Photo courtesy of Karin Trail-Johnson
“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”
John Dewey, American philosopher and education reformer, 1938

Amulya, “What is Reflective Practice?”

The author defines reflection as “an active process of witnessing one’s own experience in order to take a closer look at it.” Rather than passively having an experience happen to them, reflective persons analyze the experience in order to derive meaning from it. The author notes that reflection varies both in frequency and in depth, and that it is valuable as both an individual and a collective activity. Finally, she argues that inquiry drives reflection and that storytelling and dialoguing foster this inquiry.

Bateson, “Composing a Life Story”

The author proposes active, imaginative reflection in the form of life compositions. She foremost argues that composing one’s life is richer when one goes beyond the confines of expected narratives. She details several “canonical forms” of narratives, such as the “conversion narrative,” and encourages people to sample and blend these canonical forms in order to pick up on profound connections and patterns in one’s life. The author argues that this more inventive way of composing one’s life gives one an unremitting sense of purpose and an ability to communicate precisely with different generations of people.

Bolton, Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development
(Available for check out from the Civic Engagement Center)

Bolton offers a searching and thorough approach to reflective practice which increases student and professional motivation, satisfaction, and deep levels of learning. She clearly explains the use of reflection; reflexivity; narrative; metaphor; complexity, and the literary and artistic methods used are strongly  grounded in educational theory and pedagogical principles.

Brookfield, Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher
(Available for check out from the Civic Engagement Center)

This book is an accessible guide to how faculty of any level can improve their teaching with critical reflection. It confronts  the contradictions involved in creating democratic classrooms and gives advice on how to use practical approaches of critical reflection to aid in ongoing personal and professional development. Brookfield explains  how teachers can reframe their teaching by viewing their practice through four distinctive lenses: their autobiographies as teachers and learners, their students’ eyes, their colleagues’ perceptions, and theoretical literature. Additionally, he discusses concrete ways to create a campus culture that supports critically reflective teaching.

Congleton, Hozel, Lazar, “Mindfulness Can Literally Change your Brain

Practicing “non-judgemental, open-minded awareness” (mindfulness) fundamentally alters neurological structures. This is particularly relevant to business professionals. Mindfulness is needed for any healthy brain. For example, two studies show that practicing mindfulness increases grey matter in the ACC (decision-making) and the hippocampus (emotion and memory). They also demonstrate how not being active in mindfulness practice can damage these areas of the brain.

Cronon, “Only Connect”

“Liberal education” as a phrase is overused at colleges. What does it really mean? It does not mean politically liberal despite its colloquial associations. Liberal education… “aspires to nurture the growth of human talent in the service of human freedom.” What does this look like? It is easiest to look at characteristics of a liberally educated person to describe this. They are people who listen and hear, read and understand, can talk with anyone, can write clearly, persuasively, and movingly, can solve a variety of puzzles and problems, respect rigor not for its own sake but as a way of seeking truth, practice humility, tolerance, and self-criticism, understand how to get things done in the world, nurture and empower people around them, and see connections in the world.

Fletcher, Najarro, Yelland, Fostering Habits of Mind in Today’s Students
(Available for check out from the Civic Engagement Center)

Based upon a multi-campus, cross-disciplinary collaboration, this book presents the resulting set of habits-of-mind-based strategies that demonstrably help college students overcome obstacles on the path to degree completion. This contributed volume, written with full-time and adjunct faculty in mind, provides the rationale for this pedagogical approach and presents the sequential instructional cycle that begins by identifying students’ assets and progressively focusing on specific habits to develop their capacity to transfer their learning to new tasks and situations.

Grites, Developmental Academic Advising: a 40 Year Context

Grites summarizes the improvements in the theories and practices of developmental academic advising starting from its conception around 1970. Developmental academic advising recognizes that the foundation of a strong advising relationship requires the formation of a mutual and open student-advisor relationship. This allows the advisor to implement a more holistic approach to advising that emphasizes the development and growth of all dimensions of a student – personal, career, educational.

Intrator and Scribner, Teaching With Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage To Teach
(Available for check out at the Macalester Civic Engagement Center)

Poetry has the power to keep us vital and focused on what really matters in life and in schooling. Teaching with Fire is a wonderful collection of eighty-eight poems from such well-loved poets as Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, and Pablo Neruda. Each of these evocative poems is accompanied by a brief story from a teacher explaining the significance of the poem in his or her life’s work. This book also includes an essay that describes how poetry can be used to grow both personally and professionally.

Kaplan, Silver, Lavaque-Manty, Meizlish, Using Reflection and Metacognition to Improve Student Learning
(Available for check out from the Civic Engagement Center)

With the recognition that few teachers have a deep understanding of metacognition, and still fewer have developed methods for integrating it into their curriculum, this book offers a hands-on, user-friendly guide for implementing metacognitive and reflective pedagogy in a range of disciplines. Research has identified the importance of helping students develop the ability to monitor their own comprehension and demonstrates that metacognitive teaching strategies greatly improve student engagement with course material. This book presents principles that teachers in higher education can put into practice in their own classrooms to help students become self-regulated learners actively employing metacognitive and reflective strategies in their education.

Light, “Good Mentoring and Advising”

Having an effective academic adviser is of integral importance in a student’s success and well being. The author details their personal experience where an adviser really tried to get in their head in order to understand them and give good advice. The author, now an adviser, focuses on helping students craft specific goals for themselves each semester. Interviews with Rhodes and Marshall scholars about what their advisers did correctly reveals that encouraging students to ask big questions and make connections between their personal life and their academics were the most effective strategies for success. Advisers should encourage students to track their time and be intentional and push them to become more involved in on-campus activities.

