Flipping the Classroom Day 4

Closing the Loop: Discussion and Reflection Activities in Flipped Classroom

The provision of discussion and reflective activities are a key component to the flipped classroom model. After completing the pre-work (content) and learning activities (application), the final stage of reflection and discussion helps students make connections between content, get feedback from peers and teachers, and facilitates deep learning: “Students in inverted classrooms need to have more space to reflect on their learning activities so that they can make necessary connections to course content.” (Strayer, 2012).

What is a reflective learner?

Let’s begin by looking at what a reflective learner is. The following short video provides a humorous view to this.

Introduction to Reflective Learners

Why is discussion and reflective learning important?

In the light of the  Bloom’ taxonomy model reflection allows time for analysing, evaluation of the content or concept introduced which can then allow for  the learner to  apply that in a creative way through such activities such as journal writing.

The concept of reflection  being a part of the learning process has seen the development of a  number of models  illustrating this process. The model below combines two models developed by key thinkers in reflective learning practice,  David Kolb (1984) and Graham Gibbs (1988) ‘reflective cycle’. (Kolb’s model is the blue one, Gibbs the outer diagram). Gibbs has expanded on Kolb’s model. The reflective learning process converts content and knowledge gained to a personal process or application and results in a change of behaviour or shift in position about that knowledge.


Image source: http://www.eapfoundation.com/studyskills/learningcycle/ 


How can discussion and reflection be facilitated in flipped classrooms?

As with the previous post on active learning there are many ways to provide opportunities  for discussion and reflection. Facilitation of this can be achieved through group or collaborative activities and in an individual context. The University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL) Centre for Teaching and Learning has developed a list with many suggestions for reflective activities that you could incorporate into your teaching http://www.umsl.edu/services/ctl/faculty/instructionalsupport/reflection-strat.html

You may also find this reflective learning template based on Gibbs (1998) model useful as a way of guiding students in reflecting and discussing what they have learnt:  https://www.cpdme.com/Resources/Documents/CPDme%20Reflective%20Practice%20Template%202013.pdf

Wattle tools for reflective learning

Here a just a few ways, not an extensive list, in which you can use the tools available within Wattle (Moodle) to facilitate some of the activities from the UMSL list within an online environment. These activities could be applied to both individual and group learning environments. Using the group function within Wattle allows you to divide students into groups to manage large classes.

  • Forum : Could be used for journal activities, these could be made private or public depending on the task. Students could get feedback from other students and then modify their reflection.
  • Feedback tool : could set up a template (see example below) attached to an activity that students could fill out.
  • Wiki: could be used as an individual or group space into which student collect information relating to the topic, could be in the form of video, images, Url links etc. Wikis are also great as a brainstorming space into which initial ideas can be kept.
  • Wattle (Moodle)/ Turnitin assignment: Use for reflective essays, experimental research paper, students could make a short video reflection and upload it
  • Database: You could provide a database of links to a number of readings that students could work through and comment on or then discuss in  the forum.  Get students to collect quotes or images, videos and contribute them to the database and then comment on the contributions.
  • Lesson: Ethical case study or a simulation in which they have to make choices and decisions and develop a conclusion or discuss why they made the choice they did.
  • Adobe Connect sessions: Would allow for structured online discussions, students can come together and discuss

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 Share your ideas

  • What activities listed above could you apply to your courses?
  • Is reflection something you have incorporated into your teaching before? If so how?
  • How could you see reflection as being a benefit to your students?
  • Write a short reflection on how you have found the coffee course so far.
  • Do you  think encouraging reflective learning is a new idea?


Strayer, J. F. (2012). How learning in an inverted classroom influences cooperation, innovation and task orientation. Learning Environments Research, 15(2), 171-193.
Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing : a guide to teaching and learning methods. [London]: FEU.
Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential learning : experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs ; London: Prentice-Hall.

31 thoughts on “Flipping the Classroom Day 4

  1. I’ve used reflection quite often in my classes. Usually it’s in the form of reflective journals or discussions. Generally speaking I’ve found that students have found it quite useful.

