Structured reflection initially developed a strong theoretical and empirical base at the College through research done in a series of projects funded by grants from The Teagle Foundation in 2004 and 2008. Kiran Cunningham (Anthropology/Sociology) and Bob Grossman (Psychology) led the way with their projects investigating factors that catalyze transformative learning in our students. Through their work, and through collaborations with faculty colleagues, they clarified a very effective approach to structured reflection. Kalamazoo College’s definition of structured reflection, developed and refined through research by faculty and staff at Kalamazoo College and illustrated in what has come to be known on campus as the Structured Reflection Triangle,1 is the following:
Structured Reflection is a process that can catalyze transformative learning (i.e., learning that ultimately fosters a change in habit of mind, or change in frame of reference) by employing intentionally designed exercises, activities, or assignments that help students (and others) interrogate, make connections between, and examine consonance or dissonance between assumptions held, theories and concepts, and experiences encountered.
When engaged in structured reflection, an individual, or a group of interacting individuals, steps aside from being a subject in a life and begins viewing ideas held and experiences encountered as objects in ways that can promote transformation of the individual from being externally defined to developing self-authorship.2
Through self-authorship students construct their own educational paths at Kalamazoo College and throughout their lives. Use of structured reflection is gaining traction in many areas of the College.
1 Cunningham, K. 2010. Putting the anthropological toolkit to use in international and intercultural learning. Practical Anthropology 32(3): 23-26.
2 Baxter Magolda, M.B., and P.M. King. 2008. Toward reflective conversations: An advising approach that promotes self-authorship. Peer Review Winter 8-11.; Kegan, R. 1994. In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; Mezirow, J. Ed. 2000. Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.