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Mirror, microscope, binoculars

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The Mirror, Microscope, Binoculars (Cooper, 1997) framework helps students to frame their reflections from different perspectives. These lenses can be used either to engage students directly by framing a writing assignment around each, for example, or they could be used by the instructor to think more broadly about how to address each area with reflection activities.

The Mirror perspective asks students to reflect on the micro-level: how did they, as individuals, act in the experience? How did they work within the team? Students may also reflect on their values, their assumptions and biases, and how they were influenced, challenged, or successful in their project.

The Microscope perspective is dedicated to encouraging students to reflect on the CEL project itself, including how it benefitted the community they worked in and the members of that community. The microscope may be focused on topics such as what impacts the student’s project had, how their experiential learning confirmed or contrasted with their classroom learning, and whether or not they would do anything differently if they were to do the project over again.

The Binoculars perspective helps students to look at their experiences in order to reflect on their learning, including identifying areas where they could further enhance their learning and continue their development as critical thinkers. This perspective also encourages students to consider social issues on a larger scale by thinking more holistically about the outcomes of their project within a wider context.


Cooper, M. (1997). The big dummy’s guide to service learning: Twenty-seven simple answers to good questions on faculty, programmatic, student, administrative, and non-profit issues. Florida?



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