Category Archives: activity

“Reflection in Engineering Education Workshop” at University of Washington

In the final year of CPREE, the consortium hosted a two-day workshop on “Reflection in Engineering Education,” attended by over 60 educators from 22 institutions across the U.S. and abroad. This workshop built on the documented CPREE reflection activities, as well as the CPREE team’s experience working with educators to integrate reflection activities into their teaching. Specifically, workshop participants were invited to:

  1. examine reflection activities that have been conducted by engineering educators,
  2. explore strategies for choosing or creating a reflection activity to integrate into teaching practices,
  3. practice adapting a reflection activity to one’s own teaching practice, and
  4. identify possible ways to use reflection activities in future teaching.

By the completion of the workshop, participants were able to take away a clearer understanding of reflection, a repertoire of sample reflection activities, an initial draft of a reflection activity tailored to their own teaching setting, and a network of like-minded colleagues.

Click the thumbnail below to download a PDF of the workshop workbook.

thumbnail of cover for reflection workshop workbook

Digging in for the Second Year of CPREE

Having just wrapped up a strong first year, CPREE educators across our 12 partner campuses are gearing up for an exciting start to the second. From setting up mini-grants to facilitate awardees in implementing reflective practices of their own design to engaging other faculty members and instructors around them in questions of how reflective practices can benefit classrooms in a variety of disciplines, our members have been busy helping to bring meaningful change in engineering education across the country. We wanted to share some of their stories to highlight the important work they are doing as well as provide inspiration to others looking to do the same.

 Arizona State University – Polytechnic Campus – Kristy Csavina and Adam Carberry

It was exciting to read the mini-grant applications and learn of the reflective practices already adopted by faculty within the Fulton Schools of Engineering. We have successfully completed our kick-off meetings and have 12 new mini-grant awardees spanning across the six engineering schools at ASU. The team includes instructors, tenure-track, and tenured faculty with a range of discipline expertise as well as years of experience teaching. Each has used a form of reflection in their classrooms prior to CPREE, some more innovative than others. In addition to this, many faculty have already expressed interest in our new ‘mentor a colleague program’. We expect another 6-12 faculty to join our team between now and January 2016.

Bellevue College – Frank Lee

The reception of the CPREE Field Guide at the start-of-the-year Science Division meeting was very positive; many faculty new to CPREE expressed interest in participating and implementing a reflection activity in their course.

“At first when I heard about reflection I thought it would be fluff, but now that I see the activities, it looks very useful and am interested in doing [it],” said a Chemistry Faculty member.

We think there are many great ideas and applications in the field guide collection. We are attempting a preliminary grouping of the entries into common categories as a way to more efficiently direct educators to entries that might be of interest for their needs.

California Polytechnic Institute and State University – Trevor Harding

Our participation has doubled from 15 faculty and 2 students last academic year to 35 faculty participants this year. Our new members hail from the Humanities, Chemistry and Physics departments and bring with them highly divergent experiences with reflection, the experienced ones including it in nearly every course they teach while others are just beginning to explore what reflection is and how they might use it.

While reflecting on what they had learned, a participant in our collaborative inquiry dialogue group found that “[the] freeform discussions not only expand my horizons, but also remind me of the power of simply taking the time to sit down and talk with others.”

Clarkson University- John Moosbrugger

Having established our mini-grant fund, we now have 8 mini-grant awardees engaged in reflective practices and are looking to recruit more. In our ongoing efforts to invite more participation from faculty, we have found the most effective method is to meet with them individually. Often, we find that they are already incorporating or planning to include activities in their courses that are reflective in nature. The main “barrier” seems to be making the communication happen. Since we are situated on a geographically small campus, it is also more efficient to conduct face-to-face project meetings to figure out details to make the evaluation process work. An interesting side-benefit of this that we have discovered is that it seems to be “forcing” more detailed sharing of teaching practices among the participating faculty.

Georgia Institute of Technology – Caroline Noyes and Ruth Poproski

We are getting the word out and there is already a general consciousness on campus that the Center for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) will be devoting this year to reflection. We have been discussing the role of reflection in memory and learning at our book club meetings and have had good attendance so far. The mini-grants are getting ready to roll out and we are looking forward to welcoming new awardees. We are also already planning our retreat in the spring and have located an exciting speaker.

