Learning is all about getting out of your comfort zone. And sometimes it requires reflecting on one’s experience or emotions. Not an easy task if you haven’t done it before (!), so if you were to get more than blank or anxious looks from your students, you might want to consider some facilitation techniques. And, yes, it is a worthwhile thing to do, as teaching students how to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings builds their reflective skills (Kabat-Zinn,1990).

My interest in the ‘body parts’ activity came after a comment A/Prof. Kate Lloyd left for Lilia’s recent post on Reflection. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and Kate kindly showed me around PACE resources. We talked about a range of prompts which adopt a strengths-based approach (Harvey 2014) and help students to break down large and vague reflective tasks into several specific and accessible questions.

For example, what if instead of asking students to consider an issue from different perspectives, you could ask a student to identify with the ‘brain’ and think of the logic behind something, while another student could feel with their ‘heart’ and reflect on the emotional implications of this issue? Or ask students to reflect on a hand, indicating when they felt supported or to talk about their ‘hands-on’ experience?

This is exactly what the Body Parts exercise does. And, yes, some Macquarie academics, like Kate, are already using it.

Using physical objects?

model body parts

You don’t have to, but the tactile experience of holding the actual ‘object’ makes symbolic and metaphorical exercises more tangible and gives students permission to think in a different way. You may have heard of Lego Serious Play before? It uses a similar approach.

Meanwhile, back at Mq….

Several PACE academics have been doing the Body Parts exercise in their units for the end of session debrief to encourage students to reflect on some of their recent experiences and how this has changed the way they see, think and do.

Here’s an extract from a real task used in FOSC300 (a PACE unit) (Semple, 2018).

text with application examples

Interested in borrowing Body Parts packs?

You are in luck. They are available to borrow for ANYBODY who teaches at MQ. They ‘live’ in PACE alongside other creative tools like ice-breaker balls and debriefing cards. Please contact Georgette Roumanos if you would like to view or borrow.

Looking for more ideas?

The Reflection For Learning resources (mentioned in Lilia’s Reflection for Learning piece) is a great tool and gives ideas on how activities can be used in different contexts.

Know of any other fun and creative teaching techniques?

We’d love to hear about them!


Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. Delacourt: New York.

Harvey, M. (2014). Strengths-based theory and practice. In D. Coughlan & Brydon-Miller (Eds) Encyclopaedia of Action Research. Volute 2 (pp732-735). London: SAGE

Semple, A-L (2018) FOSC300 body parts key, FOSC300 – Participation and Community Engagement in Science and Engineering, Workshop 15 materials, S1 2018, Macquarie University.

Posted by Olga Kozar

I'm a 'long-term' Mq girl. I did my PhD here and taught on different courses, ranging from 1st year to PhD students. I now work in Learning and Teaching, which I love. I have 2 young kids and a dog, and I love meeting other Mq people, so give me a shout if you'd like to talk 'learning and teaching' or would like to brainstorm together.

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  1. […] A new way to hand-le reflection […]


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