    One question I was hoping others might be able to help me work out is “How often should we require students to reflect?” I know this question is a bit like the old “How long is a piece of string” question and will certainly vary with course content but the reason why I ask is, in the week to week of our semesters, with students doing multiple subjects I find that asking students to reflect on each weeks learning may be a bit too much. Students in the first week or two may be just getting the head around the basics and can’t really reflect too much. As the semester progresses students are often just trying to keep up with all their subjects and assessments and aren’t able to really process what they are learning and really reflect.

    I would love to hear what others think

    1. Great question David. I agree that there is a risk of “reflection fatigue” – when trying to grasp the concepts it’s not easy to reflect yet. Maybe it’s something that could be incorporated into blocks of content:

      Block 1
      Week 1 – Pre-work + Activity
      Week 2 – Pre-work + Activity
      Week 3 – Pre-Work + Activity

      Or whatever series of content makes sense in your course. Or it could be incorporated into the end of the class activity? I am always a big fan of something short & sweet like a minute paper (which could be done by students at the end of class either on paper or using polling system like Socrative or PollEverywhere). These can focus on the content, or it could be focused on the reflection on the activities/content.

      I’d love to hear the thoughts of the other participants as well.

      1. Like Steve (below) I can’t say that I have ever consciously included a reflection component in my teaching (of mathematics). I suppose I think (probably erroneously) of it as something more appropriate to the arts and social science subjects. Katie you suggest a Socrative quiz as a short and sweet possibility for a reflective activity. I find it hard to think of how multiple choice questions could help with reflection, unless they are the sort with no ‘right’ answers, but in that case I can already feel student resentment of me wasting their time. This is perhaps because I’m rubbish at thinking of the right questions. Let’s say we’ve just had a tutorial session where students have worked collaboratively on some problems about binary and modular arithmetic, including a proof or two, and have presented solutions to the class on whiteboards. What sort of multiple choice questions do you think would be helpful to students in cementing what they have learnt during these activities? I need to be convinced that doing this would really be more useful than the time lost on other activities.

        1. I think you raise an important point Malcolm, that some tools and approaches are better suited to some activities than others.

          In your discipline, would there be value in having students reflect on why they would choose a particular approach to solving a problem or how it might transfer to a problem in another context?

        2. Hi Malcolm,
          You are right that areas like humanities/social science are more easily suited to reflective activities and that it needs to be a good use of your time — and the students’ time!

          Maybe the reflective part could be something where they could reflect on how well they understood the material, how it may (or may not) connect to previous things they have learned, or on the group process they underwent in the class time. Maybe something simple like, “Rate how you confident you are with your solution” or “what parts of the problem/concepts did you grasp easily? Which ones did you struggle with?” My hope is that thinking about how they understand the material they can help themselves clearly identify which areas they might need to target for revision.

          I’d welcome comments from anyone else as well – what sorts of reflective activities do you get students to do, particularly in areas where it is not as obvious as in humantiies/social science?

    2. I can appreciate the desire to avoid overloading students with extra work but I also think that reflection is invaluable in helping to cement and contextualise new knowledge. Perhaps allowing a couple of minutes at the end of a class/lecture/tutorial for a “one minute paper” type activity could achieve this?

      1. Hi all

        I’m not sure how a socrative quiz might work – but I think a “one minute paper” would work well or even getting students to draw a concept map (if you think your students may be more comfortable with a visual representation than narrative text). It could simply invite the students to indicate something that they felt they had learned (today, this week, this topic) and to pose one question that remained unclear. Here’s a one-minute paper example: http://provost.tufts.edu/celt/files/MinutePaper.pdf
        This is one of my favourite structures for reflective feedback because it doesn’t directly ask the students to ‘reflect’. Sometimes I think that when students are asked directly to “reflect” using that language – they can feel unclear about what it is they are being asked to do – and think that it is a bit time wasting. Taking the minute paper style approach, I don’t think it matters what discipline you are coming from so much, it’s just inviting the students to step back from their learning they are involved in and think about how they are doing. Maybe they could identify that they are making the same sort of mistake repeatedly or making a particular assumption which isn’t valid.

  2. In clinical medicine we tend to do a lot of reflection on outcomes whether in meetings, case conferences etc. As we are used to this we probably use these types of reflection on our students as well! They maybe too open and confronting and probably should consider other methods.

