example of reflective writing

example of reflective writing

The Importance of Reflective Writing

1. Introduction

In order to engage “deep level” reflection, one has to develop the ability and the reflective habit of clarifying and focusing on what you are reflecting on, connecting with your inner self, and letting the new understanding take you to further learning. This can be done effectively through expressive writing, that is, clarifying and focusing on what one is reflecting on by putting it into a learning diary or journal, logging thoughts and feelings on a specific issue. Through this, it is easier to connect with one’s inner self as the act of writing acts as a trigger to internal dialogue. This dialogue is vital for reflection. It allows one to ask questions of themselves, and to often answer these questions, the act of asking and answering questions leads to information seeking, i.e. thinking of what went well, what was the likely cause of this, what did not go so well. Finally, asking these sorts of questions leads to linking new information to old and it’s this claiming of new knowledge and insight that is going to take to a learning process for the future.

Reflective practice and writing is a way of thinking and exploring an experience that allows an individual to look back at an event, activity, project, or learning and connect meaning and understanding to it. This is done through connecting with an emotion, generating theories, and considering alternatives. This enlightening experience often leads to an idea or creation of change which becomes a learning process for the future, a cycle of which may invoke further reflection. The benefit of reflective writing is that it conveys the thinker’s own view or experience on the event, which in turn allows others the opportunity to read and gain insight into the situation from an alternative perspective. It is often in hindsight, and due to the critical and personal nature of reflective practice, that alternatives to ways the situation could have been perceived or handled are introduced. Reflective writing offers a concrete way to accomplish this, that is, to document one’s thoughts, theories, and ideas on a specific topic.

2. Benefits of Reflective Writing

It is clear that there are a number of benefits to writing reflectively, in personal and professional development terms. This book talks much of the use of reflective writing in learning and teaching. It does, however, evidence the benefit of reflective writing as a tool to enhance a student’s learning process. The use of a reflective learner model on students’ learning experiences was the context in which such a technique revealed its effectiveness. Carr and Kemmis used the idea of three questions: what, why, and how, relating them to a student’s previous experience with a particular subject, to how their experience had changed, and finally, what was understood from the experience. This model and reflective writing were then shown to encourage deeper levels of intellectual work on a given topic. Reflective writing was also shown to affect positive changes in the perceptions and attitudes of students towards subjects. A study conducted with a group of undergraduate students focused on using writing as a method to change students’ understandings of biology from traditional to more modern concepts. The results saw a change in motivation and confidence about the subject and improved the quality of written work. It is thus said that reflective writing can act as a way of transforming or reframing how students view a certain topic. In engaging with this, there are again implications on the quality of learning and it calls. Thus, the aforementioned effects on attitudes, motivation, and increased self-awareness could be considered means to enhancing a student’s learning process. A study conducted by Baker and Pym showed the effects of reflective writing on improving self-perceived competence and self-esteem in writing. Connected to this, it is said that students who partake in reflective writing become more conscious of their learning processes, more intrinsically motivated, and self-regulated. Kakali Bhattacharya also suggests that reflective writing can increase learner autonomy, through promoting personal judgment and taking responsibility for one’s own learning. The shift towards more independent and self-regulated learning is a major focus incidentally in many modern education systems. Reflective writing is remarked as an effective way of promoting a self-directed learning process and lifelong learning habits. An investigation of the frequency of reflective writing at the Open University in 2004 found that reflection activities aided students in achieving a number of skills and attributes that are said to be valuable to students and graduates. These are inclusive of critical thinking, analytical and interpersonal skills. The students commented that reflection had led to them thinking more deeply and broadly about the topic and it had explicitly showed them why such skills would be useful to them. The investigation also noted an increase in self-awareness and lifelong learning habits among these students.

3. Techniques for Effective Reflective Writing

Look outward in order to look inward. Reflection is a form of mental processing – like a form of thinking – that we use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome. It is applied to relatively complicated or unstructured ideas for which there is not an obvious solution and is largely based on the furthering of knowledge and may provisionally be a solution to a problem. It is an essential activity that all students should do. In the YouthLearn “Guide for Reflective Practice,” reflection is defined as “a form of mental exercise that is sustained by wondering, a driving question, an argument, or a hypothesis. It is not directed by someone else.” This definition is promising to more complex problem-solving and decision-making theories that have become more and more popular in recent years. Effective reflective practices begin by students taking an extended, careful look at a specific issue, task, activity, or an experience. But before we get them to take this look at their experiences, we must first get them to identify and gather their experiences. This is best done by journaling and should start the teaching of reflective practices – simply having students keep a journal provides a fruitful beginning. By journaling, we ask students to capture and hold their thoughts and feelings about an event or activity so that they can reflect upon it at a later time.

4. Examples of Reflective Writing

A fortnight after this incident, the patient acquired knowledge of a new diagnosis of cancer. The patient immediately connected this to the tumor diagnosis and became greatly distressed. This matter caused the patient’s health to decline, and at the current time, he is in a state of confusion and distress. This incident was significant for the author as it had illustrated the devastating effect a medical diagnosis can have on a person and how it can change their entire state of health. This would be seen as a landmark in the author’s perception, and it was identified that the patient and the incident would be reflected on a continual basis for years to come. Another incident reflective example can be found at the JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports (JBISRIR):1532-8498.

The patient in question was a 50-year-old man who had effectively overcome multiple sclerosis and was a successful architect. He had been diagnosed with a rare tumor several weeks ago, and the only symptom was a single seizure. The patient was aware of the seriousness of this situation and was totally resolved to it. When the author informed the patient of the diagnosis, the patient reacted calmly and did not appear emotionally affected. Due to the architecture of the diagnosis and the patient’s mental/practical personality, it was identified that this incidence had shattered the patient’s subjective state of health and he entered a state of cognitive dissonance whether he still had MS or he was mistakenly identified as someone else with a recurring tumor.

In this example, the writer is comparing the impact of several critical incidents. This writing is a case study of the effect a certain incident has on a patient and the way they may react. The incident the author is reflecting on is the time when they informed a patient of a crucial diagnosis which had astonishing effects. Due to the relevance of this subject, it was agreed with the patient that for the sake of this case study, it would be analyzed and details would not be identified.

5. Conclusion

When presented with an alternative teaching technique, hesitant educators ask, “If I have to grade it, how much time will it take?” Good question. By any measure, reading and responding to student journals will be time consuming. So is the answer to our theoretical colleague’s question. No, you will probably not want to lend equal weight to every entry in a journal that students have been asked to keep daily. Yes, you will want to respond minimally to entries that are primarily exercises in putting words on paper, but you can make that process a quick one. Even occasional comments to the effect of “good job on this one” or “I’m not quite following you here” will suffice to get across to students that someone has been paying attention. And yes, you will probably want to assign substantial weight to a more thoughtfully conceived and written up journal assignment. The accumulation of marginal comments on a student’s paper can be overwhelming, demoralizing, and counterproductive. (We have all heard students lament, “I’ve worked for hours on this paper and all I got is a D.”) The beauty of written dialogues in journals is that, since the teacher is shaping the student’s writing process and product from its inception, there will be far less need for accompanying a final product with a comprehensive list of all its strengths and weaknesses. The journal page need go no farther than a question mark in the margin of some good idea partially stated, an underline of a passage still too vague or general, or a restatement of a student’s word in a more precise and powerful synonym to illustrate to the student that his or her writing is still a work in progress.

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