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Reflective Assignment


A reflection by students on their own experiences, views and suggestions for action in relation to their learning and or work/life experiences (in written or multimedia formats).  It can be in the form of a journal, log, blog or diary, and may be incorporated into a collection of evidence in the form of a portfolio.

What can it assess ?

Reflective assignments can assess the extent to which students learn from their experience, as well as the critical thinking and reflective skills that enable them to make sense of information and/or situations that are not straightforward. These tasks can be used to assess students’ ability to reflect on the development of their own learning and self-generate feedback that can be used to improve their performance.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Supports learning that is personally meaningful
  • Students develop the ability to reflect on the progress of their learning and/or practice and identify areas for improvement
  • Encourages deep learning as students are required to make sense of material as it relates to their own experience
  • Students can be encouraged to incorporate reflection on any formative feedback.


  • Reflective writing is unfamiliar to many students who will need support and guidance to help with the task of reflection
  • Can be challenging to assess and mark; requires the use of clear and transparent assessment criteria, rubrics and assessment guidance for students
  • Issues of trust may arise when assessing personal reflections.

Design and Online Assessment Considerations


When designing reflective writing assessments, consider the following questions:

  • How will students be prepared to conduct reflective writing exercises?
  • Should reflective writing tasks take place throughout the module or only at specific points in the trimester? What’s the rationale for the chosen approach?
  • How will reflective writing assignments be assessed? What criteria will be used? 

Be clear about the reasons that reflection is embedded into the module and how it supports learning. Students may be instructed to use specific Reflective Practice Models which can offer guidance on how to structure reflective writing and also support the development of clear assessment criteria for the assignment.  Consider using a rubric, or similar, to help clarify your expectations and to support student feedback and/or opportunity for self/ peer review before submission of their work. 

Journals and reflective assignments often start off as purely descriptive, however with support students can develop their writing to be more dialogic and critical (Rivera, 2017). It is important that students demonstrate reflective thinking on the development of their learning and/or practice. Sensitive issues related to student trust may arise when writing about personal and/or difficult encounters or situations, as well as issues around privacy and confidentiality if any of the work is shared.

Online Assessment

Although Brightspace does not include a specific journaling tool, lecturers can use the VLE to provide students with the opportunity to keep a reflective journal. For example, students could do this very simply online by keeping a word document that they build up over time and then submit at the end. Alternatively, by setting up private groups with restricted discussions using Brightspace’s Groups and discussion forum in Brightspace, students can keep a private journal which may be shared with the lecturer. You can view step-by-step instructions on how to set up reflective journals for students using Private Discussions in Brightspace. Please note that there is an upper limit of 200 groups per group set.  

Other tools and technologies to support this assessment type  include;

Preparing Students

It is important to start out with a clear understanding of what you mean by reflection as well as the process involved. Be able to clearly articulate the key elements of a reflective assignment, providing guidance on how students can engage in the reflective process, and set out clear criteria used to assess performance. Keep in mind that reflective writing will be unfamiliar to most students, and it can be helpful to set aside time in a class to enable students to discuss their understanding of reflection as well as the requirements for the assessment. Initially, short and structured reflective activities might help students to become more familiar with the idea of reflection. As students become accustomed to reflective approaches to learning, more complex assignments can be used to deepen their reflective practice. 

Clarify your expectations in terms of indicative word count for reflective pieces -this will also be important in terms of lecturer’s grading workload.

Learn More 

The following are some key resources that are currently available if you would like to learn more about this key assessment type.