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Final Reflection
Trebby Ellington
Loyola University Chicago



Academia still has much progress to make to create competent citizens in our world.
Reflecting back on my own educational experiences prior to graduate school, majority of the
information I learned in my classes did not challenge me to think critically nor was I able to
continue to use that information past the classroom (more specifically, past exams). Much of my
academic experience, like many students, has been a regurgitation of information and the best
strategy for that was memorization, though this learning strategy only allowed for information to
be recalled for a short period of time. Memorization is the central learning strategy that makes
sense when the information that has to be learned is managed like a fragmentation of facts and
terms and because of this, students often lack a solid foundation of knowledge prior to a course
which results in difficulty in figuring out how to address issues at an abstract level (Nilson,
2010). I attribute much of what I learned and much of my growth as a student, person, and
professional prior to graduate school to my experiences outside of the classroom; however, I now
realize that those whole and practical experiences could have been gained in the classroom as
well if educators focused their curriculum development on the whole student and not simply the
reproduction of knowledge. My philosophy of curriculum development, much like my
philosophy of student development, is attention to the holistic development of students (Evans,
Forney, Guido, Patton & Renn, 2010). Higher education is supposed to prepare students to be
good global citizens and contribute to the betterment of the nation (Cress, 2005). To be able to be
good, competent, global citizens, there is a need for significant learning which is learning that
creates a change in how people live and the type of life they have the ability of living (Fink,
2003). Curriculum must promote transformative education where a holistic process is provided
that makes students the center of learning experiences and incorporates academic learning with
student development (Keeling, 2004).



As I reflect on my own learning from this course this semester, I realize the actual extent
of how much I still function through a lens that I was socialized to function from as a result of
my sixteen years of educational experiences and that those ways of thinking are hard to unlearn.
Though difficult to re-learn how to best learn, this course has allowed me to take some steps
back and shift my thinking about what it means to learn from sixteen years of repeating what
authoritative figures have told me to learn to now being challenged to develop my own ideas and
conceptualizations (Ash, Clayton & Moses, 2009). I am an experience-oriented person so much
of what I think about my past educational experiences isolates in-class and out-of-class
experiences where my out-of-class experiences receive more credit and attention than in-class
experiences. However, this course has taught me that rather than being the core function of
academics, knowledge acquisition of new content develops the foundation for accomplishing
other types of learning (Fink, 2003), which seems to be the holistic experience I am gaining in
this program in terms of applying theory to practice and bringing practical experiences into the
classroom. I have come to understand that students are truly active contributors in generating
knowledge (Cress, 2005) and just how important this concept is to significant learning now that I
am in it with courses like this.
Reflecting on my analysis of five criminal justice syllabi and five service-learning
programs as well as creating my own designs of experiential learning with my own syllabus and
Marquette University’s professional development training curriculum has given me multiple
platforms to see how my philosophy of curriculum development as attention to the development
of the whole student is translated to practice. Both case studies showed me just how much
progress still needs to be made to create significant learning experiences that place students at
the center of those experiences. Instructors want students to attain higher levels of learning, yet



they continue to use teaching methods that are ineffective in terms of stimulating those types of
learning and higher order thinking (Fink, 2003). For example, many of the assessment activities
seen in my syllabi analysis did not allow students to be participants in creating knowledge, only
reproducing it. Much of the assessment activities were exams and feedback was based on the
scores they received from those exams instead of having a variety of assessment activities such
as reflection and opportunities for revision to correct their performance. There did not seem to be
any inclusion of a performance, feedback, revision, then new performance strategies (Fink,
2003). When it was my time to create significant learning experiences with the course syllabus
and professional development curriculum for Marquette, I recognized just how essential my
philosophy of attention to the holistic development of students is and how there are many pieces
to this puzzle to consider. The many layers that make up significant learning experiences (i.e.
peer feedback, Fink’s model for significant learning experiences, learning outcomes, learning
activities, educative assessment and reflection) help guide students increasingly towards a greater
understanding of new knowledge and to gain greater individuality in their learning process (Fink,
2003). Though much to incorporate when creating curricula, these layers are imperative to the
holistic development of students and placing them at the center of the learning experience.
In relation to developing curricula, I believe my strengths are most similar to recognizing
the need for and importance of experiential learning opportunities. As a result of my own
experiences outside of the classroom and having given credit to much of that experience, I feel it
is essential to have those types of experience inside the classroom as well so that is why I believe
creating learning activities is a strength of mine. I bring a more practical, tangible, and
innovative lens to designing curricula where students also have fun while learning; which is not
something I experienced prior to graduate school. An area of growth that I will own is to more



