Reading Reflections

Karl Wirth
Macalester College
Author Profile
Initial Publication Date: October 10, 2008 | Reviewed: November 2, 2013


Reading reflections are submitted online each day before class and after completing a reading assignment. Three short questions guide the student to reflect more deeply on their understanding.

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Reading reflections can be used in courses at any level, and in any discipline.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

No prior skills are required. These can be taught when the activity is introduced and reinforced in instructor responses to the reading reflections.

How the activity is situated in the course

Reading reflections are conducted throughout the course and are submitted after completing a reading assignment prior to each class meeting.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The content/concept goals for this activity are whatever content is covered by course reading assignments, so it is highly adaptable in a wide variety of types and levels of courses.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Reading reflections involve a range of higher order thinking skills. Students are asked to summarize the content of the reading (understand), they are asked to describe what is new or interesting (analyze, evaluate, create), and they are asked to identify those parts of the reading that are confusing (analyze, evaluate).

Other skills goals for this activity

This activity also helps students develop their skills for critical reading, writing, and self-assessment.

Description of the activity/assignment

Reading reflections are designed to encourage students to complete readings before coming to class, to reflect more deeply on the content of the reading, to make personal meaning from the meaning, and to develop their metacognitive skills for lifelong learning. The reflections consist of three questions: (1) What is the main point of the reading?, (2) What information did you find surprising? Why?, and (3) What did you find confusing? Why? Students submit short responses to two of three questions prior to coming to class.

Metacognitive components of the activity

Reading reflections address many elements of metacognition, including knowledge, control, and reflection. Reading reflections are designed to help students develop knowledge about themselves as learners, learning tasks (reading), prior knowledge, content, self-monitoring, self-assessment, and reflection.

Metacognitive goals

The primary goals of this activity are to help students develop their skills of self-assessment, and to reflect more deeply on the content of their reading assignments. Reflective thinking is an essential element of expert learners, so this activity helps students develop skills as intentional learners for lifelong learning.

Assessing students' metacognition

Reading reflections (n = 35 in a typical semester) count for approximately 10% of the course grade. I do not grade these reflections, but give students credit if they are turned in on time (before class) and if they clearly demonstrate significant reflection.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The reflections are not graded, but credit is earned for timely submissions and evidence of careful reading and deep reflection. A simple rubric is used for awarding points.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Jude Higdon and Chad Topaz, (in press) Blogs and Wikis as Instructional Tools: A Social Software Adaptation of Just-in-Time Teaching: College Teaching.