Formulating Questions for Reflection

The Problem

Generic questions (e.g. those on the 4Rs model of levels of reflection) provide a good starting point to guide students’ reflective thinking. However, in making sense of experiences in new environments (e.g. field experiences or service learning experiences), students may have to challenge their own assumptions. This can involve asking themselves, and others, quite specific, probing, questions to get them to start thinking about their experiences in a different way.

The Context

The “What? So what? Now what?” reflection rubric is a well-known questioning framework which can be a useful alternative to the 4Rs model. Modelling the sorts of questions in the rubric can help students to formulate their own questions in order to probe the complex issues they encounter. A Fishbowl Reflection (FBR) activity can be modified to provide a non-threatening environment in which this can occur.

The Pattern

  1. Introduce the notion of dissonance by asking students to identify aspects of their field/service learning experience that have been surprising or confronting.
  2. Seek 2-3 volunteers to talk about their experiences in a Fishbowl activity. Acting as a facilitator, model the sorts of probing questions that students might need to ask themselves by drawing on the “What? So what? Now what?” framework (see Resource 1).
  3. Hand over to the students in the Fishbowl i.e. get them to continue asking probing questions of each other. (Though continue to scaffold with extra questions if students appear to need this.)
  4. After observing the fishbowl activity, the rest of the class can then break into small groups to practise their own questioning.
  5. Listen in to these small groups. Again, provide starter questions to groups if they are needed.

Related Patterns

Fishbowl Reflection (FBR): Some previous experience with the Fishbowl reflection pattern will mean that students can concentrate on developing their questioning.


The “What? So what? Now what?” model cab be used to facilitate discussion about service learning experiences.


An example of the “What? So what? Now what?” framework:


NZMaths (n.d.). Dreamstime [Image.] Retrieved 7 July 2011 from


Jimi Bursaw (Education, UQ) contributed to this pattern.