Start Talking Reflection

The Problem

Written expression of reflective thought is particularly difficult if students are expected to write formally and without practice. While students are more likely to voice their reflections, this requires a supportive constructive environment.

The Context

This pattern is based on a “dialogic” premise: that the sooner people “speak” the language of a discipline, the more likely they are to learn how to think and work professionally. Reflective speaking should be carefully scaffolded in non-threatening settings where students can rehearse with confidence. This prepares them for successful formal, written expression that can be used for summative assessment.

The Pattern

  1. Model the language and processes of the discipline in a formal setting (e.g. a lecture). In part, the purpose of this phase is to provide students with a conceptual toolbox with which they can later rehearse reflective expression, using the language of the discipline.
  2. In a tutorial setting, introduce the processes of reflection by modelling (verbally) how and why a student might reflect, and emphasising the “rules of engagement” when responding to the reflective expression of peers (e.g. critique of a work rather than of the author). Since expressing inner reflective thoughts can be risky (particularly with new, formal language), there is a joint responsibility of student and their peer-audience to respond constructively.
  3. Have the students engage in problem-solving exercises that involve more than the expectation of just an answer or a product. Students are expected to reveal thinking behind the choices they made in answering the problem. Crucially, this reflective expression is spoken rather then written. Also, the students are expected to use the discipline language and processes that have already been modelled.
  4. Following from small group reflection, scaffold the student dialogue so that such expression is given to increasingly larger groups of peers (e.g. a whole tutorial group). For example, a small group might select one student to report-back to a wider audience.
  5. Over time, allow students to become practised and confident in spoken reflection before summative assessment is attempted. Also, gradually change the nature of the tasks so that they change from artificial exercises to more authentic tasks typical of discipline settings.

Related Patterns

Fishbowl Reflection (FBR) could be used in step 4.




clarita (2004). mask3.jpg [Image]. Retrieved August 31, 2010 from

Granville, Stella (2009). Making connections through reflection: writing and feedback in an academic literacy programme. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, 27(1), 53-63.

Olson, D. & Astington, J. (1990). Talking about text: How literacy contributes to thought. Journal of Pragmatics, 14(5), 705-721.

Reiman, A. (1999). The evolution of the social role taking and guided reflection framework in teacher education: recent theory and quantitative synthesis of research. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15, 597-612.


This pattern was initiated by Jillian Hamilton (Creative Industries)