Green River College – Janet Ash and Jeff McCauley

The Green River Reflection Activity Team (RATS) met for a two hour kick off of year two activities. Ten faculty and one classified staff member participated in planning our campus wide CPREE efforts, which include both a study group on reflective practices and classroom activities in the fall quarter involving four departments. Laura Moore-Mueller of our Math division commented that this meeting was the best student focused event she had participated in the entire week. The faculty in this group embraced the opportunity to wrestle with the challenges of incorporating reflection into their classrooms and the new members brought freshness and new perspectives. One of them is a relatively new English teacher that teaches Technical Writing to our engineering students, but also teaches creative writing to the humanities/social science students. She shared some of her reflective classroom practices that utilizes Harry Potter as the catalyst! Another enthusiastic new member is a veteran IT professional with years of industry experience eager to use the field guides he sees as urgently needed for his students.

Highline College – Rich Bankhead

In our opening week event, “Building a Community of Reflective Educators,” we discussed the definition of reflection with 17 faculty in both STEM and non-STEM discipline. Together, we explored why students are sometimes not successful in class, leading to discussion of how we can avoid “telling” our students what it takes to be successful, and instead motivate them towards becoming better students through personal reflection.  We also discussed the use of reflection for culturally responsive teaching, reflection in non-verbal formats, and how reflection can serve our diverse campus community. There was a great deal of interest, to the extent of one of the discussions running overtime!

Our second opening week event, a “birds of a feather” round-table conversation focused on reflective teaching was equally successful. An attending computer science faculty member who was initially unconvinced that reflective activities could be tailored to the needs of his classroom was a great deal more excited by the end by the activities we have planned.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology – Patrick Cunningham and Ella Ingram

We started off our activities with a module on reflection presented by Patrick Cunningham at our Summer Teaching Workshop. While it was well received by all participants, one new faculty member in Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) got particularly excited about the use of reflection to help students build meaning. He had spent several years in the industry and saw the significance of helping students understand the importance of course topics and how they connect to people’s lives and even their own lives.

Just the other day, Patrick Cunningham was approached for an informal conversation about reflection by his colleague Richard Onyancha. Richard is involved in global engineering and has been thinking about how to engage students in processing experiences doing engineering in a global context, including traveling abroad, and had thought of speaking to Richard. We were pleased to realize that CPREE at Rose-Hulman is becoming a resource that people think of.

Seattle Central College – Doug Faust

We have been rolling out our mini-grants and preliminary data indicates that is costs about $5 to create and administer a reflective experience for a student.  Everyone seems to be impressed by this number, and if you consider that any given reflection may change a student’s academic trajectory, it is impressive.  You could say that one of our ‘a-ha’ moments is realizing that an experienced educator can choreograph an ‘a-ha’ moment for a student so efficiently.

We have also noticed that the mini-grant system is a very effective way of getting people involved in the project. The PI informally polled some of the educators and they reported that by letting them choose the mode and techniques of the reflective practice, they felt that the project was supportive of their existing teaching instead of disruptive and invasive.

Seattle University – Phil Thompson

At the end of July, we held a workshop for 11 faculty members intended to facilitate the creation of new reflection activities. Using the activity he devised at this workshop, Phillip Thompson conducted a pilot project for the reflection / assessment cycle in August-September. The activity had been designed for students who had engaged in a service-learning trip to a developing country. Three students who visited Thailand from June-August 2015 participated in both the reflection and the assessment. The exercise caused Dr. Thompson to wish he had started these student reflection essays ten years ago when he first began his work with students abroad.

Stanford University – Sheri Sheppard and Helen Chen

One group of educators we are working with is led by the Head TA (leading a group of nine TAs) for the Earth Systems introductory overview course for first and second-year students. Several of these graduate students attended our CPREE workshop in the spring and followed up with us again in the fall. Our initial conversation about where reflection activities might be incorporated into the course eventually led to a broader conversation about articulating course learning outcomes and identifying where and how instructors might envision change in student knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, etc. as a result of taking the course. Several questions came up: How might the product of a reflection activity represent evidence of learning impact? If there were several reflection activities embedded throughout a course, would it be possible map change or growth over time? How do reflection activities inform both individual student self-assessment as well as course or program evaluation?

