Drawing on deep reflective practice as an active learning tool to enhance capability and competence Faculty Spark - View, reflect and apply

Last updated on 21/10/2019

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How can students develop deep reflection to enhance their competence? In a third year business course, a series of scaffolded reflections have been introduced to develop students’ introspective skills towards enhancing cross-cultural capability.


In a third year course on Intercultural Management, our teaching challenge was how to advance students beyond understanding and theoretical application of knowledge and tools, towards a measure of capability and competence. In doing so the key challenge was how to effectively address the Griffith graduate attributes, in particular: can our graduates effectively work within culturally diverse teams and communicate with respect and influence?

One of the tenets we work with, is that cultural awareness precedes cultural competence. Furthermore, cultural awareness implies that of others and also of oneself. Therefore, to be truly culturally competent, students need to become aware of their own boundaries of culture. This is a challenge in itself as most of one’s cultural identity lies mainly at the subconscious or unconscious levels.

The process of deep and critical reflection can serve as a powerful learning mechanism. As an active process, reflection enhances the learning process because it takes into account past, present and future. In turn reflection can serve as a powerful de-layering tool to facilitate deeper introspection, making sense of unstructured material, and also develops emotional intelligence. Therefore we wanted to explore reflection as an active learning tool to enhance cultural capability and competence.



In a third year Intercultural Management course situated within the Griffith Business School, the team developed a series of scaffolded reflections. These reflections were specifically designed to develop deeper insights into their understanding of culture and cultural competency, alongside the theory, their major assessment piece, and their participation in a virtual team.

In total students complete three reflections throughout the trimester, each contributing to 20 per cent of the overall assessment weighting.

Students are challenged to critically reflect on their understanding and experiences, culminating with an evaluation of one’s self-development as an intercultural graduate. Individually, each reflection task is designed to build on the previous one, culminating with a multi-layered opportunity to reflect on one’s previous reflections, and on one’s past, present and future. As a whole, the three reflections align with Anderson and Krathwohl’s (2001) revised Bloom’s taxonomy, whereby they aim to develop higher order thinking skills along both the Knowledge and Cognitive Process Dimensions. As such, each reflective task is carefully worded to encourage students to progress along the Dimensions.

Students also have the opportunity to assess themselves and their peers self-reflections by completing a series of rubrics designed by the team. The exercises of self- and peer-assessment develop their ability to practice objectivity and subjectivity when perceiving a situation/event/person, as well as developing their skill to 'stand back' from themselves (Moon, 1999)

Methodological approach

When reflecting upon their own experiences, students were encouraged to draw upon Moon’s six step reflective process (1999). This involves the following steps:

  1. Purpose - an understanding of the purpose of the reflective activity.
  2. Basic observations - of the event.
  3. Additional information - incorporation of new information or other relevant facts.
  4. Revisiting - the first true level of reflection. Earlier reflections are reviewed and there is a possibility for ‘mulling over’ issues and problems. This allows for an issue or event to be viewed from a different point of view (Moon, 1999, 107). Consideration can be given here to theorising or planning experiments or new actions.
  5. Standing back - takes the reflection to a new level as the experiments or new actions are tested and the results are discussed. For example, put yourself in someone else’s shoes and reflect upon what they might see the situation to be. This may result in the sixth step.
  6. Moving on - “something having been learned or solved… there is a sense of moving on”. This may resolve the problem, or further possibilities for reflection may be generated, hence starting the reflection cycle over again.

According to Moon, reflection occurs in steps four, five and six.

The quality and depth of a student’s reflection is revealed in the way it is structured and written, which generally falls into one of 4 levels (Moon, 2004): descriptive writing; descriptive account with some reflection; reflective writing; deep reflective writing. The teaching team converted these into a detailed rubric and extended it to five levels to align with Griffith’s Assurance of Learning requirements.

Further information on these forms of reflection can be found in the Support Resources “Guidelines for Reflective Writing”.

Support resources

Students are also provided with support resources to assist in refining their reflection skills. These resources can be found in the Support Resources section of this Spark.


In the first implementation of this approach, it was noted that students did not know how to reflect deeply and critically, and it uncovered a skills-gap. The teaching team developed supporting materials, and in succeeding course offerings, more attention was given to the process of reflection, and use of the supporting materials including exemplars.

In addition, the teaching team used an assessment-for-learning approach to further develop capability and competence in reflection. They informed students their first reflection might not get an optimal mark, and encouraged students to learn and develop their reflective skills, and lean on the opportunity of scaffolded reflection to work on a gradual increase in marks.

Anecdotal feedback received from students has been positive, and showcases how reflection has promoted active learning, and has helped to develop a measure of cultural capability and competence. In addition, feedback has also reinforced the value in offering a series of scaffolded reflections as opposed to just one:

“Looking back on my first reflective piece my ideas revolved around absolutism and I was very ethnocentric in my ideas and opinions. I definitely did not dig deep nor did I even consider looking at alternative perspectives or reasoning.”

“I was really bad at my first writing on my learning reflection because I didn’t know how to express and reflect on myself correctly... After a few of those assessments I start to open and develop a global mindset, which helped me understand not only my beliefs but others’ beliefs on culture....taught me to change my way of thinking.”

“…at the beginning of the course, I am only aware of the difference not competent to reconcile the issues effectively... Reading back on my journals the first thought pop in my head was “wow. Did I really say this? All I did was just address the theories, not looking at the why it’s been happened…. I didn’t really have any concept of myself in the context of culture. I was able to make cultural comparisons, but I wasn’t culturally aware or sensitive.”


If you are considering implementing reflection within your course, here are some tips:

  • Choose appropriate reflective activities to the course content.
  • Scaffold reflective tasks within the assessment strategy (have at least two e.g. one at the start and one at the end).
  • Scaffold the questions within each reflection.
  • Identify whether students know the process of deep and critical reflection, and teach them the process if needed.
  • Provide opportunities for students to practice within tutorials. Provide support material for students improving their reflective skills.
  • Provide opportunities for students to self and peer assess.
  • Provide formative feedback- in relation to reflective content but also reflective process.

Next Steps

Reflection as an active learning pedagogy tool has shown its benefits, and in particular scaffolded reflection as it offers repeated opportunity to develop cultural capability, practice the process of deep and critical reflection, and receive formative feedback. The teaching team is now looking at ways to embed it across all modes of delivery, as well as further integrate it with other active learning tools such as virtual teamwork.

However, scaffolding reflection does requires additional resources, especially to provide formative feedback. The supporting materials (reflective writing guide and detailed rubrics) have contributed to some extent to students’ independent learning, however the teaching team found that self-assessment of each reflection is not enough without the teacher’s input, even if brief. This poses a workload and budget challenge.

Griffith Graduate Attributes

This assessment activity aligns with the following graduate attributes: * Effective communicators and collaborators * Effective in culturally diverse and international environments. The central learning objective of this activity was to enhance students cultural competency, and ability to communicate with respect, through a series of scaffolded reflections.

Support Resources


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Preferred Citation

Mouasher, A., Barker, M., & Learning Futures (2019). Drawing on deep reflective practice as an active learning tool to enhance capability and competence. Retrieved from https://app.secure.griffith.edu.au/exlnt/entry/4805/view