Method What? So What? Now What?
One of the most straight-forward frameworks to support critical reflection is Rolfes’, Freshwaters’ and Jaspers’ (2001)[i] reflective model based upon three simple questions: What? So what? Now what?

The What? part is simply describing the situation. The So what? part is where what happened is analysed and explained, often in relation to supporting literature. It is where most of the references will be, if required. Rolfe et al. consider the final part Now what? as the one that can make the greatest contribution to practice.

Critical reflection is an extension of “critical thinking”. It asks us to think about our practice and ideas and then it challenges us to step-back and examine our thinking by asking probing questions. It asks us to not only delve into the past and look at the present but importantly it asks us to speculate about the future and act.

Critical reflection occurs when we analyse and challenge our presuppositions and evaluate the appropriateness of our knowledge, understanding and beliefs, in light of our present contexts (Mezirow, 1990)[ii].

The reflective model helps students find the main ideas and connect them to realistic actions.

This method is suitable for small and large groups.

Aim To identify core and fundamental ideas and connect them to realistic actions.
Target group: Students of all courses and all study fields.
Intended learning outcomes
  • Improved students’ problem solving skills.
  • Enhanced deep thinking about the subject matter in question.
Students summarise the most important ideas from the lecture or assigned reading.

Then students are asked to determine what is important about the ideas they just listed.

What? What happened? What did you learn? What did you do? What did you expect? What was different? What was your reaction?

So What? Why does it matter? What are the consequences and meanings of your experiences? How do your experiences link to your academic, professional and/or personal development?

Now What? What are you going to do as a result of your experiences? What will you do differently? How will you apply what you have learned?

Finally, students should brainstorm about possible actions, what can they do about the problem or issue?

Preparation Not necessary.
Resources and equipment Not necessary.
Success factors By reflecting on these three key questions, students are able to think through the significance and future implications of their experiences.
Advantages This method can be used to enhance students’ motivation and increase their active participation in learning. It can help them to process new information and, through discussion and peer to peer interaction, assign meaning to what is being learned. They may also develop meaningful solutions to problems which in turn leads to greater student understanding of the subject matter. It can also help students learn how to transfer their knowledge to real-world problems.
Disadvantages Unless students are interested and believe they can solve the problem, they may not want to try.
Additional information The What? So What? And Now What? of Critical Reflection.

What? So What? Now What? For Discussions and Activities

Here are several lesson closure Activities.

[i] Yakovleva, O.N., Yakovlev, E.V. (2016). Interactive teaching methods in contemporary higher education in ScienceDirect

[ii] Mezirow, J. (1990).  How critical reflection triggers transformative learning.  In pages 1-20 of J. Mezirow (Ed). Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood. Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco.


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