University of Washington – Ken Yasuhara

One of the early “clients” that we are most excited about is a group of pre-engineering advising staff in the college. They are responsible for ENGR 101, a survey seminar enrolling over 400 students annually that has a format of weekly visiting presenters. We have discussed a wide variety of ways of increasing and enhancing the reflection and active learning components of this course. ENGR 101 is an ideal context for consortium activity, given that most enrollees are first-years and sophomores who are considering but are not necessarily already committed to an engineering major. Similarly, although at a smaller scale, another current client is designing and teaching a first-year seminar for prospective bioengineering majors as part of a university-wide effort to encourage student understanding and development of leadership.

Sharing the First Year of CPREE

At CPREE, we have just wrapped up our first year of activity on the 12 partner campuses. Over 100 educators from across the country participated in our mapping of reflection activities. Educators shared the many creative ways that they prompt students to reflect and our core team has captured those activities to create over 120 field guide entries. Along with capturing these activities, each campus hosted two or more events to engage educators, and sometimes students, in activities to further understand and promote reflection. With so many educators, activities, and events, it is difficult to highlight just one story from our first year. In this post, we wanted to share a brief story from each of our twelve campuses about their first year in CPREE. Our team is excited as we are well on our way to making a notable and long-lasting change in engineering education across the country.


Arizona State University – Polytechnic Campus –Kristy Csavina and Adam Carberry

While attending the 2015 Research in Engineering Education Symposium, Adam Carberry ran into the Senior Dean of Student and Academic Affairs at ASU, Dr. James Collofello. Dr. Collofello had attended the symposium based on a previous conversation with Adam. During a session run by the UW CPREE PIs it was noted that ASU was a participating institution and that Dr. Carberry was one of the ASU PIs. Dr. Collofello was sitting next to Adam and immediately suggested that they meet upon returning to ASU because he would like to leverage his office, the introduction to engineering course, and the Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Program to help expand the ASU CPREE efforts.

Bellevue College – Frank Lee

At Bellevue, the interview process itself was a great experience for all involved. We had a chance to take the time to reflect on our teaching and are looking forward to sharing the collection of field guides with campus faculty. We’re definitely anticipating a strong response from interested faculty based on those who joined our team after participating in campus events. The college’s Teaching Strategies Discussion Group leader allowed CPREE to present at a group meeting; during the meeting, the leader gradually became more and more enthusiastic about how integral reflection is part of the learning process.

California Polytechnic Institute and State University – Trevor Harding

From our discussion group there have been a number of aha moments for participants.  For some this has focused on what the conditions are for effective reflection.  Some of these conditions include the need that students believe in the value of reflection before they reflect, the time to reflect, safe conditions in which to share your reflection product, and so on.  Other faculty were thinking about what is appropriate to ask students to reflect on, and how safe will they feel if we ask them to reflect on something deeply personal.  Some faculty noticed that they had been thinking about reflection only for enhancement of learning effectiveness and had never considered that reflection could be used as a way to promote transformation in the lives of students more holistically.  Still others had noticed that they felt they were taking a risk in asking students to reflect on their experiences in a class because the students might turn it into an evaluation of the instructor.


Clarkson University- John Moosbrugger

A colleague, Charles Robinson approached me, unsolicited, about activities in his course BR200 Introduction to Biomedical and Rehabilitation Engineering, Science and Technology. He wanted to include a question or two on a course feedback “survey” that would be useful to the project (CPREE project). He just became interested because of press releases about the project and announcements for the Brown Bag Lunches. I have his summarized student responses, and I may be able to make some use of them. What was gratifying to me was his enthusiasm to do something without being solicited.

 Georgia Institute of Technology – Caroline Noyes and Ruth Poproski

Of particular note, the faculty who are meeting weekly to discuss teaching and learning in large classes were able to come up with many ideas of how to implement reflection for learning in their large classes, ranging from 60 to 300 students.  Again, the quick and enthusiastic buy-in was surprising to us, given our sense of resistance in the past.  The main take-away from this is that the provision of evidence from the research in addition to examples of reflection activities that will be provided from the field guides generated by the consortium will go a long way in terms of getting faculty to understand and embrace the import and feasibility of using reflection to enhance learning, even in large classes.