clearly develop and articulate learning outcomes using Fink’s taxonomy. As I am progressively
gaining some more autonomy in my own learning and in creating knowledge, I still struggle with
clearly stating learning outcomes. Oftentimes I want to revert back to beginning with learning
activities first because that is what I feel is one of my strengths and ultimately what I am most
comfortable with, but I still have to fully grasp the concept that learning outcomes should direct
all components of a curriculum design (Nilson, 2010). Though this idea definitely makes sense, I
have to practice creating them more to feel comfortable starting a design with them.
Much of what was learned in this course paralleled concepts I was learning in my student
development course. First, the idea of information regurgitation and having to learn what others
have told us to learn mirrored cognitive development theories (Evans et al., 2010). I have come
to realize that there is plenty of curricula that continue to promote a dualistic way of thinking in
which there is a right or wrong answer and authority must have the right answer (Evans et al.,
2010) which is not inviting students to be active participants in their learning process. Practices
like using non-educative assessment activities hinder students from being able to progress from
dualistic ways of thinking to relativistic ways of thinking where multiple opinions are accepted
and experiences are used as evidence (Evans et al., 2010; Nilson, 2010). This concept represents
one reason why my philosophy of curriculum development as the holistic development of
students is important. Next, especially being that I identify as a low-income, first-generation,
woman of color, concepts of different social identity theories and understanding identities in
general are intriguing and I believe they inform much of cognitive and psychosocial
development as well as how students approach curricula and how educators approach the design
of a curriculum. Nilson (2010) described that it is important to know the student body profile in
terms of factors like identities and level of academic preparation. Much like student development



theories (Evans et al., 2010), it is important to get to know who students are so curricula can be
designed to their needs and level to be better able to meet them where they are at in their
development (Nilson, 2010).
In summation, my philosophy of curriculum development is attention to the holistic
development of students incorporating both academic learning and student development. It is
important for the creation and promotion of significant learning that students are active
participants in creating knowledge, not simply reproducing what they are told to learn.
Exercising different learning muscles and taking responsibility in one’s own learning in a course,
training, or program prepares students to be good, competent, global citizens upon graduation. A
major theme that emerged in reflecting on my philosophy of curriculum development and the
concepts I have learned in this course and other courses is that I am still in the midst of my own
development as well and that has an impact on students’ learning. I have to be able to recognize
where I am in my own cognitive, psychosocial and social identity development to realize how
those concepts inform my own curriculum development strategies; however, this is not only true
to me, but for all those creating curricula. Even as educators, we too play an active role in
creating knowledge alongside our students and we do not always have the correct answers. A
sub-theme that emerged as I recognized the importance of realizing where I am at in my own
development is that I am also still learning. Learning is best comprehended as a process where it
is continuous, grounded in experience and where it requires conflicts between varying modes of
adjustment to the world to be resolved (Kolb, 1984). We are in this learning process together
with our students, but it is important that we become designers of learning experiences with
students at the center of those experiences instead of becoming designers of teachers (Fink,



Ash, S. L., Clayton, P. H., & Moses, M. G. (2009). Learning through critical reflection: A
tutorial for service-learning students. PHC Ventures.
Cress, Christine M. (2005). What is service learning? In C. Cress, P. Collier & V. Reitenauer
(Ed.), Learning through serving: A student guidebook for service-learning across the
disciplines. (pp. 7-15). Richmond VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Evans, N., J. Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2010). Student
development in college: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA:
Fink, L. D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences in college classrooms. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Keeling, R.P. (Ed.). (2004). Learning reconsidered: A campus-wide focus on the student
experience. National Association for Student Personnel Administrators & American
College Personnel Association: Washington, DC.
Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and
development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors.
John Wiley & Sons.