examples of reflective writing assignments

examples of reflective writing assignments

The Importance of Reflective Writing Assignments

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1. Understanding Reflective Writing

Here are some useful questions that you can consider when writing a reflective piece: – What was the reason you undertook this activity? – At the beginning of a piece often goes off with little or no focus of what you want to achieve by the end of it. Explore your reasons for doing the activity and then whether your hopes were realized.

Reflective writing is a practical and useful tool, which is often used in something like a diary.

Reflective writing is not something you can just throw together in a hurry. This sort of work can take time depending on the person and the subject. You may not think that your computer entries concerning a work placement or even shopping will have any profound effect on you, or be returned to with any thought of being made into an essay, however it is this stepping stone that we sometimes forget. Going over this sort of work can really begin to help you think of ideas.

2. Benefits of Reflective Writing Assignments

Writing can also be used to create an umbrella of information for a particular event or knowledge area. This can be invaluable to learners with memory problems and those of us who often experience that the idea that seemed perfectly clear when it entered our head is now in some way changed! A written reflection on said topic can be updated easily and is almost as good as talking to oneself. This tends to be what higher ability learners do when they use reflection to develop new concepts or theories. Although there is not much clear evidence of the extent to and ways in which experts use reflection, it is generally accepted that they refine and develop what they know through a cyclical process of action and critical reflection.

It is generally agreed that the learner has to “move outside” the task being learned in order to reflect. This may mean setting aside some quiet time for thinking or writing in the midst of a busy program or taking a day out in a secluded spot. Learners can be encouraged to take reflections from the past and use them as a basis to plan future actions. Through reflection, often using a decision tree, learners can evaluate what action might suit them best and trace the probable outcome of that action. This can be an invaluable tool in life planning for learners with some useful transfer to their pursuit of goals within education.

What all the reflective strategies have in general is the stepping back from the action or idea and holding it up to scrutiny. Reflection is careful thought, and everything that involves our thoughts can be improved through reflection. For learners, this is a very powerful tool. But it is not an easy concept to explain.

Increased self-awareness

3. Tips for Effective Reflective Writing

Take plenty of time to write your reflective essay. A reflective essay is a relatively new requirement in some subjects and requires the writer to think about their experience in a way which relates it to relevant theory and which may also involve questioning how you are feeling and why. This is a particular skill if an essay is for a module which leads to professional qualification. In the case of an essay on organizational professional practice, you would want the reader to be able to identify lessons in it for their own practice. So there may be a potential link to their learning. A medical student might be asked to write a reflective essay after a placement. This involves trying to describe the experience of the placement in as realistic a way as possible, showing what it was like, what happened, and its eventual effects. Giving this essay experience to the reader allows them to gain a window into your life situation and the state of mind you were in at the time, allowing you to better represent the medical profession to the observer and also to yourself learn from the situation. In doing this, it might be useful to try to think of a theme for your essay. By taking the time to really identify what the question is asking, by thinking about it and relating it to your own experiences, and perhaps trying some rough planning, you will develop a clearer idea of what you are trying to achieve. This thinking and planning time is a good investment resulting in a greater chance of a higher mark. It will also help the reader to better follow your line of thought, showing true understanding.

4. Examples of Reflective Writing Prompts

We need to pause here, however, for a bit of caution. Not every assignment in these disciplines will engage a process of reflection. Some courses will be heavy in content or skills that can be measured by objective tests, and instructors will not wish to add a heavy burden to their grading loads. Or, some faculty have genuinely believed all along that students are doing this learning process magically, or already possess these cognitive skills, or that these skills cannot be taught. In the long run, we believe that reflection is the key to more effective learning across the curriculum, and we as professionals in education and the disciplines must make it happen. Yet we do recognize this will require a process of course and assignment redesign, and much faculty development. A teacher education program, for example, might start at a department meeting to discuss a shared concept of what it means to be a good teacher, and adapt this to specific language about standards of performance that can be used as curricular themes or objectives across several courses. The assignment prompts can then be drawn from these themes, and results can be evaluated through a process of portfolio or scoring on key papers.

Your English literature course could start with this question: “Consider the poem ‘The Bear at Breakfast.’ Then write an essay in which you analyze how the speaker describes the bear’s encounter with his family, discussing how the speaker’s tone reveals his attitude.” From sociology or political science class you might have a chance to write a letter to a friend describing a new law, a new custom, or an experience in terms of its effect on the culture of the society. Or, you might be asked to consider an experience you had as a minority, and how that has influenced your feelings on diversity. A nursing or social work practicum might trigger an assignment to write a weekly or monthly log of experiences, to be discussed in journal and dialogue formats. The prompts from diverse courses will require an ability to think through experience; to gather, interpret and analyze ideas; and to recollect, order, compare and integrate new knowledge. Step by step, you are providing for the outcomes assessment of higher education.

5. Conclusion: Embracing Reflective Writing for Personal Growth

Reflective writing is a learning process and one of the best ways to develop the skills and critical thinking needed for professional practice. However, the current emphasis in tertiary education is causing the de-emphasizing of reflective writing via students being ‘too busy’ plus the lack of prioritization of reflective practice tasks in assessment. Lecturers often give very little time for written reflection or feedback, or no grade is allocated to the tasks (Hamilton, 2013). If reflective practice tasks such as reflective writing are not given more importance, it is likely that reflective practice will continue to decline as a part of students’ learning. In the modern era where graduates and employers are pinpointing the necessity of soft skills along with hard technical knowledge, there is a need to improve learning methods that are able to target soft skill development such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and maturity, which are attributes of professional practice. A study from the UK showed that there was an increasing demand for employees who were able to self-reflect, and an argument was given that reflective practice should be taught to university students as a unique method to develop these professional attributes (Price, 2004). The need for soft skill development as well as results from the globalized market will eventually create demand for professional practice teaching and learning methods to change and an increasing focus on the use of reflective practice in preparing students for their careers. As a result, there is potential at the undergraduate tertiary level and also professional development to create courses with a reflective practice focus that may utilize reflective writing as a key method to develop students’ abilities.

All in all, reflective writing has a great future that can help learners to develop their minds personally and professionally. The work of Kember et al. (1999) claims that reflective writing could enhance intellectual and personal development, citing a study of 51 Hong Kong Polytechnic school business and design students. Reflective journals and an end-of-semester evaluative essay were used as the sole basis for a grade in a course, with clear instructions on how the writing was to be evaluated. An assessment of the students’ work using the Perry Scheme, an assessment of intellectual development that is based on a number of psychology theories, showed that within 3 to 4 months of reflective writing experience, 49% of the students had advanced more than half of a Perry level compared to only 16% in a control group of second-year students who did not have reflective practice imposed on them. An interview with the experimental group’s teacher also suggested that many of the teacher’s ideas about her own teaching and learning had changed and this was from the influence of reflective practice with her students.

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