Green River College – Janet Ash and Jeff McCauley

The CPREE project has made a notable mark in how we look at reflection within the many engineering classes that we teach and the benefits to students when reflection is present in the classroom. In the mechanics of materials and differential equations courses, it appears there was a notable increase in meaningful reflection and critical thinking by the students as the problems become more open-ended and more theoretically difficult. In a computer science course, an educator uses a survey; one question presents a list of potential reading strategies for students to consider as they prepare for class each week. As the students review this list weekly, they are reminded of how their own reading abilities can be improved and they were reading more successfully as the quarter progressed. A mathematics educator shared their post-quiz reflection with us for the field guide and two of us adopted that activity in our own classes. We were all delighted to see the activity helped students in all three, very different classes to improve their performance overall.

Highline College – Rich Bankhead

We use a reflective activity in our ENGR 100 class in which students design their own process for becoming a world-class engineering student. Reading the assignments at the end of the quarter is always refreshing. For example, a student wrote, “Engineering is a demanding field and this class has delineated what it will take to meet these demands…I can look back over each week’s exercises and assignments and see so much preparatory action and relevancy for years to come.” Another student wrote, “Understanding the different learning styles and how they applied gave me a better grasp on how I learn and what I need to do to be successful in the future. For example, I learned that I have a preference for reflective learning…”

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology – Patrick Cunningham and Ella Ingram

We have a Rose-Hulman affiliated design and development firm, Rose-Hulman Ventures, that hires our students part-time during the school year and full-time over the summer to work on industry sponsored projects. Projects are led by full-time project managers and students work together on teams. I (Patrick Cunningham) met with Elizabeth Hagerman, Vice President of Rose-Hulman Ventures, in the fall to discuss role of reflection in student work experiences. At this point, it seems reflections are primarily informal and likely driven by the project managers. She invited me back to present about CPREE at a staff meeting with project managers to find out more from them and see what participation might develop from there. I will be visiting a staff meeting in January.

Seattle Central College – Doug Faust

Our group facilitator brought up the very interesting point that faculty choices of reflection activities may be informed by their own teaching goals and values. We look forward to investigating these connections during the campus-wide events and using this as a way to open dialogues with faculty about their teaching practice. In later discussions, the idea of grading reflective practices came up again and again. Fundamentally, faculty seem to understand and fear that students may not genuinely engage in reflection if it’s being graded. For example, the boiler-plate response “I need to study harder” written on exam reflections is coming from a place of wanting to satisfy a grader and not a genuine reflection. We’d would like to explore this more because it seems quite key in instructional design.

Seattle University – Phil Thompson

Through our two on campus events, we have been able to connect over 20% of our science and engineering faculty to the CPREE project. We were able to share reflection activities, and spend valuable time discussing teaching with each other. The two events helped ensure our group of 16 educators to participate in our year 2 efforts. On July 21 and July 28 we held what turned out to be two very inspiring and motivational workshops on reflection. A group of 11 faculty developed new reflective activities for their courses. We also began developing assessment tools for each of these activities and are looking forward to implementing these activities in the fall.

Stanford University – Sheri Sheppard and Helen Chen

In each interview that we will do, we will try to find this one element that we find important in reflection, which is change.  We feel that it’s not enough to tell students to “go and reflect”, instead they need help with connecting their experiences to the course material, with challenging their beliefs and assumptions, and in deepening their learning.  How do we not rely on student’s testimonials and self-reports to assess the quality of their learning –because the challenge is that self–reporting will lead to confusion between student satisfaction and student learning.  Is there a measure that allows students to show us, rather than tell us, that they have attained greater understanding, that they have ability to apply their knowledge, and problem solving skills?

University of Washington – Ken Yasuhara

One of my initial (non-interview) meetings was with Sonya Cunningham, a staffer who runs a CoE program specifically designed to prepare financial aid-eligible freshman for majoring in engineering. Allowing myself to forgo rushing into an interview about a specific reflection activity freed me to talk with Sonya about the program and its recent history of major design changes. I learned that Sonya already incorporates reflection in numerous ways but was interested in streamlining her process, which we agreed to meet again to discuss. At the end of our hour-long discussion, she agreed to send me some of her program materials to inform my choice of a reflection activity to focus a mapping interview on when we next met. Perhaps more valuable to me than meeting the CPREE objectives of the meeting, however, was hearing about all of the thoughtful pedagogy and heartfelt energy that Sonya puts into this program. As I remarked on multiple occasions, she was remarkably well-informed about pedagogy, program design, diversity, and persistence issues. Our conversation left me so inspired and hopeful that I decided to drop a line to the associate dean whom she reports to. I have no illusions of being a power broker but know that good work too often goes unrecognized and unrewarded, and I figured it couldn’t hurt CoE’s chances of retaining Sonya or Sonya’s chances of career advancement. I count it as a good sign that the word I put in quickly made it back to Sonya, who thanked me many times.

