Reflection Essays

Reflection essays prompt students to review individual materials, a collection of similar materials, or the entire portfolio once it is complete.They further engage students by having them think about their own learning. They also allow you to better assess what and how students are learning.  This technique works best for significant assignments or experiences rather than every assignment, activity or experience.

The reflective process is one of portfolio assessment's most cited virtues. Prompts for reflection can be about student expectations of or preparations for the experience, how the experience unfolded in various ways, what the student felt was most difficult, most useful, most important, and what the student learned that would guide them to have a better experience next time. Students are not often asked to reflect in this way, so some specific prompts can be helpful to develop this skill:

  • Why did you select this piece to include?
  • How does this sample meet the assignment criteria?
  • What are the strengths of this work? Weaknesses?
  • How has your work changed during the term?
  • From looking at my portfolio/this sample I learned…
  • In what ways can you improve?
  • What is a realistic goal by the end of the term?
  • My portfolio indicates that I…
  • How does the portfolio as a whole represent your skills and who you are?
Self-reflection also gives students the opportunity to evaluate their own growth and participate in the assessment process. This helps them to realize that self-evaluation is an important measure of learning and the need to concretely demonstrate how this learning was accomplished.


A reflection assignment provided by UT Professor of Chemistry David Laude, to demonstrate what the nut-and-bolts of a reflection assignment can look like:

Having students self-reflect can also help you to improve or modify your teaching by understanding what students:

  • Value about learning
  • Believe your expectations are
  • Know
  • Want to know