Reflection tools and practices to promote learning

Students` reflective writing in field diaries may allow teachers to validate the achievement of fieldwork-related learning outcomes. Reflective writing has also the potential to help students to process and interpret their experience, making it easier to learn while operating in a dynamic environment with scarce resources and limited time. Thus, reflective practices can be helpful for fieldwork-related teaching and learning outcomes, depending on its design and implementation. However, its success depends on how these tools are designed and implemented. Best approaches is yet to be found. On this page, we provide information on the different reflective tools and practices that we are currently testing.


AB-201 students performing fieldwork in Ny-Ålesund. Photo: Steve Coulson/UNIS.


Field learning is traditionally assessed through written material. However, writing reports demonstrate neither practical skills nor better collaboration skills. Fieldwork in general and exploratory field activities in particular (such as student-driven research projects) often have learning goals related to processes along the way, while we traditionally measure the end product. We therefore aim to design tools and practices for reflective thinking and writing for the context of fieldwork-related teaching and learning. The design of these tools is based on principles, which functions they should perform, and how they should be implemented (e.g., which preparatory activities are necessary to enable students to use those tools,…).


What we are doing is a combination of theoretical and empirical research. To generate new understanding, we are taking into account numerous aspects connected to relevant educational theories. Then we design, implement and test those tools to see whether they work as expected. This process is iterative. The first step was conducted during autumn semester 2021 involving three courses. Data are being analysed and included in the second step which will be conducted during spring semester 2022, involving four new courses. The iterative approach allows us to make alterations both to the design of tools and practices and to the way how they are implemented. It enables us to develop tools and practices that will eventually work as expected. Students were provided with following tools and practices for a graphical representation of their reflective thinking:

  • Problem-oriented flow charts

These charts can help students to identify the problem, its causes and develop a solution for it. Students should be instructed to constantly ask themselves the following questions and reflect on it in their diaries: is something happening in a different way than I expected; why it is happening? how and why may it affect my further actions? Students should structure the resulting reflections so they can be visually expressed in a flow chart.

  • Relational concept maps

These maps can help to structure students` knowledge and understanding, identify main concepts and build relations between them. Students are asked to start constructing relational concept maps before the fieldwork. During field work, they make observations and subsequently integrate them into their concept maps

  • Risk assessment maps

These maps can be used to evaluate possible risks that may occur during field work. Depending on the likelihood and the impact a risk could have on a project, students can place the risk either in the red, yellow or green fields. Students are also asked to add a comment to each risk explaining how they are going to mitigate it.

  • Self-assessment maps

Students are asked to make a self-assessment map divided into two columns: my strong points/my weak points. This tool will help to raise awareness of their weak and strong points and how these my effect their fieldwork.

In order to explain the different tools for the students workshops and instructional videos were provided in forefront (see outcome below).

Outcome and related publications

Short explanatory videos on reflective tools are available here:

FieldPass are planning to create additional videos dedicated to each particular reflective tool and will be posted here when ready.

Examples of course material using concept maps, reflective questions and learning diaries you will find here:

Course Use of Concept Maps (PDF)

Course use of Learning Diary and Reflective Questions I (PDF)

Course use of Learning Diary and Reflective Questions II (PDF)