During a recent interview, a senior at Smith College was asked to describe what reflection means to her. The student explained that reflection has two meanings for her, the first being scientific and the second being personal. As a geology major, she thinks about how the reflection of light and sound impact our environment. As a participant in Smith’s “Eat, Write, Talk” retreat weekend, she thinks of reflection as a process of looking at yourself while interacting with and learning from others.
Broadly speaking, the PAVE Project conceptualizes reflection as a way of making meaning of experience.
Given the newness of so much of what students encounter and experience during their college years, reflection can be a way to help them make sense of what’s happening to them and what it all means for their future. Reflection should promote the integration of their intellectual, personal, and social lives. While reflection has long been utilized in the service-learning and community service context, reflection can also be used to help students gain a more thorough understanding of themselves and what really matters to them—their purpose and values.
The PAVE Project seeks to advance reflection as a useful tool because it:
- Is highly personal;
- Prompts the search for connections between experiences, education, and emotions;
- Encourages slowing down;
- Depends on disconnecting from devices (computers, phones, etc.);
- Provides students with new perspectives and a sense of validation, especially when done in groups; and,
- Can be practiced as a life-long habit.
To learn more about reflection, a good place to start is with the philosopher and educator John Dewey. Dewey is often considered the foremost proponent of reflection and reflective thought. Dewey’s 1910 book How We Think provides his own definition for reflection and is a helpful foundation for understanding the role of reflection in education.