The purpose of this paper is to illuminate the intersection between institutional requirements for reflection and students’ actual reflection initiatives in the social and health care education programmes. A situated perspective makes it possible to illuminate individuals’ commitment, curiosity and uncertainty as bases for understanding reflective actions, which can be either supported or constrained by the social environment in which they are enacted. The analysis is based on an ethnographic field study of boundary-crossing activities at a social and healthcare college and the elder care centres where students work as trainees. The paper adds to the creation of a shared language among educators by suggesting a model based on four factors labelled: (i) ‘salient experiences’, (ii) ‘reflection objects’, (iii) ‘reflection zones’ and (iv) ‘reflection facilitators’. A key finding is that students initiate reflection in a range of ways. Yet, these reflections can be overlooked if they do not fit into the required methods. When educators pay attention to these reflective starting points, they can expand their role as reflection facilitators, and the students’ potentials for learning through reflection can be enhanced. The paper adds to previous research on boundary crossing in vocational education and highlights the notion of visible reflection.