Research Brief: Trends in Reflection

By: Lauren Sepp, UW Graduate Student, Human Centered Design & Engineering

Here at the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT), we are always interested in the topic of reflection, and have been working to uncover more information about the trends of reflection in general.  A current project is focused on examining the trends of reflection in the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) conference publications.  Our question is, how much explicit, named attention has reflection received in engineering education scholarship and how do we interpret these results?

Our initial approach examined the explicit references to reflection in the ASEE conference papers since its inception by manually sorting through the papers for words relating to reflection.  The resulting trend is quite impressive.  Since 1996, there has been a steady upward growth of papers mentioning reflection.  In 1996, only 6 papers mentioned reflection whereas in 2014, over 200 papers mentioned reflection to varying degrees.  Some papers mention reflection briefly as they explain how students were asked to write reflective essays, where other papers explicitly call out and highlight the importance of reflection in engineering education and furthermore link its importance to transforming students. “Reflective practices are one method for transforming students and helping them to become more open to taking challenges and integrating them into new applications.” [1] Whether the papers make bold statements regarding the effectiveness of reflection, or simply mention small reflective activities, the broad acknowledgement of reflection is a tell-tale sign that more educators are recognizing its importance. We are excited to present the results of these findings at the ASEE Annual Conference next month.

Figure 1 - Number of  ASEE Conference Papers Mentioning Reflection
Figure 1 – Number of ASEE Conference Papers Mentioning Reflection


The Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE) is partnered  with other educators to majorly contribute to the conversation on reflection – we want to bring to light the importance of reflection as a tool to improve student educative experiences among other things.   As we collect reflective activities and practices across our 12 unique campuses, we have the privilege to sit in the front row, watching how reflection is changing the face of engineering programs.


[1] T. R. Forin, “A Personal Account on Implementing Reflective Practices,” in American Society for Engineering Education, Indianapolis, 2014.

“Have you made good choices today?”

Reflection activities can happen in many contexts and can be used to develop community  among students. Sonya Cunningham, of the University of Washington shared with us her activity “Have you made good choices today?” and it was also highlighted by the Seattle Times. See the article below!


 UW’s STARS helps low-income students shine

by Jerry Large, Seattle Times

Good students from low-income backgrounds soar to meet high

expectations at UW.

Usually when I think about helping kids succeed, I have in mind young children in the most dire circumstances, the ones who might not make it through school or might wind up in jail. But sometimes

even being an A student isn’t enough for a young person to reach her potential.

Ewurama Karikari and Trinh Ha were both top students in high school. Mount Tahoma in Tacoma for Ha and Bethel High School in Spanaway for Karikari. The freshmen made the winter-quarter dean’s list at the University of Washington, but might not have even attended the UW if not for a little help. Being there is good for their futures, and good for the UW, too.

Eve Riskin, professor of electrical engineering, told me the problem-solving work that engineers do benefits from the diversity of approaches that different life experiences create.

Riskin is also associate dean of diversity and access in the College of Engineering. And she sent me a note about a program just in its second year, called State Academic Red Shirt or STARS. She’d just gotten the winter-quarter grades and told me 11 of the 30 STARS students made the dean’s list. The Times wrote about the program last fall, but it’s been fine-tuned, so I asked what’s getting results.

The key ingredients are students who have shown they can stick to hard tasks, and a staff that brings tough love and high expectations.

We all know how competitive that access to the best education has become, and the stakes just keep rising. That’s particularly true in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) fields and at the most selective universities.

STEM programs cry that they’re not getting enough students, but they turn away large numbers of applicants because they want students who come out of high school prepared to plug into their programs without a hitch.