    1. Hi Michael, are you thinking of trying some more anonymous or technology-enabled reflection methods to give the students some privacy to consider their answers? I can imagine it could be difficult for students, particularly in their earlier years, to present in meetings in front of all the rest of the staff!

  3. I have been using some news articles that relate to the course materials for a learning journal assessment task. Students are asked to write a short learning journal to link the materials covered by the lectures with the articles; seems to at least give them an opportunity to think a bit more about the materials related and write their thinking in a more concise way. Good to learn other methods provided here nonetheless, thanks.

  4. To be honest, in the past most of the reflective aspects of my teaching have been related to my personal reflections on how I can improve the quality of my teaching for my students. I haven’t really focused on whether my students have done their own personal reflection, and this has never been integrated into of my courses (indeed there are not may finance courses that do this reflection). I think this is definitely a valuable tool that I can incorporate into my classes moving forward, especially as I move towards mini-flipped classes (within tutorials as a test case).

  5. I have an exercise (assessable) in my sustainability class where i have the students calculate their personal ecological footprint. They can express their result in global hectares or ‘how many planet earths would be required to support the world if everyone had the same footprint’. Students find it sobering – because they discover how ‘unsustainable’ their lifestyles are. For instance in most cases their footprint will equate to say 3 to 4 ‘planet earths’. I ask them to reflect on what would be an acceptable footprint. No matter how many sacrifices they make with using public transport, or changing their diet they can not get their footprint below roughly around ‘2 planet earths’ – unsustainable. Again they find this confronting, but it sets up the remainder of the course nicely because look at how they and business can make a difference. I ask them to write a reflective piece to express what they have gained from the exercise. I think it works so well i am planning on expanding it next year by perhaps having students collect a diary during the course recoding something like ‘each piece of clothing they buy’ or ‘what food they throw out’ during the semester. the reflective paper will ask them to reflect on behavioural change during the semester etc. I am hoping it will add to the student experience and learning.

    1. Gary – what a fantastic and confronting activity that must be for the students! I started to reflect on my own practices while reading your post and can definitely see how this practical application of the theory would help students understand the more broad theories and big picture issues. A great example of an authentic activity 🙂

  6. I agree with Steve in that my reflections have been personal. David, I have given lip service in the tutorials after our case studies. However, we barely get enough time for the debrief. To incorporate “what can you take away from this, etc would be difficult. Perhaps we could catch up some tome to discuss the overall content of each tutorial.

  7. I undertake regular short reflective activities as part of my PD for the professional association of which I’m a member. I recently reviewed the reflections I’d compiled for the past 6 months and was stoked to see how many connections I’d made between the (often seemingly disconnected) topics covered in the various webinars, training sessions, podcasts, journal articles, online quizzes I’d read/attended/listened to/completed.

    The link to suggested mechanisms/activities for reflection, particularly the non-journaling options such as quotes, brainstorming, etc and the Gibb template have sparked some ideas to use in upcoming staff/student training sessions 🙂

  8. One of the units I’m tutoring for currently has two assessment items focused on reflecting on their research practice. Interestingly the students seem to struggle more with personal reflection on what they’ve done and what it means for their learning than when they’re asked to critically evaluate something.

  9. The personal journal is often used to help students to reflect their learning.
    It is very useful, especially students who do not want to show their opinion in front of others.
    Personally, reflection learning is not a new idea however, it is really essential to improve students learning by thinking about their learning by themselves.

    Through this coffee course, I could save my time, because I could take the course whenever I have a free time.
    The most important thing that I learned through this course is that I could have a chance to think about my teaching style again and could get an teaching idea in various ways (giving some tasks before the class).

    How could you see reflection as being a benefit to your students?
    Write a short reflection on how you have found the coffee course so far.
    Do you think encouraging reflective learning is a new idea?

  10. As Imogen mentioned we are doing a revamp of some of our offerings and one of the library staff suggested a reflective journal and currently we are deciding if it is an option in regards to if its open or close to class and how the staff will monitor the responses and assess. Comments above have some good suggestions we can provide at our next planning meeting.

