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.