What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Reflection?
(defining Rhetorical Reflection)


Definition of reflection from Jennifer Moon

Jennifer Moon in her book Reflection in Learning & Professional Development offers a comprehensive picture of reflection and its place in learning.  In the face of multiple viewpoints on reflection, she creates the notion of "frameworks" and the "input-outcome model of reflection."  Moon sees all reflection as falling within the same mental process: "reflection itself is a mental process with purpose and/or outcome.  It is applied in situations where material is ill-structured or uncertain in that it has no obvious solutions, a mental process that seems to be related to thinking and to learning" (5).  What distinguishes different kinds of reflection is not the process or nature of the reflection, but the "framework" or purpose to which it is used: "it is the framework of intention and any guidance toward fulfillment of that intention that is significant in distinguishing one act of reflection from another.  The mental process itself may not differ from one situation to another" (15).  Despite the diverse applications of reflection, Moon maintains that reflection is a simple process and the cause of its diversity is due to the framework behind its use rather than to different mental processes.

Jennifer Moon's "input-output model of reflection


Plotting the Two Frameworks of Reflection within Composition



Rhetorical Reflection

--writer(or learner)-centered
--validity testing

Curricular Reflection

--reader(or teacher)-centered
--evaluation/ demonstration


The distinguishing factor about Curricular Reflection is its constructivist purpose—that is, its goal is to get students to form and shape their own knowledge and come to their own conclusions.  Although it certainly involves the validation of knowledge, it contrasts with the pole of Validity Testing because it is not premised upon a problem or perplexity felt within an ill-structured or uncertain situation.  The purpose is to look back at experience and make sense of it; it seeks generalizations for broader application rather than particulars within limited contexts.  Rhetorical Reflection is founded upon principles of reflection established by John Dewey and experiential learning from David Kolb.  Central to this form of reflection are two key elements: 1) a task, or what Jack Mezirow calls a "line of action," that the learner is engaged in doing (14). This line of action represents a context of a repeating or evolving cycle or process; 2) the awareness of a problem or perplexity in the face of an uncertain situation within a task.  The application of Rhetorical Reflection in this context serves the purpose of validity testing and problem-solving in order to move forward into the next iteration or attempt at the task.


Four Views on Rhetorical Reflection




In Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle, the learner starts from an experience.  This experience then undergoes "reflective observation" which generates "abstract conceptualization."  This abstract conceptualization is then the basis for "active experimentation" leading to another attempt at the experience (whether another iteration of the same experience or a modified version of that experience). 

Kolb, David.  Experiential Learning as the Science of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1984.


The “Kempian” Writing Feedback Loop


A “writing cycle” consists of repeated feedback loops where the writer composes a draft, receives (and gives) peer response, and then reflects before revising.  Feedback, response, and reflection lead to “adaptation” in the writing process.


Reflection and Rhetorical Stance


A case study of writer’s reflections between drafts revealed the most significant activity occurring for students was the confirmation and transformation of rhetorical stance. 


From Jack Mezirow Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991.
“Reflective learning involves assessment or reassessment of assumptions. Reflective learning becomes transformational whenever assumptions or premises are found to be distorting, inauthentic, or otherwise invalid” (6).


Technical Communitation:

Diagram of Iterative Project Development


A prototype is subjected to testing and then analyzed to assimilate feedback and identify what needs to be adjusted for the next version of the prototype.  This analysis phase could involve prompted acts of reflection.


  Key Sources on Reflection

Baxter Magolda, Marcia B. .  “A Constructivist Revision of the Measure of Epistemological Reflection.” Journal of College Student Development.  42.6 (2001): 520-534.

Dewey. John. How We Think. Boston: D C Heath and Co., 1933.

King, Patricia M. and Karen Strohm Kitchener. Developing Reflective Judgment. San Franscisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994. 


Moon, Jennifer. Reflection in Learning & Professional Development. London: Kogan Page, 2000.

Qualley, Donna. Turns of Thought: Teaching Composition as Reflexive Inquiry. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1997.

Schon, Donald. Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Franscisco: Josey-Bass, 1987.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. Reflection in the Writing Classroom.  Logan: Utah State University Press, 1998.


Lirvin Researching | Site created by Lennie Irvin, San Antonio College (2007) | Last updated April 11, 2008