Inviting End-of-Semester Student ReflectionLia Schraeder, PhD | Division for Teaching Innovation & Program Strategy Nov 20, 2023
Reflection is widely recognized as an essential practice for learning, metacognition, and personal growth in higher education. Reflection can be integrated in our teaching anytime, but an end-of-semester reflection can be especially powerful: to help students appreciate their growth over time, to bring a meaningful conclusion to a course, and to empower students to take ownership of their learning within and beyond our courses. Student reflection can also be a valuable way to inform faculty reflection on our teaching.
Reflective questions to ask our students
Below are some examples of categories of reflection and reflective questions you can draw from and tailor to your teaching context to guide student reflection as the semester draws to a close.
- Reflections on big ideas of the course
- What did you learn in this course? Discuss three of the biggest ideas from the course.
- What was meaningful to you about what you learned?
- What do you want to be sure to remember from this course 10 years from now?
Reflections on your learning journey
- How did ideas build on each other over the course of the semester?
- What was the most significant idea or moment of learning you want to remember?
- How did you experience the process of learning during this class? Discuss one high point in your learning and one challenging moment (which might be the same).
- How do you intend to continue this movement or journey moving forward?
Reflections on a learning moment
- What did you experience as the most significant moment of your learning? Why?
- How has your perspective or understanding of [class subject] been changed, challenged, reinforced or deepened because of this idea or moment?
- What is one way you intend to use or apply your learning from this moment in your future endeavors?
Reflections on challenges you faced
- What did not go well this semester? What did you experience as challenging or undesirable?
- What insight did you gain about dealing with challenges?
- What advice would you give future students on how to overcome challenges in this course?
Reflections on your success
- What are you better at now than when you started this course?
- What are you most proud of from the semester? Why does this make you proud?
- What tools, supports or resources aided your success?
- What advice would you give future students on how to achieve success in this course?
Reflections on future application of learning
- How did my learning in this course help me better understand real world issues or experiences?
- How did my learning advance me towards success in my major or build specific career skills (e.g. digital technology, collaboration, professionalism)?
- What else do I need to learn in order to succeed in my major or prepare for my career?
- How will I pursue this next step in my learning?
Inviting reflections on the course
- In addition to self-reflection, you might want to invite reflection and constructive feedback on the course, for the benefit of future students and your teaching practice. In inviting student feedback, you can gather useful information on topics that may not be included in the Faculty Course Questionnaires (FCQs) such as on specific readings or assignments. You can also take advantage of this opportunity to coach students in how to give helpful feedback in advance of FCQs.
- For examples of questions, you might ask see Bayraktar, Course Feedback Survey (Google Form Template to Copy).
- For thoughts on coaching students in helpful feedback see our CETL Handout.
How to invite student reflection
You can use any of a variety of methods to invite end-of-semester reflection on the questions above. For examples, you might ask students to discuss questions in small groups; to complete a guided reflection using a survey (e.g. Google or Microsoft Forms); to write a journal post, reflective essay, or letter to future students; or to create a “learning journey map,” podcast, video, or even an e-portfolio. End-of-semester reflection is especially insightful when contrasted with earlier reflections (such as early semester or midterm reflection).
If you’d like support in integrating student reflection in your course(s), please connect with us. We’re here to help you achieve your teaching and learning goals in any modality.
- Bayraktar, B. End-of-semester surveys (2020)
- Bayraktar, B. Tips for planning student reflection (2023)
- Hardy, End-of-the-Year Reflection (2021)
- Iowa State University, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Powerful Endings and Reflection
- Schreiner and Mueller, Powerful Endings and Reflection (2020)