Light, “How to Live Wisely” 

On Richard Light’s campus, first-year students participate in a non-credit seminar called “Reflecting on Your Life” that teaches them to ask questions about how to lead a wise, meaningful life. This seminar, which takes place in a small group over three 90-minute sessions, offers a number of activities. In one exercise, students are asked to make a list of what matters to them and another list of how they actually spend their time. This brings up the question: How well do your commitments match your goals? Students also ponder hypothetical scenarios in which they’re forced to choose between different lifestyles that serve or fail to serve the broader community in different ways. Students are asked to identify their core values and think about whether they conflict with or contradict each other. In years following the seminar, students said these discussions were key in helping them identify their path and sense of purpose through the college experience.

Magolda & King, “Toward Reflective Conversations: An Advising Approach that Promotes Self-Authorship”

The authors advocate for an advising approach that allows students to draw their own conclusions. Moving away from a model of academic advising that emphasizes top-down advice, the authors propose a model in which advisers use open prompts to “encourag[e] students to make sense of their experiences rather than the [adviser] making sense of it for them.” They argue that the latter model both precludes students from choosing majors and careers ill-fit for them, as well as helps eliminate young students’ uncritical trust in the omniscience of authority figures.

Mezirow, “How Critical Reflection Triggers Transformative Learning”

This chapter explores the relationship between reflection and learning, particularly among adults. The author contends that transformative learning occurs when people reflect on the contexts of their environments, histories, and lives critically enough to “[challenge] the validity of presuppositions in prior learning.” The standard reaction to foreign and threatening experiences is to assimilate them into our a priori mental schemata. In contrast, however, the author promotes critical reflection–”a critical review of distorted presuppositions that may be epistemic, sociocultural, or psychic”–as a primary way to experience transformative learning.

Osterman & Kottkamp, “Defining Reflective Practice”

The authors define reflective practice as a demanding, usually interpersonal exercise that enhances one’s “self-awareness about the nature and impact of their performance.” While reflective practice tends to be misconceived as solitary and comfortable, the authors emphasize how taxing the process can be.

Parks,”Big Questions, Worthy Dreams”

The author differentiates mentoring from other helping relationships such as teacher, sponsor, and counselor. The mentor’s task is to give “authoritative guidance at the time of the development of critical thought and the formation of an informed, adult, and committed faith,” where “faith” is construed broadly as a conviction to that which one trusts is true. This is distinct from simply training a younger person to feed one’s own agenda. The author argues that, by posing questions that are timeless, deep, and purposeful and by appropriately balancing a nurturing and challenging spirit, mentors can guide their mentees as they form their unique faith.

Pizzolato, Complex Partnerships: Self-authorship and Provocative Academic-Advising Practices

What factors contribute to more autonomy and reinforcement of self-authorship in students? What are the best academic-advising practices that facilitate the development of student’s own perspectives while recognizing that they are both learners and knowers? This study by Pizzolato suggests that there is a high positive correlation between the goal reflection (i.e. academic, career and personal reflection) and a shift towards self-authorship. Additionally, Pizzolato critically examines the three components of the learning partnership model proposed by Magolda in 2001 in an academic advising context.

Rodger, “Reflection: Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking”

Seeking to provide a precise definition of reflection, the author harkens back to four of John Dewey’s criteria for what constitutes reflection. These four criteria are:

  • Reflection is a meaning-making process wherein people make connections between various objects/experiences in their lives.
  • Reflection is rigorous and systematic, inspired by scientific inquiry.
  • Reflection is inherently a social practice.
  • Reflection must be paired with a valuing of personal and communal growth.

Schon, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think In Action
(Available for check out from the Civic Engagement Center)

This book discusses precisely how ”reflection-in-action” works and how this creativity can be fostered in future professionals. It examines  five professions—engineering, architecture, management, psychotherapy, and town planning—to show how professionals  go about solving problems in the workplace.  The book supports the notion that in order to meet the challenges of their work, people must rely less on information learned through academia and more on improvisation learned through reflective practice.

Schulenberg, Academic Advising Informed by Self-Authorship Theory

A vital developmental maturation that often occurs in college is self-authorship. Self authorship deals with the individual’s shift from blindly following expectations to self-guided decisions informed by weighing both internal values and external influences. This paper covers the basics of self-authorship theory as well as learning models that implement this new developmental perspective. Schulenberg details the importance of understanding this theory as a framework for improving academic advising focused on challenging students to articulate their educational motivations and passions. Helpful concrete examples of self-authorship theory in practice are included.

Stevens and Cooper, Journal Keeping: How to Use Reflective Writing for Learning, Teaching, Professional Insight, and Positive Change

(Available for check out from the Civic Engagement Center)

This book presents the potential uses and benefits of journals for personal and professional development―particularly for those in academic life; and demonstrates journals’ potential to foster college students’ learning, fluency and voice, and creative thinking. It helps readers make an informed decision about the value of journals and to determine whether journals will fit appropriately with their teaching objectives or help manage their personal and professional lives.

Wirth, Flipped Advising

Academic advising should not be a one sided exchange in which an advisor simply doles out advice to the advisee. Helpful and effective advising requires reflection from the student. “Flipped Advising” breaks down the important themes that students face as they move through Macalester – from developing agency to preparing for life after college. Using open ended questions and reflective scenarios, this advising strategy aims to push the student to think about their values and enables them to synthesize their college experiences in a meaningful way. The focused and targeted approach outlined by Wirth facilitates the development of skills necessary to become an intentional learner.