Roanoke College

IL Assessment


The Intensive Learning Program has one program-level learning outcome that should be addressed by all IL courses:

Students will critically reflect on their learning in an intensive learning environment.

To participate in assessment of this learning outcome, all IL instructors needed to

  1. Assign a 2-3 page critical reflection essay (see below for more definition of this)
  2. Collect the essays from students (electronic, typed, or handwritten formats are acceptable)
  3. Send the essays and a copy of the prompt to the IL Director by the date that grades are due for May Term

Faculty may grade the essays for their own purposes if they choose, but are not obliged to do so.  (It does help if students believe the assignment "counts.")  A small group will score the essays using the Reflective Essay Rubric attached here.  Faculty may wish to distribute the rubric with the writing prompt.


What do we mean by critical reflection for the purposes of this assessment?

Individual disciplines and instructors use the phrase "critical reflection" in many ways that are useful to them individually but can result in too much variety for the purposes of this assessment.  So that we can interpret assessments from many disciplines and courses, we ask faculty to use the DEAL Model for Critical Reflection that was originally developed by Dr. Patti Clayton of North Carolina State University.  The DEAL Model asks students to

  1. Describe experience objectively: What? Where? Who? When? Why?
  2. Examine experience per the prompt (samples below)
  3. Articulate Learning: What did I learn? How did I learn it? Why is it important? What will I do because of it?

The DEAL Model suggests that faculty choose a prompt that aligns specifically with the type of growth or enhancement the faculty member desired.  For example,

Faculty who are interested in focusing on improving knowledge of academic concepts might use prompts like 

  • What academic concepts from this class apply to your experience?
  • Did the academic concepts/class discussion match your experience?  How and why?
  • Do you need to re-think any of the course concepts as the result of this experience?

Faculty who wish to examine personal growth might use prompts like

  • What personal strengths, weaknesses, skills, assumptions, etc. emerged?
  • What effect did this experience have on your view of others?
  • In what ways do you need to change in the future?

Faculty who are trying to increase students civic engagement might use prompts like 

  • What were you trying to accomplish?
  • What approaches were taken and why?
  • What changes are needed?  How could this be done in a more systematic way?


Specific examples for some RC IL courses

Sometimes an example can help illustrate the point.  Here are some critical reflection prompts that could be used for RC courses.

  1. Write a 2-3 page critical reflection on one of the museums we visited.  First, describe the experience objectively (what, where, who, when).  Next, examine connections between what you experienced at the museum and the general concepts of science in public venues that we discussed this term.  Choose a couple of examples to illustrate how visiting the museum enhanced, reinforced, or contradicted these course concepts.  Finally, articulate how the museum visit affected what and how you learned this term.
  2. Besides being fun, the cooking sessions this term illustrated important scientific concepts.  Choose one of our cooking sessions that worked well for you in this respect.  Describe that session and your role in it objectively (what was prepared, what you did, what others contributed, etc.).  Now explore connections between the experience of cooking and the scientific concepts illustrated.  Be specific.  Finally articulate how the cooking experience affected your understanding of the science.
  3. Food is personal.  What we eat says a lot about who we are.  Write a 2-3 page critical reflection on how one of the shopping, cooking, or eating experiences this term changed your perception of yourself or your personal relationship with food.  First, choose one specific shopping/eating/cooking activity and describe it objectively (who, what, where).  Second examine relationships between this activity and your relationship to food.  Finally, articulate how and why your future food choices will be affected by this experience.
  4. Bollywood films provide a fascinating window into Indian culture.  You viewed one on campus this spring and a second yesterday in a cinema in India.  Write a 2-3 page critical reflection on these experiences.  Start by describing the two experiences objectively (what, where, with whom, etc.).  Next, examine what you learned about Indian culture through the films.  Finally, articulate how the experience of being in India while we viewed the film affected what you learned and your attitudes towards that learning.

Advice to get better reflections and better student learning

  1. Avoid asking students what they did or did not like.  This almost always results in superficial responses.
  2. Avoid providing multiple questions for students to respond to.  Students will respond superficially to each in turn.  If you want to give students choice, ask them to choose just one of the prompts and to respond in depth.
  3. Ask students to provide supporting details and connections to course topics to get more depth.
  4. Consider asking students to choose the single (reading, event, activity, etc) from the course that most clearly illustrated "insert your course's main objective here."  Students must reflect to make the choice in the first place and then use specifics to support that choice.
  5. The best reflections result when students have had the opportunity to practice doing reflections earlier in the course.  Some of the very best we have seen were from courses where students did several reflections over the course of the term and got clear guidelines and some feedback on early efforts.