  11. The concept of reflective learning is so important! I see it as a vital way of helping students to become self aware critical thinkers in their own right with more agency and awareness over their decisions. In the unit I currently teach we use a simplified model of reflection called Borton’s framework. Students learn to apply this in different ways over the course of the semester, including in peer feedback and self reflective contexts. There are many strong outcomes from this, such as increased self awareness, prevention of recurrent mistakes, and starting to see problems as learning opportunities rather than obstacles. I believe this helps build resilience over time.

  12. In my teaching I love asking students to write reflections. And they find it so hard to write one. I like reflections because you can immediately see who actually “learned” (deep learning?) and how they construct their own learning by bringing together bits and pieces of what they learned from the course. And they can’t Google their answer!

    Reflective writing involves a different mindset. If a student has been exposed to a type of teaching where he or she was simply asked to regurgitate what’s on the textbook, reflective writing will be very, very difficult. Some are also reluctant to open up and make their writing personal.

  13. It’s perfect timing for me with this blog. Next week my students are doing presentations of their final research papers. I think I’ll ask them to reflect what went well and what they would change for next time.

  14. My go-to reflective practice is class discussions. Through posing lots of why, how, and so what questions, students are slowly led through the evaluation, analysis, and planning stages. As the semester progresses, students require fewer prompts and start reflecting on their own. I find reflection beneficial because it takes students from surface to deeper learning. You cannot reflect until you have engaged with and analysed the content/material. At the same time, the process of reflection facilitates engagement and analysis. It is a positive cycle that leads to more satisfactory learning and teaching.

    I don’t think encouraging reflective learning is a new concept. It has been a necessary tool to develop students’ abilities, especially at the higher levels (Masters, Research, etc). However, my sense is that, despite the importance of reflective learning, it has not previously received this level of attention. Reflection has always been one of those skills that good students simply picked up.

  15. Learning how to do reflections has been one of the greatest improvements in my learning process as a student. I usually incorporate a reflective component into week 12 of my teaching, where I ask students to think back to the first week, and what they have learned, what stands out to them, and so on. Usually this works best if I have asked them to do a short activity (like a minute paper) in week 1 with their expectations for the course and what they hope to learn. I try and get students to reflect in such a way that reminds them of some of the connections between weeks, and prepares them for their final assessments.

    This is the second time I have read through this coffee course, though I didn’t comment the first time, so it is really interesting to see how the ideas are influencing me differently, and creating different connections for me. In the intervening time, I have done a number of other coffee courses, so I am starting to see how some of the ideas can be implemented in my own teaching, more than just as ideals. Where before I was somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer amount of aspects to consider in flipping the classroom, I am starting to get a sense of the logic and connectivity between different aspects.

  16. On reflection…..I incorporate the discussion component but not so much the reflection component in my educational settings. This is something that I should make more time to do with my students! Thank you for the inspiration!

    I think it would be especially helpful to do in the early weeks of my courses when students

  17. Reading through the comments above in response to the very useful diagrams that kicked off this day’s session, I had a quick thought, which was that perhaps certain areas of tertiary teaching are more predisposed to reflection than others. Within the HASS disciplines vs the ‘hard’ sciences, for example, when we have such an array of thought on every possible question and where there is no ‘right’ answer to, say, the question ‘why do states go to war’. Reflection brings the personal into academic thought, where “I” matters as opposed to say the law of gravity where “I” is not really that important in the face of a universal ‘truth’. So to push this a bit further, I would make the claim that researchers in certain disciplines (political science, eg) channel the reflective instinct into producing great research. So there is less of a distinction between ‘doing research’ and ‘thinking about how I do research’ as the second stream of thinking even pre-empts the fundamental activity of research. To this end, students need to be engaging in reflective activity – in considering the “I”- from the get-go. This could take the shape of students being asked to add in a 4-line bio everytime they submit an essay, stating ‘I chose this essay topic as I have strong views on this matter since my lived experience includes seeing and hearing the impact of this on my life”.

  18. I am struggling to think of a way to incorporate reflection into my classes! Perhaps I could incorporate a diary-type assessment item into courses and students could reflect on each week’s topic. I will need to think about this for a while!
    So far, this coffee course has inspired me to incorporate non-traditional techniques into my teaching. I just hate looking out at that sea of blank faces, not knowing if anything is sinking in or if they’re bored witless!

