how to do reflective writing

how to do reflective writing

Reflective Writing: A Guide to Effective Self-Reflection

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1. Understanding Reflective Writing

It focuses solely on the individual and their own self-analysis. It is a way for a writer to share an important event in his/her past and to allow the reader to learn from the experience. There is no “standard” format for this type of writing, however there are some general guidelines that you should be able to follow. Overall, it is a way to bring an experience to life and share it with others in a manner that gives feedback and evokes emotion. Through reflective writing, you may: – Favourable or unfavourable learning and/or problem solving occurred – Write informally and in 1st person – Relate an important event to a wider picture – Evaluate an event in terms of success or failure – Think about whether you have actually learnt what you were supposed to. – Consider consequences and whether they were: – Good or bad, positive or negative – How could they be changed for the better? – Contemplate what changes are required. This includes self-improvement and further learning.

2. Benefits of Reflective Writing

The practices of reflective writing encourage students to develop the habit of self-enquiry and lifelong learning. Critical self-reflection is a feature of professional practice as well as an objective source of self-inquiry. By engaging in reflective writing during studies, students are able to develop a foundation for these practices integral to professional competence. Lifelong learning is another key component of professional competence, and the ability to self-reflect is now seen as a necessary skill for continuing professional development (White, 2007).

Reflective writing helps students better understand the complex nature of not only the roles of OT, but the subtleties surrounding client-therapist relationships. In individual one-on-one work with clients, it is often too easy to overlook or dismiss a particular interaction. Reflective writing provides students with a mechanism for understanding that many seemingly insignificant tasks or events in a therapy session can have profound importance for the client. It is an opportunity to sort through how a particular event made a student feel, how they responded, and what the outcomes were. This is particularly important as a therapist will often revisit interactions with their clients, and reflective writing can help bridge the gap between immediate self-evaluation and analysis of a session at a later date. An example of reflective writing on this topic from Jasper (2003, p52) recounts an incident where the author felt they had predetermined a diagnosis on a client but was able to further examine their feelings and the implications of implementing this decision.

One of the benefits of reflective writing is that it allows students to put their experiences into a broader context. During the process of reflection, a person is able to do more than simply recall an event or an idea; they are given the opportunity to explore an experience in depth and learn from it. It has been suggested that “Reflection is an essential part of learning from experience; without it, learning does not necessarily take place and change” (Boud et al. 1985 cited in Jasper, 2003, p5).

3. Steps to Master Reflective Writing

Reflective writing is an intricate process that involves more than just jotting down what one remembers. One must put in the effort to understand the events in their lives and how they affect them. Some of the important steps of reflective writing begin with the choice of a suitable topic. The writer has to think and reflect on an important event in life, and examine it from different perspectives. Then, the selection of the correct tense is very important. If the reflective writing is about a general topic of discussion, the writer should choose the present tense. However, if the reflective writing is about an event in the past, the past tense should be used. Pronoun agreement is also necessary. If the writer is discussing an experience of their own, the first person tense should be used. If the writer is discussing an experience involving another person and they need to keep the person’s identity secret, they should change the name of the person. Finally, a thorough knowledge of grammar and sentence structure is required to properly master reflective writing.

4. Enhancing Reflective Writing Skills

Be specific when identifying the learning outcomes that you wish to explore during your reflection. Being clear about your learning outcomes is essential in helping you to decide which aspects of your experience are the most relevant to your studies, and so it is important that you are realistic and well-focused about what it is that you want to achieve from the reflective experience. Try and avoid being too woolly or idealistic. For example, “I want to understand why this happened”. This learning outcome is too open, too late and unlikely to be achieved in one attempt at reflection. A more focused learning outcome would be “I want to understand how I can apply x theory to improve y practice”. With the clear learning outcome, choosing the right experience to reflect upon should become easier.

5. Applying Reflective Writing in Practice

You may want to start applying reflective writing by thinking about your current work/professional situation and possible future work goals and identifying developmental issues. Then engage in reflection during learning events in your professional role by recalling the learning event, identifying your reactions, and exploring the event in depth. Adapt models of reflective practice to work with the depth of critical reflection required. Keep a learning or reflective journal/diary and, of course, write reflectively in coursework assignments and project work. Being able to write reflectively is a key skill, so learn from feedback on your reflective writing.

Reflective writing is thus more personal than other forms of academic writing. We all think reflectively in everyday life, of course, but perhaps not to the depth of writing reflectively. Reflective writing is particularly useful to help you gain and learn from work experience. It is an important element of integrative learning in which experience and newly acquired conceptual understanding are used in the context of practice (Moon, 1999, Developing transferable skills in the context of a learning theory).

To apply reflective writing in practice, you will need to have valuable insights from reflective writing for professional development, critical reflection in context, learning and teaching, and also maintaining a reflective practice and continuing professional development. Reflection is an integral part of all learning and educational processes. This includes what might be termed informal learning, by way of experience or self-directed learning or learning by teaching.

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