Reflective Practice: Summer Bridge 2013

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Getting Started: Introducing Students to Reflection


Addison_1The Summer Bridge program is an integral part of the unique educational model at Guttman Community College.  This program, which helps students transition from high school to college and introduces them to our unique educational model and structure, is where students create and begin using their ePortfolio.  It is also the time when they are first introduced to the idea and practice of reflection.  This initial reflection, which asks them to identify strengths and areas of personal growth and to articulate their learning during the Summer Bridge program, is the first step in a systematic, disciplined, and scaffolded reflective process that we are developing and implementing across our curriculum.


While this documentation of the practice was put together by the C2L team, the practice itself is the collective work of the Guttman Community College faculty and staff.

For a printable, PDF version of Guttman’s Summer Bridge Reflective Practice, Click Here.

Part I: Practice Step-by-Step

Alvarez_1Guttman students begin to practice reflection as an integral component of their college experience in the Summer Bridge program, a three-week program designed to help students transition from high school to college and to serve as an introduction to our unique first-year academic model. Developing the ability to reflect on areas of strength and opportunities for growth is one of the learning outcomes (link to outcomes) of the program and part of a larger set of activities designed to introduce students to the use of ePortfolio to integrate learning across courses, co-curricular, and experiential activities.

Students create their ePortfolio on either the first or second day of Summer Bridge.  The use of ePortfolio is integrated throughout the summer bridge curriculum.  In addition to using their ePortfolio during the academic components of the program (Critical Issues, Reading/Writing, Quantiative Reasoning) and as the space for sharing their group research project, students identify and articulate their strengths and growth areas as learners during their Learning about Being a Successful Student (LaBBS) component of the program.

Contreras_1As students complete their Summer Bridge final project, instructional teams ask them to write 300-word reflective essays on the learning they have achieved and the challenges they have faced. Students are given prompts to guide them through this reflective process.  Each team develops their own set of prompts for this activity.  For example, during the 2013 Summer Bridge Program one team used an open-ended prompt, “The Summer Bridge final project challenged me to . . .,” while another team provided the following list of guiding questions:

  1. What is the most creative/clever part of your project that will entice potential “clients” the most?
  2. What other visual tools (PowerPoint, iMovie, etc.) did you create?  Did you already have expertise with these tools, or did you learn something new?
  3. What information and messages were conveyed on that visual?
  4. Are there improvements you could make to the overall project?
  5. Do you believe that you contributed a relatively equal amount to the group work? Explain.
  6. Was there a particular skill you learned as a result of this project?
  7. Did you learn any new knowledge (about yourself, the neighborhood, perspectives, etc.), as a result of this project?
  8. What were your greatest successes in Summer Bridge?
  9. What was most challenging for you in Summer Bridge?
  10. What are you most excited about for the Fall semester?

Students complete their reflections during class on the penultimate day of the program, immediately after presenting their final projects. Each student includes this reflection in their ePortfolio.  Those portfolios are then saved in Digication’s assessment management system to be used as a baseline measure of student learning and for institutional assessment of the Summer Bridge learning outcomes.

IMG_9144Most, if not all, of the faculty teaching summer bridge read and comment on the student reflections.  In addition, faculty who did not teach in the summer bridge program also reviewed these reflections and student ePortfolios prior to the start of the fall semester, helping them get to know their students before meeting them in class.  These reflections will also be revisited by students during the second half of their first semester as they continue to reflect on their growth and development as a learner and scholar.

In addition to introducing students to the practice of reflection and serving as the first step in a systematic, disciplined and scaffolded process, the activity gives faculty and staff an opportunity to interact with individual students in new ways and to learn more about their attitudes towards learning and their level of socio-emotional preparation for college.

Part II: The Role of Reflection in Advancing Student Learning

The goal of this practice is to have students examine themselves as learners as they articulate the learning process they just completed.  It incorporates several components of the Dewey/Rogers framework.  This reflection helps students connect their classroom learning with an experiential NYC-based research activity, enabling students to begin to make connections among academic experiences, co-curricular, and lived experiences.  By articulating strengths, challenges, and growth areas, students also consider their evolving personal relationship to learning and education, using reflection as a process of personal change.  This reflective practice is the first in a systematic and scaffolded process of reflection that we are implementing across our first year experience.

Part III: Evidence of Impact on the Student Learning Experience

Because this practice is new to us, we have not, as of yet, evaluated the evidence of impact on the student learning experience.  We are currently doing an assessment of our Summer Bridge learning outcomes and will, over the course of the next year, examine this reflective practice in comparison to future student reflections.  At those points, we will be better able to report on impact.

In the meantime, we want to share some examples of reflections from our students:

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This student notes that one of the highlights of Summer Bridge was “explor[ing] parts of the city that some of us had never seen.”  One of the high-impact practices Guttman focuses on in connection with reflective pedagogy is experiential education.  Making connections between lived and academic cultures signifies the impact of this high-impact practice.

