Skip to main content
1:15 PM - 4:00 PM
Kellogg Center Room 103AB
MSU Graduate School
Faculty Knowledge Essentials, Pedagogy: How people learn

Using the Power of Reflection for Significant Learning

The crucial element of critical reflection is the key to marshaling the power of significant, higher-level learning. Reflective thinking and judgment are transformative, effective stimuli for deep, lasting learning, but they are also challenging and unfamiliar to students, demanding a level of self-scrutiny, honesty, and disinterestedness which comes with great difficulty. As John Dewey (1910) proclaims: Reflective thinking is always more or less troublesome because it involves overcoming the inertia that inclines one to accept suggestions at their face value; it involves willingness to endure a condition of mental unrest and disturbance. Reflective thinking, in short, means judgment suspended during further inquiry; and suspense is likely to be somewhat painful. . . . To maintain the state of doubt and to carry on systematic and protracted inquiry—these are the essentials of thinking. (How We Think, p. 13)  How do we create a classroom climate that encourages and develops students’ ability to address vital reflective questions that invite such “systematic and protracted inquiry” throughout a course or program? What strategies can we use to help students become more reflective about their learning? Attaining such a critical attitude toward learning is an important lesson in mature, reflective thinking for all students. In a sense, students who engage regularly in practiced reflection about both content knowledge and the process of learning are empowered to know and make sense of the sources and outcomes of their learning. They acquire not just the skills necessary for effective learning and goal setting but essentially a habit of being, an approach to knowing and learning grounded in critical reflection.