And that means they admit few students from low-income families who are likely to live in neighborhoods where educational opportunities are not equal to those in more upscale areas. The UW College of Engineering isn’t where it wants to be, but is more diverse than most of its peers because it makes an effort to bring in both underrepresented minority students and women.

A few years ago, I wrote about the college’s summer program for high-school students, Math Academy. It gave students a boost, but four weeks in the summer wasn’t quite enough to draw as many students into the college as it wanted. So the UW adopted the STARS idea (Washington State University did, too), paying for it with temporary grant money, primarily from the National Science Foundation.

Sonya Cunningham, who runs the UW program, said she gets a list in January or February of students who are applying to the UW as freshmen, and who attend schools with a significant percentage of low-income families.

She has current STARS students call them and talk up engineering. Then Cunningham evaluates them, looking for one trait in particular: perseverance. If they have good grades and grit, they have a good chance of succeeding in the intense program.

The students I spoke with said math work in the program was harder than they expected and even more challenging than what they later faced in class. The intent is to quickly get them up to where they need to be to compete with students who’ve had more math programs, a higher level of instruction and extracurricular enrichment.

Their first quarter, students get lessons in how to negotiate college, how to fit in with the culture. They work on academic and study skills.

Cunningham does proactive advising to head off potential problems (“Have you made good choices today?”), and from the start she molds them into a supportive community. She brought them together the week before classes started last fall and gave a $50 gift certificate to the first person who learned everyone’s names.

Ha won and said the students started bonding that week. “We can understand each other,” she said. And Karikari said, “We’re all really great friends and can call on each other.”

Two students fell behind during the fall quarter, and Cunningham applied some tough love. Some tears were shed, but the next quarter both were doing better. One of them went from a 2.2 GPA in the fall to the dean’s list in the winter.

Cunningham, who grew up in a low-income household in New York City, and who made it to college only because of the intervention of a teacher, feels a special kinship with the students. “This is coming full circle for me,” she said. “It’s my passion, and I love it.”

Karikari is interested in getting a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, and Ha is interested in renewable energy and wants to work in industry. It’s a good bet STARS will help them realize their dreams.

Original post:

Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or Twitter @jerrylarge.


Thinking about Thinking: A review of “Getting Students Thinking about Thinking” by David Gooblar

By: Lauren Sepp, UW Graduate Student, Human Centered Design & Engineering

Recently, we performed an investigation into the number explicit references to reflection in the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) conference papers.  It was found that over the last 14 years of the conference, explicit references to reflection have increased drastically. (Figure 1)

Figure 1 - Number of  ASEE Conference Papers Mentioning Reflection
Figure 1 – Number of ASEE Conference Papers Mentioning Reflection

What is even more exciting is that reflection is also getting some attention outside of formal scholarship.  A recent blog post by David Gooblar, a literature and writing teacher at Mount Mercy University and Augstana College focuses on how to get students to think about how they think.  The main focus of his push is to introduce metacognitive methods to students to take the burden of facilitation and student introspection away from the teacher and empower students with those critical self-reflection skills.  David suggests a variety of activities to support metacognitive growth via experiences including exam wrappers, which many of us are familiar with, and another activity called “knowledge ratings.”

Originally from Tamara Rosier, a leader at the consultancy Acorn Leadership, “knowledge ratings” require students to be focused on their understanding of class material while the class is in session.  Students are asked to rate their knowledge on a scale of 0-3, with 0 indicating not knowledgeable. By the end of the class, the goal is to have each student recording a score of 3.  Mid-way through the class period, the instructor takes a break to evaluate where they are at.  The instructor will ask students what gaps they have preventing them from achieving a 3.  A discussion ensures and the remainder of the class is focused on closing those knowledge gaps.

David suggests that these metacognitive exercises are trying to “…force students to think about their own learning practices. The goal here is to make students’ behavior visible to themselves, with an eye toward gaining better control over that behavior.”

If metacognition leads to “better learning” as David suggests, how are we facilitating these ideas in our own classrooms?  By shifting the intellectual responsibility to the students, can we enable them to become more self-aware, more responsible for their own learning, and better situated for life after college?  No doubt, these metacognitive and reflective practices can only help students to achieve the aforementioned qualities.

David concludes by saying, “Too often, we assume that students know enough about themselves that our comments and suggestions will be enough to provoke positive change. But self-awareness and self-reflection (not to mention good study habits) are not skills all students possess. Promoting those skills in class can make our lives as teachers a lot easier.”

