Matching reflections

Dr Jessica Clare Hancock

Jigsaw pieces laid out on a black wooden table

What is the idea?

Many students struggle with reflection, and paying attention to each of its components (James et al., 2014). This activity uses text matching to explore a reflective model – Hancock’s (2021) DUCKS model (Describe, Understand, Change, Keep, Share). Students are given the headings for each of the components of the DUCKS model, along with an example reflection which has been divided into five parts but in a jumbled order.

Students work in groups to match each of the five excerpts of the reflection with the correct part of the DUCKS model. In doing so, they gain understanding of the model; the activity enables them to identify, through use of the drag and drop examples, what is involved in each element of reflection, so they can then use these stages in their own reflections. This activity could be done with headings and excerpts printed onto card, or online using Google Drawings (or an alternative such as Miro) and drag and drop text boxes.

Why this idea?

Reflection has been recognised as a key element of all kinds of learning for many years (Kolb, 1984) and is directly mentioned in Universal Design for Learning as a key way of ensuring that Higher Education is inclusive of a diverse range of students (CAST, 2018). However, many students struggle with reflection (Lucas & Tan, 2013), particularly in terms of applying a reflective model to a particular situation. The matching activity enables exploration of the different stages of reflection.

I initially used examples which I thought would be fairly obvious in terms of identifying the stages of reflection, but have been surprised at the richness of the discussion and debates around the ‘correct’ stage for the excerpts. This demonstrates that the stages of reflection often overlap and are not straightforward, so valuable peer learning takes place during this activity undertaken as a group. The application of a reflective model in a particular situation makes the different aspects of reflection more concrete, and the different interpretations of which stage of reflection might connect to the given excerpt enables a deep appreciation of the aspects of the different stages of the DUCKS model.

The DUCKS model (Hancock, 2021) is particularly effective for this as it has distinct stages, which cover all aspects of the reflective process. This includes ones such as describing the event, understanding the event, and thinking about what might be changed in the future, which are common across many models (Gibb, 1988; Manouchehri, 2001). It also adds elements that are more unique – the ‘keep’ stage which reinforces the idea that reflection is not all about the negative aspects of an event, or of doing something entirely different next time, but about what has gone well and should be retained, and also the ‘share’ stage which emphasises the usefulness of reflections which are communicated to others for a collective benefit.

How could others implement this idea?

A simple application for a face-to-face session could involve giving each group of students a large sheet of paper with headings for each stage of the DUCKS model (Describe, Understand, Change, Keep, Share). Each group would then be given an example reflection, which has been divided into the relevant sections and printed out onto separate bits of card. The sections of the example would not be given in a specific order, so the group will need to work out which card matches with each of the headings. Depending on the complexity of the example, or the level of understanding of the students, I would give around 15 minutes to complete the matching. Each group could be given the same reflection, or they could be given different ones. If varied ones are used, these could be rotated around the groups.

An online version of this activity could use Google Drawings. The headings would be put at the top, and then the excerpts would be written within different text boxes. I find it is useful to use a different background colour for each text box to help distinguish them (although accessibility obviously has to be considered with the colour choice) and also to number them. Students can work in groups to drag and drop the text boxes to move them to the correct heading. To prevent the confusion of everyone in the group trying to move things at the same time, it works best to nominate one group member to do the moving, and the rest to direct where the text can go. This could be done using any alternative that allows the easy drag and drop movement of text boxes, such as a Miro board.

The matching or drag and drop element of this activity could also be used with anything where students are matching an example to a specific model, or perhaps matching definitions to key terms.

Useful tools

Example of a reflection using the DUCKS model

Describe: None of my first year students are turning on their mics or cameras so I’m teaching to a series of initials and no one responds to my questions. I feel like I’m teaching into the void and it’s quite isolating. I worry that no one is learning anything.

Understand: Maybe my students can’t be bothered to take part. Or perhaps they don’t know each other well enough yet to speak out loud and are worried about showing their home to everyone.

Change: I’ll suggest that students can use different backgrounds to protect their privacy to some extent. I’ll make use of the chat functions so students who don’t want to use cameras or microphones can still participate.

Keep: I think the structure of my sessions works well, so I’m going to keep a focus on active learning and participation.

Share: I’m going to speak to the rest of the programme team about doing more community building so that students become more comfortable and familiar with each other.

This reflection used as a drag and drop Google drawing:


Examples in Google Drawings:


CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning guidelines.

Gibb, G. (1988). Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit.

Hancock, J. C. (2021, June 17) Reflection: Getting your DUCKS in a row. Teach Like a PhD Researcher.

James, A., Brookfield, S., & Cook, M. (2014). Engaging imagination : helping students become creative and reflective thinkers (1st ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Lucas, U., & Tan, P. L. (2013). Developing a capacity to engage in critical reflection: students’ ‘ways of knowing’ within an undergraduate business and accounting programme. Studies in Higher Education, 38(1), 104–123.

Manouchehri, A. (2001). Collegial interaction and reflective practice. Action in Teacher Education, (22)4, 86-97.

Image Attributions

Jigsaw pieces photo by Gabriel Crismariu on Unsplash

About the Author

Dr Jessica Hancock is Head of Learning and Teaching at the University of Winchester, where she is programme lead for the MA in Learning and Teaching in HE, and CASTLE (Celebration and Recognition Scheme for Teaching and Learning Expertise – supporting HEA fellowship applications). She has published on academic writing, and compassionate and identity-focused approaches to developing teaching in HE.


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100 Ideas for Active Learning by Dr Jessica Clare Hancock is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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