following resources are for students and are useful as instructional resources. They also provide guidance for designing a reflection assessment:

  • Reflective Writing in Education – Monash University. Retrieved from on April 15, 2020.
  • Reflective Writing – Deakin University. Retrieved from on April 16, 2020.
  • Applying the Gibbs’ Reflective Model. Manchester Metropolitan University. Retrieved from on April 16, 2020.
  • Gibbs’ reflective cycle – University of Edinburgh. Retrieved from on April 16, 2020.