So let’s follow his charge and continue to explore what it looks like to facilitate metacognitive and reflective practices in the classroom not only for the sake of the students, but for the sake of the educators too.


Link to blog post:

Sustaining reflection in teaching and even integrating it across the curriculum in the midst of changes

By: Brook Sattler, PhD, CPREE multi-campus coordinator

Over the last four or five years there have been a number of changes on the ASU Polytechnic campus. They have experienced name changes, consolidations, exponential growth in the number of students, etc. Even with a record number of changes, they are continuing to focus on students and what it means to support deep learning and students’ ability to transfer their learning to different contexts.

On my visit to the Polytechnic campus, this mission was evident in every conversation I had. Educators were asking engaging questions—how do we integrate reflection across multiple sections of the same course, how do we integrate reflection across the curriculum, how do we reach engineering educators who are not interested in supporting student reflection, and what is the evidence base for reflection in engineering education? The depth of the questions shows that many educators at the Polytechnic campus already value the use of reflection in their classroom, and they often integrate reflection activities into their teaching.

During my visit, I worked with campus CPREE PI’s Kristy and Adam to host a workshop on reflection. In this workshop, we discussed reflection generally and the national and local CPREE goal. Then individual educators shared “reflection problems” they were trying to solve. The group helped one another brainstorm solutions to their “reflection problems.” It was an engaging conversation about reflection and supporting student reflection. I look forward to hearing how these educators addressed their “reflection problems.”

Overall, this was a great campus visit—Kristy and Adam are off to a fantastic start on the polytechnic campus! They are even starting a reading group around Linda Nilson’s book—Creating Self-Regulated Learners: Strategies to Strengthen Students’ Self-Awareness and Learning Skills. During their second year of CPREE, they plan on reaching out to the ASU Tempe campus engineering faculty. While potentially challenging, this is a unique opportunity to reach a different population of educators—educators who may be a little more resistant to reflection in engineering education, educators who may be focused more on technical research, educators who may be focused on teaching the technical content, and educators who may want a strong (quantitative) evidence base for reflection, etc. I look forward to the exciting things Kristy and Adam have planned for their campus—a book club, mini-faculty grants, “train the professor” activities, and many more!

Muddiest Point: Reflecting back to move forward

For the purposes of learning, reflection can be thought of as intentional bridging between past experience and future action. If getting your students to reflect sounds too complicated and time-consuming to fit into your busy ten-week quarter, consider an example of reflection that has all of the essential features but only takes a few minutes: an efficient, simple assessment technique popularly called “Muddiest Point” that can be applied in virtually any learning context.Reflection

After some kind of learning experience (e.g., lecture, group activity, paper), you give your students a minute to write down what they find the most unclear or confusing—the “muddiest point.” Students can benefit a surprising amount from the mere minute dedicated to this reflection activity. They practice greater awareness of their learning, and repetition can help develop habits to support lifelong learning. Students who recognize where their understanding is “muddy” are also better positioned to direct their learning to remedy this. To better support this, you can also ask students to identify one thing they could do to improve their understanding of their “muddiest point”—perhaps a study group, office hours, reading, or practice exercises.

This reflection activity can inform your future action as the educator, too—not just the students’. Students’ responses help you gauge their learning and guide how you might help them address their “muddiest points.”

Compact reflection activities like “Muddiest Point” are easy to incorporate into most courses. More extensive reflection activities can help students get more learning out of educational experiences and make more numerous and deeper connections. Such activities might have students dedicating more time to the reflection and/or entail reflecting on experiences over a longer span of time.

For instance, mid-way through a multi-week team project, you could have your students write about how they and their peers could improve at being a successful team. For even larger-scale reflection, you could have your students write about how learning in prior courses contributed to their successful completion of some kind of culminating work, e.g., an honors thesis or engineering capstone.

Helping students develop habits of reflecting can help them get more out of their educational experiences. With reflection, individual experiences become more meaningful, and connections to future experiences and goals become apparent. This helps integrates otherwise disparate days, weeks, quarters, and years of education, with the ultimate goal of lifelong learning.

Ken Yasuhara serves as the UW campus lead for the Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE) and is a research scientist at the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT).

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