academic reflective writing

academic reflective writing

The Importance of Academic Reflective Writing

1. Introduction

The improvement of learning is a lasting theme from Kiraly’s paper on reflective writing. From our previous example, students are people who are looking to improve on what they are doing in hopes it takes them to a better position than where they currently stand. In order to build a skill or learn something new, it needs to be done effectively with the best result possible. Should a student attempt an assignment to only find out similar tasks are done in a group or it is not weighted heavily, it is likely he will half-heartedly work on it. Now given two situations where he did not know if it was worth doing the task or what work he should do on it, and found out it was not worth much effort. Compare that to again two situations where he fully understood the task, determined the best course of action, and got the best result. It is certain that in the second situation there was a better understanding and analysis of the task where it was a direct result of what was done, was a transfer of a skill learned from one situation to the other, and the quality of work was improved.

Coming across the notion that reflective practice and critical analysis are important to good quality work, it is found that these skills do not take a large part in student learning until they are in the workforce and being engaged into it may be too late. So a major benefit for students engaging in reflective writing is that they will start to develop these skills while they are working on an assignment, at a time where it is effective to their learning process.

To come up with the strategic link of reflective practice is the need to train students to become more effective in their learning and to be able to transfer skills from one situation to the other. Whether the student is in engineering, business, science, or information technology, their ability to succeed in their specific field is a task which can be improved with the right kind of practice. The skill of critical analysis also transfers a long way to completion of a task. As in order to analyze something, you need to be able to know what you are doing, understand the situation, gather information, and determine the best course of action. So if a student has the ability to analyze an issue of his work, a similar approach is taken where he will improve on the task as he improves on his understanding of what he is doing.

Starting with the definition, an assignment that requires a student to write a reflective, e.g. journal entry, is to have the student look back on the work he has done and connect it to the relevant theory. This kind of writing provides an opportunity to improve the student’s understanding of the material and build the skill of critical analysis (Kiraly, 2012).

2. Benefits of Academic Reflective Writing

Reflective writing from an academic perspective stems from an increased awareness of the importance of reflection in learning. This new awareness is the result of increasing emphasis on employability skills, and learning and coping strategies throughout the development of the professions they will enter. Schön (1987) asserts that the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning is one of the defining characteristics of professional practice. It is also stating the obvious to assert that in order to think critically about the professional problems we encounter, which is another key learning outcome in higher education, we need to be able to reflect on them. His view was that it is difficult to teach people to think, but education is at least possible in the art of practice. Bastick (1982) characterises critical thinking as being “reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do”. Ranjith and Smith (2005) conducted a study using written case analyses to evaluate the critical thinking abilities of students in an international marketing course. This method of assessment was effective in measuring critical thinking and the authors suggest that it may be due to the students’ capacity to treat an analysis task as a reasoning task by comparing and contrasting alternatives. They conclude that the individual student’s ability to engage in reasoning processes creates a foundation for teaching critical thinking at tertiary level. The use of written reflections that are assessed in terms of critical thinking will engage students in reflection at a deeper level than that which occurs naturally.

3. Strategies for Effective Academic Reflective Writing

Reflective writing can also help an individual to deepen their understanding of professional practice by helping to understand the complex and contextual nature of knowledge. This is done by writing about an experience, focusing on it, learning to understand the experience better, and changing the frames of reference. Professional reflection is to create an organized and systematic description. This is a process that leads to a new hypothesis and knowledge about something.

Reflective writing can be a valuable tool to help personal and professional development. This can be a structured diary or journal. It is a form of writing that is personal and can be described as a thinking through written action. This method of writing can provide a means for the individual to capture thoughts and ideas in a written form. This can then be used to help them better understand the learning experience of the day. This is done through the writer identifying with, describing, analysing, and evaluating the experience, followed by conclusions and an action plan if the experience is to be used in a positive way for future learning. With guidance through the reflective process, the individual becomes more aware of the similarities and differences between situations they have encountered. It enables them to think about what they have learned and how they can gain more from the experience.

4. Examples of Academic Reflective Writing

There are various reflective writing models, and this is certainly a topic that requires more than a “one size fits all” approach. For one of my nursing assignments, we had to write an article on health. I elected to write an essay. I then had to discuss my article with one of the tutors. This is when the Reflective Cycle really clicked for me. In a nutshell, the relevant facts and feelings in this situation were that I felt the article did not properly explain the health issue, and while my tutor advised me that she knew I was capable of doing better, she brilliantly used some leading questions to help me uncover how I felt and why and understand what needed changing and why. The understanding gained in this conversation changed future practice as I heeded the advice and always devoted more time to ensuring the asker understands what health issue the article is about. Because reflectivity was an important component of the assignment, I was then able to tie this event into the theory and will hopefully remember to apply it in my future nursing career. In model term, this would be the discussion with my tutor, my CPD, and the resulting change in my future action.

5. Conclusion

Once again, consider the contemporary educational environment and even the contemporary work/business environment. We are frequently called upon to solve complex and ambiguous problems. These problems frequently involve collaboration with others. How do we prepare our students for this environment? Students can have rich experiences in any area of human endeavor, working alone and with others, so long as there is guidance from an expert. How do we prepare our students to seek out this guidance? What habits of asking questions, or research, are we trying to instill? If we expect students to produce high quality answers, reasoned thinking and solutions to complex problems, then we must design tasks and support reflection. Finally, whether it be in art or science, business or the professions, the world community values workers who work well with others. How do we prepare our students to work in communities, seeking and sharing knowledge and taking responsibility for themselves and others? It was Dewey over 80 years ago who recognised that ‘we only think when confronted with a problem’. Reflection is an attempt to find a solution to an important, complex problem. Reflection is thus in the highest degree instrumental in causing us to think.

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