Scaffolding Reflection with Adolescent and Adult Learners

©2008, Helen C. Barrett, Ph.D.

Dr. Barrett's links on Reflection

This web page provides information on scaffolding reflection with high school students and adult learners. First, a definition:

Reflection is a form of mental processing – like a form of thinking – that we use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome. It is applied to relatively complicated or unstructured ideas for which there is not an obvious solution and is largely based on the further processing of knowledge and understanding and possibly emotions that we already possess (based on Moon 1999).

An electronic portfolio provides an environment where students can: collect their work in a digital archive; select specific pieces of work (hyperlink to artifacts) to highlight specific achievements; reflect on the learning demonstrated in the portfolio, in either text or multimedia form; set goals for future learning (or direction) to improve; and celebrate achievement through sharing this work with an audience, whether real or virtual. When used in formative, classroom-based assessment, teachers (and peers) can review the portfolio document, and provide formative feedback to students on where they could improve.

Below are some excellent resources on Reflection

The questions below come from Student Employability Profiles: A guide for higher education practitioners (3MB PDF) published by The Higher Education Academy with the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) in the United Kingdom.

Reflective questions

Raising self-awareness is a prerequisite to building up lifelong learning capabilities. Many courses have key points during study when students are tasked with reflecting on and evidencing their achievements. The results can be fed into the writing of CVs and Progress Files. The following questions may be used by students, guided by tutors or lecturers, to help with reflection and evidencing. Students should also be encouraged to consider any work experience and or voluntary and extracurricular activities.

Students may use these questions in conjunction with the template when reflecting on skill development and undertaking personal development planning (PDP). The list is not exhaustive; it is designed to stimulate the student to reflect on the skills that they are practicing, to raise self-awareness and the ability to articulate these skills. Using this approach will also help students become familiar with competency based interviewing and assessment.

Achievement orientation

Maintains and inspires a results-driven approach, focuses on results and critical performance indicators.


Maintains effectiveness in a changing environment.


Relates and compares data from different sources, identifying issues, securing relevant information and identifying relationships.

Attention to detail

Accomplishes tasks through a concern for all areas involved, no matter how small.

Commercial awareness

Understands the economics of the business. Understands the business benefi ts and commercial realities from all stakeholder perspectives (customer, supplier, employer, employee, shareholder etc.).


Generates and/or recognises how best practice and imaginative ideas can be applied to different situations.


Makes decisions and takes action.

Financial awareness

Understands basic fi nancial terminology used in organisations and is able to construct and maintain simple fi nancial records.


Presents a strong, professional, positive image to others at all times. This image is consistent with all people (colleagues, management and peers, customers etc.).


Influences others by expressing self effectively in a group and in one to one situations.


Identifies opportunities and is pro-active in putting forward ideas and potential solutions.

Interpersonal sensitivity

Recognises and respects different perspectives and appreciates the benefits of being open to the ideas and views of others.


Determines the most appropriate course of action and draws conclusions that are based on logical assumptions that reflect factual information.


Takes responsibility for the directions and actions of a team.

Lifelong learning and development

Develops the skills and competencies of self, peers and colleagues through learning and development activities related to current and future roles.


Shows by a range of verbal and non-verbal signals that the information being received is understood.

Organisation understanding

Understands the organisation’s work environment, internal politics, business objectives and strategy.

Organisational sensitivity

Is sensitive to the effect of his or her actions on other parts of the organisation and adopts a mature, direct and up front style in dealing with confl ict.

Personal development

Maintains an up to date personal development plan and takes action to ensure personal development takes place.

Planning and organising

Establishes a course of action for self and/or others to accomplish a specifi c goal. Plans proper assignments of personnel and appropriate allocation of resources.

Process operation

Begins, controls and concludes a complete process or procedure.

Professional expertise

Keeps up to date with developments in own areas of professional specialisation. Applies a breadth and/or depth of professional knowledge.


Uses an appropriate approach to questioning in order to gain information from which to draw conclusions and/or assist in the making of decisions.

Teamwork/working with others

Builds and develops appropriate relationships with academic staff, peers, colleagues, customers and suppliers at all levels within an organisation.

Revised May 17, 2011 - ©2008, Helen C. Barrett, Ph.D.