University of Wisconsin–Madison

Promoting Reflective Practice and Learning

What I wanted:

We were designing an experiential learning course for first year PharmD students – where students do the majority of their learning  outside the traditional classroom. Without weekly face-to-face meetings, we needed a way to support (and know if) students were making meaning of the experiences and sharing that learning with one another.

What I tried

We developed reflections questions for two components of the course.  First, we created group reflection questions for teams of 3 students to respond to regarding their interactions as a team and about their partnership with an older adult in the community.  The reflections focus on what they are observing and learning, how they are working together as a team (i.e. team dynamics) and aspects of professionalism. Students post in their group forum area within Moodle after each visit with their older adult partner over the course of 2 semesters.

Second, in another component of the course, students use reflective writing to share a community outreach experience they had using a “One Word Journal” format.  They choose one word that best describes their experience, and then explain why they chose that particular word in a short paragraph, addressing the following questions:

  • How did the experience make you feel?
  • What did you learn?
  • How will it affect your future as a pharmacist?

The choice of a specific word is less important than the quality of the explanation for that choice.

Next time I would…

The reflective learning approach isn’t new, but has really helped us identify whether students are truly making meaning of the experiences they are having and addresses the “So What?” – why it’s important, and the “Now What?” how does this relate to their future profession and lifelong learning?  We really haven’t changed much from the very first year we offered this required course, as the tasks are not daunting to students, and what we can identify for learning has been immense! Another bonus of this blended learning approach was that we identify some amazing writers and often invite them to serve as leaders in future courses.

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