DEAL: Describe, Examine, and Articulate Learning model

Ash & Clayton (2009) define critical reflection as “evidence based examination of the sources of and gaps in knowledge and practice with the intent to improve on both (p. 28).” The three steps of the DEAL model are Describe, Examine, and Articulate Learning. The DEAL model works well for experiential, civic, or service learning related activities.

Step 1: Describe

Task: objectively describe an experience

Potential prompts: What did you do? Why did you do it? When did this experience take place? Where did it take place? Who else was there? Who wasn’t there? What was communicated by you or others?  What else happened that might be important?

Step 2: Examine

Task: examine the experience by category of learning goal, such as personal growth, academic enhancement, or civic engagement

Potential prompts:

Personal growth: What assumptions did you make? What personal strengths emerged as you participated? What personal weaknesses emerged as you participated? What effect did you, including your strengths and weaknesses, have on the service provided? What effect did you, including your strengths and weaknesses, have on others? What do you need to change and how will you do that?

Academic enhancement: What academic (disciplinary, intellectual, professional) skills and knowledge did you use or should you have used? In what ways were your understanding of the material, skills, or experience the same or different than those of others? What are the possible reasons for the differences or similarities? Did you approach the experience from a specific discipline perspective and if so how and how did it impact the experience? What knowledge assumptions did you make? What knowledge or skill strengths emerged as you participated? What knowledge or skill weaknesses emerged/developed as you participated? What impact did your knowledge and skills, including strengths and weaknesses, have on the service provided? What effect did your knowledge and skills, including strengths and weaknesses, have on others? What differences between your textbook and your community experience were noted?

Civic engagement: How can you or others in the community use what you learned about the course material and are there any challenges associated with doing so? How did this experience differ from your initial expectations? What was the civic goal you were trying to accomplish and did you achieve your goal? How did your skills contribute to the diversity of the people with whom you worked and how did you harness those differences for maximal effectiveness? Did your assumptions about members of the community make your experience more or less successful when accomplishing your objectives? How did your personal values regarding civic engagement play a role in helping you to accomplish your goal? How did this experience increase your sense of responsibility for acting on behalf of others? How did this experience inspire you to continue a commitment to serving others?  What steps have you taken or do you plan to take to implement this plan of continued commitment?

Step 3: Articulate learning

Task: Using responses in steps 1 and 2, verbalize what learning has occurred, linking it back to the original learning objective

Potential prompts:  What did you learn? (“I learned that…”) Why does it matter? (“This learning matters because…”) What should be done in light of it? (“In light of this learning…”)


Tips for Students

1. Express an important learning, not just a statement of fact;

2. Provide a clear and correct explanation so that someone not in the experience could understand it;

3. Consider how your learning has value, both in terms of this situation and in broader terms;

4. Tie reflection back to the original learning objective.



Ash, S. L., & Clayton, P. H. (2009). Generating, deepening, and documenting learning: The power of critical reflection for applied learning. Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education, 1(1), 25-48.

Ash, S.L. & Clayton, P.H. (2004). The Articulated Learning: An Approach to Guided Reflection and Assessment. Innovative Higher Education, 29(2). pp. 137-154.

Ash, S.L., Clayton, P.H., & Atkinson, M. (2005). Integrating Reflection and Assessment to Capture and improve Student Learning. Michigan Journal for Community Service-Learning, ll(2). pp. 49-59.

Ash, S.L., Clayton, & Moses. (2009). Learning through Critical Reflection: A Tutorial for Service-Learning Students. Raleigh, NC.

Clayton, P.H. & Ash, S.L. (2004). Shifts in perspective: Capitalizing on the counter-normative nature of service- learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning, 1 l(1). pp. 59-70.

Clayton, P.H. & Ash, S.L. (2005). Reflection as a key component in faculty development. On the Horizon, 13(3).

Clayton, P.H., Ash, S.L., Bullard, L.G., Bullock, B.P., Day, M.G., Moore, A.C., O’Steen, W.L., Stallings, S.P., & Usry, R.H. (2005). Adapting a core service-learning model for wide-ranging implementation: An institutional case study. Creative College Teaching. Vol2, Spring. pp. 10-26.