    1. Hi Christina, that is the part of flipping that I also find the most challenging! One technique that I have found is the most effective for quick reflection is the minute paper, where you just ask 1 -2 questions quickly at the end of class. I often use “What was the most interesting part of this session?” and “What questions or challenges are still on your mind?” or something like that. I find the feedback from these to be really constructive for me as a teacher! Just a suggestion – does anyone else have any reflection activities that they like?

  19. It’s been a relief to read that ‘short and sweet activities’ are absolutely fine! When I taught a blended learning class, I would do these every class. Nothing too elaborate though, e.g. at the start of class I would ask students to discuss a few questions about the ‘distance component’ in small groups. And then have the groups report back to me (orally or via an index card). At the end of class, I would often ask my students to tell their neighbour about 3 things that they had learnt that class – or some other question.
    But I would still do a bigger reflection activity at the start and end of the term. And since it was a language class, I would make these activities as communicative as I could and sometimes even push students to use complex expressions/grammar.
    But to answer Katie’s question: one that I really liked was asking students to complete these sentences (you can of course adapt them to better suit your flipped class): “What I liked about today’s class was …” / “Something I learnt today was …” / “If I were the teacher, I would …”. You might expect to receive a lot of criticism on that last one, but I found that students very often see it as an opportunity to write a compliment (‘I would keep on doing what I am doing’) or a joke (‘I would give all the students an A’). When I did receive negative feedback, it was phrased constructively.

  20. It strikes me that many of these activities would work best as part of an ongoing program to encourage reflective learning in students. Although I do not teach a single group of students continuously for the whole semester, I think that I could include a Feedback section at the end of online lessons to encourage them to reflect on what they have learnt and which approach worked best for them. In this way, reflection could become part of the learning process without me having to introduce it too obviously. I have found Wikis to be somewhat useful for graduate students, however I have observed that their use tends to peak at the start and lose momentum. Uptake also seems to be by a limited number of students, who I am sure gain a lot from the process, but sadly many others don’t gain as much as they might. In the medical student cohort, where time is a precious commodity, setting tasks that are not perceived as directly contributing to a student’s knowledge is often not well received. Convincing the students of the advantages of making a habit of reflecting on their learning as they progress through their degree presents a major challenge. We provide formal processes such as revision sessions, but these miss the mark in terms of this being a self-directed process. I agree with Alex in that this should be something that we try to establish very early in our teaching.

  21. I did not know Wattle supports all these activities — I have implemented them by using other technologies and then linked them on Wattle. I will definitely look into the pros and cons of using Wattle for all the following activities:

    Forum : Could be used for journal activities, these could be made private or public depending on the task. Students could get feedback from other students and then modify their reflection.

    Feedback tool : could set up a template (see example below) attached to an activity that students could fill out.

    Wiki: could be used as an individual or group space into which student collect information relating to the topic, could be in the form of video, images, Url links etc. Wikis are also great as a brainstorming space into which initial ideas can be kept.

    Wattle (Moodle)/ Turnitin assignment: Use for reflective essays, experimental research paper, students could make a short video reflection and upload it

    Database: You could provide a database of links to a number of readings that students could work through and comment on or then discuss in the forum. Get students to collect quotes or images, videos and contribute them to the database and then comment on the contributions.

    Lesson: Ethical case study or a simulation in which they have to make choices and decisions and develop a conclusion or discuss why they made the choice they did.

    Adobe Connect sessions: Would allow for structured online discussions, students can come together and discuss

  22. I appreciate the lists of tools provided in these lessons to help with ideas and alternative approaches to teaching and learning activities, thank you. I have found that some kind of brief activity to review/debrief or reflect is important at the beginning of the session and at the end of the session. When flipping and providing pre-learning activities students commented that at times, they did not know if they had really understood the key concepts. They asked for more time to review the content in the tutorial session before applying it. There was also the case that some students came to tutorial without doing the pre-learning activities. I have to keep remembering to remind tutors not to get locked into responding to these situations with a mini-lecture, and we have been working together to think of other activities to engage the students and review content, think-pair-share, etc. I have only used forums of late for student or course enquiries. Using forums needs to become an assessment item to discuss content in more depth otherwise there is not much activity. It also needs some consideration around how they are assessed.

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