benefits of reflective writing

benefits of reflective writing

The Importance of Reflective Writing

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1. Introduction

Reflective writing involves looking back on something and learning from this experience. It is an exploration of one’s own experiences and thoughts. Reflective writing develops a greater understanding of yourself, your skills, and knowledge, whether it is something that happened in the past or you are reflecting on your own learning. It will also enable you to learn from known theory, and to understand the process of your learning. Reflective writing is the ability to look back on something, be it an event, incident, feeling, person, action or failure and learn from it – whether it went well or whether it could have gone better. Learned material will be assimilated with what you have learnt and know prior, to create a further understanding or learning experience about what occurred. Reflection can occur before, during and after an event or learning experience. This type of writing can help you create new ideas, clarify your learning and its personal and cognitive impact, and perhaps even discover mistakes which you will be able to avoid in the future.

2. Understanding Reflective Writing

This form of writing, as discussed by Pittam and O’Connell (1998) in a study where students had to keep a learning diary, is writing for an audience of one, and the feedback is to oneself. Reflection is a cognitive process that helps the writer make meaning of the information and experiences that they have had. By doing this, they are improving their understanding, gaining new perspectives, and clarification of what they already know. This process increases the possibility of changing behaviors, as knowing the meaning of something is the first step to changing.

The focus of this has been mainly on writing, which is a very personal process with suggestions and feedback coming from people, teachers, and friends. However, the final decisions, opinions, and conclusions come from the person themselves. This is what they want to get down on paper, as it helps them make sense of everything they have been thinking about.

3. Benefits of Reflective Writing

In general terms, the research indicates that writing was found to be beneficial if the written work was actively focused on learning through better understanding and clarification of a given topic. The setting of a specific learning or task goal, which involved the students in seeking new information and understanding into the topic, has shown to work well with reflective tasks that require students to integrate experiences of learning from the task/goal that they are involved in. The quantity and quality of learning from the process has been assessed through cognitive measures to produce literal outcomes of the study.

One group of students used self-study time to write about the problems they were working on in engineering assignments. Writing treatments were substantially more effective than the control condition, and the most effective form of treatment was writing with a self-regulation focus. More effective writers in the writing treatment showed greater awareness of resource use while writing. The general learning benefits were highlighted in an interview study (Ike and Parker, 1998) of engineering students, who identified a spontaneous learning experience derived from a writing self-study task that required them to write about their working methods.

Different types of reflective writing experiences can produce a variety of benefits—often in combination, reinforcing each other. A study of the impact of writing on learning (Smailes, 2001) found generally positive effects of reflective writing and in particular identified improvements in ‘reflective pondering’, self-awareness, and the general promotion of personal action.

4. Tips for Effective Reflective Writing

The main goal is to move from imperative to interrogative. Use a buzzword. What has changed? What is still happening? Tip 1: Set aside time. It is important to set aside time for reflective writing. Try and allocate specific times in your week for this. Be vigilant on activities that could interfere with your writing so that you can make the necessary changes to make sure you get that time. It may be helpful to discuss your reflective writing with your GP or practice nurse or other members of your team in order to obtain their encouragement and to obtain buy-in from your organisation. Have you reflected in contrast to writing for revalidation or evidence of CPD? Buzz: What is the optimum time? Tip 2: Be empathic. It is important to communicate your empathy for your patients. If you find you need help in doing this, why not try some empathy coaching relevant to your patient group? Buzz: Link to TOK and emotional intelligence. How will this help your reflection? Tip 3: Ask for feedback. Try talking situations through with a friend or a colleague to gain a greater perspective of the situation and the people involved, especially if the situation was emotionally charged. Buzz: Who should this be? When is it not suitable to debrief a difficult patient interaction with a colleague?

5. Conclusion

In sum, reflective writing is a useful tool to enhance learning for both students and lecturers. While there is a lot of value in expository writing as a process to learn, reflective writing emphasizes making connections between practice and theory, what has been learned and the self-reflection of an individual’s thoughts and actions. Although some academics may still prefer to use more traditional methods of student assessment, those that have introduced reflective writing have found that many students have embraced this method of learning and have put in more effort and attention when preparing written work. The experience of the University of Woolongong has further reinforced these ideas with positive feedback from both students and staff on the new assessment tasks and the take-up rate of resources provided, indicating better student engagement. Reflective writing also supports experiential learning such as internships or field work and can also help students better articulate their desires for future employability. For these students, alternative ways of learning can at times result in distress or a fear of the unknown; being able to reflect on what they have experienced and learned can greatly enhance their personal and professional development.

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