November 4, 2020
Volume 4, Number 6
Reflective Elements Deepen Learning and Develop Cognitive Skills  
In a busy world, people can get so caught up recording events (posting photos of fabulous meals, a child’s recital, or vacation scenery on social media) that they neglect to experience the activity. Similarly, busy students may complete the assignment we craft to promote learning without noticing how the assignment promoted learning important disciplinary knowledge or skills. They will notice the time and effort the task required, but they might not notice the benefit for their learning.

A reflective activity forces students to make the implicit explicit (Hutchins, 2018; Lovitts, 2016; Winkelmes, et al., 2016). Reflective assignments require students to describe how an assignment promoted their learning and articulate the value of developing these skills. Reflective tasks help students develop metacognitive skills such as monitoring and directing activities that serve their learning goals, thereby promoting habits for life-long learning.

Do not assume that students know how to reflect on their experiences. Good reflective assignments include explicit instructions and prompts and guiding questions that structure the reflection. In the spirit of explicit, transparent assignments (Winkelmes, et al., 2016), the reflective assignment will also include a rubric that articulates how instructors will evaluate the reflection: elements students should include in the reflective paper and descriptions of quality. Formal evaluation of reflective assignments signals to students that these activities are valued – they “count” as meaningful and important parts of the learning experience (and course grade). In the absence of formal evaluation, students may come to regard the reflection as a hoop to jump through, busy work that does not contribute to the value of the class.

Hutchings (2018) describe four common features of effective reflective tasks. While good reflective tasks might not include every element, the more elements the reflective assignment includes, the more likely the task will be effective.

Elements of effective reflective assignments
  1. The assignment requires students to pay attention to the learning task and think about how it affected their thinking (and feeling). Attending to the task and one’s learning begins with description. Many reflective assignments require students to identify and make components of the assignment explicit by describing what they did and how the activity was connected to learning goals. Ask students to describe the thought processes they used to identify a problem addressed in the learning activity. For a group assignment, ask students to describe and evaluate their contribution to each part of the group project.
  2. Examine and evaluate the learning experience embedded in the assignment. Ask students to describe what they learned from the activity they are reflecting on. How have their skills or understanding of multiple perspectives on a problem changes as a result of their work on the project. Ask students to articulate why the learning is important for them as students in the discipline, as future professionals in the discipline, or as adults functioning in society after graduation. In some cases, students can reflect on meta-cognitive skills by writing guidelines and suggestions for future students who will complete the assignment in future terms. What did students learn from the task that they wished they had known going into it? What strategies can they suggest that will help future students complete the assignment successfully?
  3. Require students to integrate learning from the task with prior learning. Many elements of reflective assignments are inward-looking. This element focuses more on the disciplinary content and skills embodied in the assignment. Ask students to evaluate the disciplinary methods and models they used for the task and their appropriateness for the problem addressed. The prompt might also ask students to connect their academic learning to their personal development (e.g., learning to work effectively with individuals from different backgrounds or individual who approach a problem from a different perspective, learning to deal with multiple, competing agendas when solving a problem). 
  4. Articulate how skills acquired while completing the assignment will be relevant to future activities. This element can be couched as a forward-looking prompt that requires students to discuss how the skills used to address the problem posed by the assignment might be used in the future. The future might be short term (how these skills will be used in future classes in the academic program) or long term (how these skills will be used when working in the discipline following graduation). 

by Claudia J. Stanny, Ph.D., Director Center for University Teaching, Learing, and Assessment at the University of West Florida
What I Love About Teaching Campaign
Hello Educators,
We are looking for your response to the question "What I love about teaching?"

Take a few moments to share your response by clicking the link below:
Events on Campus
Here are opportunities for our MSU Educators and our Eagle students:

MSU Event :
  • Free Covid Testing - As we continue layering in health precautions, we are partnering with St. Claire HealthCare to offer a free COVID-19 testing opportunity on campus. Any student or employee is free to take advantage of its convenience.
  • DATE: Thursday, November 5th, 2020
  • TIME: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
  • LOCATION: Laughlin Health Building Gymnasium
  • PROVIDER: St. Claire HealthCare
  • COST: Free

MSU QEP Trainings:
  • Deep-Dive into the High Impact Experiences: Now that you've narrowed down which high impact experience might work best for you, take a deep dive into the specific one. These four sessions will be offered concurrently.
  • Wednesday, November 4th @ 10am
  • Wednesday, November 4th @ 3pm
  • Thursday, November 5th @ 11am
  • Thursday, November 5th @ 3:30pm

  • Professionalism
  • Thursday, November 5th @ 12:45pm
  • Friday, November 6th @ 10am
  • Friday, November 6th @ 3pm

  • Teamwork
  • Monday, November 9th @ 1pm
  • Tuesday, November 10th @ 11am
  • Monday, November 10th @ 12:45pm

  • Oral Communication
  • Wednesday, November 11th @ 10am
  • Wednesday, November 11th @ 3pm
  • Thursday, November 12th @ 11am

  • Written Communication
  • Wednesday, November 11th @ 1pm
  • Thursday, November 12th @ 9:30am
  • Thursday, November 12th @ 12:45pm

  • Critical Thinking
  • Thursday, November 12th @ 3:30pm
  • Friday, November 13th @ 11am
  • Friday, November 13th @ 3pm

Register here
Geeky Pedagogy Author Coming to MSU
The Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning is excited to host Jessamyn Neuhaus, the author of Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers. She will be attending the weekly Geeky Pedagogy book read to discuss and answer questions.

Date: Friday, November 6th
Time: 10 AM
Location: Click here
Gather and Share: Ungrading
Join Deanna Mascle, Daryl Privott, and your fellow MSU educators in this dialogue on Ungrading. We will begin the dialogue with an annotation of the article 'When Grading Less Is More "Professors' reflections on their experiences with 'ungrading'.

Click here for the article annotation. Use the comment feature to highlight ideas and/or raise questions.

Click here for the original article

We will "Gather & Share" on the information presented in the article and offer our thoughts, insights, techniques and dialogue with our presenter.
Presenter Information

Deanna Mascle - Instructor, English

Daryl R. Privott - Director, FCTL

Date: Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Registration: Click here

Location: WebEx

Time: 3:45 - 4:45 PM
Virtual Conference on Transforming STEM Higher Education
November 5 - 7, 2020

This Changes Everything
AAC&U and its Project Kaleidoscope urgently invite you to join us virtually for a STEM Conference that will grapple with the undeniable truths, paradoxes, and peculiarities of what is at the heart of our nation’s STEM higher education reform enterprise—us.

For more information on the conference and to register click here

If you plan on attending the conference, let me know so we can build a plan.
Magna (Online) Webinars
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Featured Webinar:

How Can Grading Policy Options Influence Student Learning?
Learn the positive results that can be realized through strategic decisions you make about your grading policies..

Benefits of Magna Webinars:
  • Each webinar takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.
  • All webinars are available on your schedule since they are online and easily accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Webinars include supplemental materials such as bibliographies and handouts.
  • Certificates of completion are available for professional portfolios and Faculty 180

Accessing Webinars:

These licensed Magna resources are available through a password-protected website. For access, educators need to:
  • Log into MSU’s employee portal;
  • Look under the My Classes (Blackboard) section for the Magna Training Site;
  • If Magna isn't showing up in your list of courses, please send a request to be added to
  • When you click on the Magna Training Site, the Blackboard shell will open. Select Magna Campus and then launch the LTI link, select 20-Minute Mentor Commons. After selecting 20-Minute Mentor Commons, choose Teaching Face to Face then Grading & Feedback. Chose the featured title

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