reflective writing examples

reflective writing examples

Reflective Writing: Enhancing Self-awareness and Critical Thinking

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1. Introduction

Reflective writing in health promotion is a means by which an individual can uncover and see that there have been changes in health, identify health-promoting and inhibiting factors, reflect on how they might improve their health, and set goals towards doing so. This is done on an individual basis but can also be used for social change. This essay will give a brief history of health, define health promotion, and explain the relationship between health promotion and reflective writing.

Physical health is the component that is most readily understood and can be defined by the absence of disease. Traditionally, this was seen as vital to health and quality of life, but improvements in healthcare mean that many acute conditions can be cured or managed, meaning that in developed countries, the focus has shifted to chronic disease, and subsequently to mental health. Despite this, the field of public health is only relatively recently giving due attention to mental health and to what factors actually influence health and quality of life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity.” But in the 21st century, health is hard to define and has come to mean various things to different people because of its complex and subjective nature. One aspect of health that is universally agreed upon is its multidimensional nature, i.e. it can be separated into various components, and each component and thereby an individual’s health can be classified in positive or negative terms.

2. Benefits of Reflective Writing

There are many potential benefits for using reflective writing, but the following can be seen as particularly useful in the context of academic development. The use of reflective writing as part of an assessment process in the course or program can provide students with clear and specific guidelines about what is expected of their thinking and writing in relation to their learning. Its focus on helping students to think critically, and on developing and checking the quality of their thinking through an ongoing process for specific learning tasks and wider academic experiences also aligns well with the trend toward teaching and assessing critical thinking in higher education.

The writing process itself can be an important creative and learning experience, one with an internal structure quite distinct from that of the reflective thinking process. In this way, writing (which is a form of externalized cognitive processing) could support and enhance the more automatic, unconscious and internalized processes of reflection. In the context of professional practices within the field of education, such a theory-driven reflective writing task may in turn be used by students or practicing professionals in an ongoing way to maintain and develop their expertise through its focus on thinking critically and the improvement of professional practice through self-awareness.

3. Techniques for Effective Reflective Writing

Based on her reflective journals research, McClure has constructed a model of critical thinking over a range of disciplines. This also reflects progressive levels of learning from surface to deep and theoretically based knowledge. Practical knowledge consists of knowing what to do and how to do it to achieve this outcome. The practitioner must be able to deal with problems that surface in their practice. This involves a decision-making process, interpretation, and response to the situation. It is typical in these situations for an individual to experience feelings of uncertainty or regret about the decisions made. McClure’s continuum provides guidance for practitioners to analyze their responses and to consider alternatives in problem-solving situations. This process involves reflection in action and enables learning from the experience. Heuristic learning from trial and error redirects the practitioner to the situation to reassess their knowledge and plan a different strategy to achieve the outcome. Simulation of the situation provides an opportunity for a plan of action that can be tested without further recurring problems. If this type of learning proves to be ineffective, it provides a link to more theoretically based knowledge and an ensuing deeper understanding of the situation.

McClure (as cited in Boud et al., 1985) identified a range of levels of reflecting ranging from simple problem solving to the higher level of reflection-on action. At the lower levels, learners tend to deal with surface features and avoid the complexities of real practice. As a learning strategy, she suggested the use of reflective journals to promote progression through the levels of reflection. Learners were initially asked to document observations. Then they were instructed to probe their thoughts and feelings and to try to find an explanation for these. Finally, they were asked to test out the validity of their interpretations when clarifying the problem.

4. Examples of Reflective Writing

Nursing As I began my studies to become a nurse, I did not see nursing as a career path and only considered studying this course as a matter of furthering my education. As time progressed and when I started to become a registered nurse, I had to learn and understand the capacity of handling patients with various illnesses. Reflecting back on my path to becoming a nursing student, I recall a situation where I was given the chance to be a practice instructor to a group of junior nurses. I had to develop a teaching plan to deal with the needs of patients at a free clinic. I felt incurred by numerous evils of nursing which I had explained to these new nurses as being a technical irrationality of deficit in graduate nurses. At that point in time, I hadn’t really developed a true professional identity and had few time managing skills as a student. Now looking back, it was a disappointing learning experience of how to give the new nurses an understanding of their actions and their relation to patient outcomes. I mentioned to relay my own stories of unprepared techniques, the patients’ false assumptions of my role as a nurse, and the grim outcome due to my patient while teaching that these are enduring things which I had learned mostly from the theoretical side of my education.

5. Conclusion

It has been suggested that teachers may use reflective writing to encourage students to think about what they are doing while they are doing it and to consider what they have done after doing it. If the teacher’s aim in using reflective writing is to foster students’ abilities to learn, then as learners themselves, teachers should consider whether this aim is being achieved in an efficient and effective manner. An initial judgment on this would typically be based on whether students seem to understand what reflective writing involves and whether they demonstrate any improvement in their abilities. However, for those who are aiming to employ reflective writing in a formative assessment capacity, a more formal measure of its worth should be undertaken. In either case, we hope that this essay has provided a reasoned argument that reflective writing is a valuable tool for enhancing self-awareness and critical thinking and offered some ideas on how it might be used more effectively.

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