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As part of this reflective activity, this student notes that a major component of working on the project in the city was being able to present their findings to the larger group.  As a community of learners, students come together to share their connections through social pedagogies.

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This student notes that there was “nothing better” than working with her team on this project.  Her reflection articulates another high-impact practice, collaborative learning.  Working together in teams, students are able to relate their academic work to experiential education in a way that is both meaningful and impactful.

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This student states that “college will make me stronger.”  ePortfolio gives students a space to reflect on their process of holistic learning and offers time for them to connect the major ideas and experiences from class to their own lives.

IMG_9212Connecting this practice to our practices on Social Pedagogy (link this), this beginning reflective exercise is indicative of the type of reflection students worked with in the Arts in New York City and Composition courses in 2013.  During Summer Bridge, students worked within their own portfolios, reflecting on their experiential learning as indicated in the posts above.  This is the beginning of reflective pedagogy.  Identifying one’s own connection with individuality, identity, and the City will ultimately lead to the ability to connect with other’s intuitions and reflections.  One student mentions that her team was unique.  This is an important connection that highlights the power of the learning communities and collaborative learning.  As we learned in our Social Pedagogy practices, our students benefit both academically and personally from making valuable connections with one another and the work they do as part of their learning community.

Practice Identifiers

Location: This practice is used as a final reflection during our Summer Bridge program which is a three-week program to help students transition from high school to college and to learn about our educational model.  It does not fall within a particular discipline, but is the first piece in a systematic and scaffolded set of reflective practices that take place throughout our First Year Experience curriculum.

Scale:  Institution-wide – Every student at the college is required to complete this reflection.

High Impact Practices:  Students in Summer Bridge are part of a Learning Community.  The Summer Bridge program serves as a pre-cursor to our First Year Experience curriculum.

Helping Students Advance Their Learning

Reflection as a form of Connection (Integrative Learning) –  Students’ ePortfolio help them with the transfer of knowledge from multiple contexts and consider the relationships between classroom and outside the class learning.

○      Make connections among academic experiences, co-curricular & lived experiences

Reflection as Systematic and Disciplined (Inquiry) – Students’ ePortfolio reflections processes embody…

○      A structured and scaffolded process

○      Connecting their learning to Gen Ed or programmatic competencies

Reflection as Social Pedagogy – students’ use ePortfolio to share/peer review/discuss/collaborate/connecting around course work, reflections, plans, goals, stories etc.

○      Sharing their ePortfolio w/ and getting comments from faculty

Reflection as a Process of Personal Change  – Students use ePortfolio for inquiring into their educational and career development, integrative identity formation, etc., by…

○      Considering their evolving personal relationship to learning and education

Connections to Other Sectors of the Catalyst

IMG_9192Professional Development –  Faculty members who taught in the Summer Bridge program completed a 2-day professional development workshop, introducing them to the Summer Bridge curriculum  Participants engaged in a mini-version of the student research project, creating project ePortfolios over the course of the 2 days that they then shared with each other.  Each instructional team was then tasked with developing the prompt for their House’s final reflective activity.   During the college’s October assessment days, faculty will participate in a professional development activity to develop the follow-up reflective activity that students will complete during the second half of the fall semester.

Outcomes Assessment –  This reflective activity is directly connected to both the assessment of the Summer Bridge learning outcomes.  Every student’s ePortfolio is captured in our assessment management system.  A random sample of those ePortfolios will be assessed.  This reflective activity will be used to as one data source for the assessment of our Summer Bridge learning outcome, “Identify and list strengths and growth areas for being a new college student.”

This reflection and the Summer Bridge ePortfolios will also be used as a baseline measure of student learning as part of our comprehensive Guttman Learning Outcomes Assessment plan.

Technology – Each student writes this reflection directly into her/her ePortfolio.  Our ePortfolio system, Digication, has an assessment management system.  Students submit a “snapshot” of their ePortfolio to the ams.  Those ePortfolios are then used as part of our Summer Bridge and GLO Outcomes Assessment processes.

Scaling Up – Our ePortfolio use and this reflective practice in particular are already administered “to scale.”  We will be sharing these reflective prompts and reflections with faculty and staff during our fall assessment days as we work to implement the next step in this systematic reflective process.


This reflective practice is the first piece of a structured and scaffolded reflective process that students will engage in during their first year experience at Stella and Charles Guttman Community College.  This practice introduces students to the concept of reflection and encourages them to think about where they are as learners and scholars as they complete their bridge program and successfully transition from high school to college.  These reflections are used by faculty to get to know their students prior to meeting them in their classes.  They are also used for assessing the work we did during the summer bridge program.  Student reflections will also serve as baseline data as we examine student work over the course of the first year experience in relation to the Guttman Learning Outcomes.  Most importantly, students will revisit these reflections periodically over the first year and, hopefully, be able to see their growth and development as learners and scholars.

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