How to deepen learning through critical reflection
Too many students simply acquire pieces of knowledge without establishing
relationships among them,
integrating new information
with prior learning, or grappling with big questions. Critical reflection can
engage students in learning that
challenges their assumptions
and deepens the way they understand issues and concepts.
A college education is about more than just accumulating knowledge.
To reach deeper levels of understanding,
a student must be able to construct meaning out of a purposeful combination of experiences
and academic materials. All too often, however, academic depth is sacrificed to breadth.
When the main learning goal is to cover as much material in a semester as possible,
it’s not surprising that profound critical thinking goals tends to be glossed
over in favor of more superficial learning objectives. Critical reflection is one of the best
ways to overcome this common problem. When intentionally and carefully
designed, critical reflection activities motivate students to “dig deep” and engage in the
intensive process of analyzing, reconsidering, and questioning academic experiences
and content knowledge.
Three ways to help students become more meta-cognitively aware
Encourage students to express their confusion in class
Incorporating reflection into graded coursework
Faculty modeling - thinking out loud in front of students
Activity in and of itself does not promote learning. Activity must be accompanied by a
metacognitive component, which requires students to
process what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what they are learning from doing it.
Tanner, K. D. 2012. “Promoting Student Metacognition.”
Cell Biology Education—Life Sciences Education, 11 (Summer): 113–120.