reflective writing definition

reflective writing definition

The Importance of Reflective Writing

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1. Introduction

Rationale: Writing should be a record of reflection, but are students always reflecting and are teachers providing enough opportunities for students to reflect? Dewey (1933) suggests that all thought stems from a form of reflective problem solving. This thought can be, and often is, a muddled and confused attempt to gain understanding or knowledge about something. So, thinking on this line, learning is some level of reflective learning. Decisions and actions serve as experiments which, when reflected upon, provide opportunities to further develop. It is widely accepted that when learning becomes self-reflective, a feedback loop is created which reinforces and improves learning. Schon (1983) has described reflection in two main ways: reflection in action and reflection on action. Reflection in action is likened to a practitioner in a certain field pausing during an activity and exploring the occurring thoughts, looking for a foundation to these thoughts to ensure a logical progression. Step back from the situation, gather more information, solve the problem, and learn from carrying out the task further describe reflection in action as problem solving. This type of reflective learning is important, but it is reflection on action, i.e., looking back on the activity and evaluating, where it is believed that writing can serve a purpose.

2. Benefits of Reflective Writing

Reflective writing is an open invitation to you to think deeply about your learning, then take a step back and ‘reflect’. This helps you to make sense of it. You can consider what you are learning, what is really important to you about what is happening in the classroom, and relate what you are learning to what you already know. The act of reflection is a great way to increase confidence and become a more proactive and qualified professional. Useful for essays – putting forward a unique piece of writing rather than an essay which can be seen as ‘samey’ to others. The act of reflection is often a more ‘pure’ form of learning as it does not need so much guidance. It can be done by yourself and is more easily sustained. During my writing of a piece of reflective practice, illustration of learning through a critical incident, I immediately began to relate the idea of ‘what is learning?’ to my past educational experiences. Through identifying with something, through challenging an assumption, through looking from someone else’s perspective, and through trying something new (the four ‘learning’ skills outlined in the OU Effective Learning and the key to my personal and academic development) I have often learned a great deal but have also often achieved a negative result and learned what I consider now to be ‘the hard way’. Reflective learners who are open to new and possibly better ways of doing something and build confidence by studying the theory of learning and applying it to their personal and professional lives.

3. How to Engage in Reflective Writing

The task of writing a reflective journal is a student’s first step toward becoming a reflective practitioner. It is a tool for students to begin to come to terms with the notion of professional expertise and the need to think critically. A reflective journal is a means of self-expression – when students do not feel comfortable discussing an issue, writing can help to bring it out. It is a place where a student can articulate thoughts and ideas, it can be the testing ground for theory. (The University of New South Wales, 2004) An effective way to get to know reflective writing is to try to put yourself into the mind of someone who has done it. Think about an event or the day’s events that made you at least a little bit happy or, if you’re having trouble with this, try to remember the first example, preferably something you haven’t thought deeply about. Then, however you do it, visualize the event. Create an image of the event in your mind. As you think about the event, ask yourself: what are the reasons behind it happening? How did I feel throughout that time? How do I feel now about the event? What could I have done differently? Depending on the event’s significance for you, answering these questions uncovers a whole range of emotions, doubting and questioning, and reasoning. This is the sort of process that goes on in reflective thinking and this is what you try to capture in reflective writing.

4. Examples of Reflective Writing

Step 2: A similar exercise using a teaching job that I will no longer be doing. This time I used my teaching the lesson as the situation, and then what I was supposed to do as the task. I identified a problem of behavior of one of the pupils. I brainstormed ideas to solve it and evaluated these against what I had learned on this sort of thing in the past. At the end of this, I used the reflective template from earlier to make a decision. I decided that it was too risky to use an untested behavior plan on this pupil, and that I would ignore the bad behavior and try to praise the good behavior that was evidence of what I wanted. I later found that I did not apply this and instead would often just get annoyed. I can act on this evidence whereby, in like the interview example, I had improved my behavior plan for future interviews, and at then I did a good review of the situation in order to complete an assignment of analysis of a certain area of my teaching.

Step 1: Prepare for the interview I had applied for a number of jobs and was becoming frustrated at not getting any response. I gained interviews but was either rejected or I withdrew from a job that wasn’t really what I wanted. I had an interview for a job that I really wanted, and I felt I needed to prepare better, not just to answer the questions better, but to really understand myself and what I could offer the prospective employer. I used the interview as the situation, and the job description as the task. I brainstormed what I would be asked and what I would say. I evaluated my skills and experiences against the job, and I practiced answering questions. Although this was quite informal, this process in its reflection afterwards formed quite a nice little assignment to improve my interview skills.

Reflective writing can take a number of forms. Sometimes it is given in narrative form, usually written as a story or a recount of an experience. This can often take the form of a diary or a personal log. Reflective writing can also be analytical when applied to critical thinking or processing used in a more formal assignment. It could be a template or scaffold of your assignment, asking you to state the situation, what you are supposed to do, identify the problem or task, list your ideas or brainstorming, evaluate these ideas against your learning or relevant theories, and then come to a conclusion or a decision. Reflective writing can also be descriptive or explanatory. For personal development or self-understanding, it can be a statement of the learning you have just completed. Finally, reflective writing can also be self-critical, asking the writer to identify what was bad or difficult about an experience and what the writer would do differently next time. All these forms of reflective writing are built around the complex thinking process that is required for successful learning and transfer of learning into new work situations. By using reflective practice, learners will be able to tell others how to do what they do. It will help them change and improve by identifying what would be done differently next time. It also forms much of the evidence that is required for learning from experience to be recognized and accredited.

5. Conclusion

Do not present a number of positions in your paper and then end by saying that you are not capable to settle the matter. You can leave this final issue for the paper to resolve. Remember that this essay does not contain the last word on the matter. Suppose that you are assigned to write on the mind-body problem any knowledgeable person. At the end of a ten page paper you it might well have that you have covered an issue, as it was less than the assignment. Step back and ask yourself: have I done the assignment? Now you may because well be thinking “How do I judge whether I have done the assignment?” Surely, the answer is that after reading your paper, you the reader, need have no unanswered questions on mind-body issue and should be well persuaded that the position dualism is that the soundest solve the fundamental issue on philosophy of matter and matter and dualism. Notice that it is only in the last one or two paragraphs that is judging whether or not you have done the assignment, and it is only in these paragraphs that he says what he is going to do. This may change as you write, so make sure you continue to ask yourself what your reader needs to disconnect at the end of every given paragraph.

Good writing is the product of proper training, much practice, and hard work. The following remarks, though they will not guarantee a top quality paper, should help you determine where best to direct your efforts. I offer first some general comments on philosophical writing, and then some specific “do”s and “don’t”s. One of the first points to be clear about is that a philosophical essay is quite different from an essay in most other subjects. That is because it is neither a research paper nor an exercise in literary self-expression. It is not a report of what various scholars have had to say on a particular topic. It does not present the latest findings of tests or experiments. And it does not present your personal feelings or impressions. Instead, it is a reasoned defense of a thesis. Oftentimes, it is possible to re-write an essay, to make substantial changes to content, and to edit and re-edit a previous draft. In all cases, it is crucial. More often than not, your rewrite will find that a previous draft’s conclusions can be inferred differently in the evidence.

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