reflective writing meaning

reflective writing meaning

Reflective Writing: Enhancing Self-awareness and Critical Thinking

1. Introduction to Reflective Writing

The first question which arises is, “What is a ‘reflective journal’ and why should I write one?” This is something that many individuals do not think about, however the importance of writing a reflective journal is great. Reflective writing is evidence of reflective thinking; in an academic context, reflective thinking usually involves looking back at something, thinking about it and learning from it in some way. Reflective writing is thus more personal than other kinds of academic writing. We all think reflectively in everyday life, of course, but perhaps not to the same depth as that expected in good reflective writing at university level. It is important to check with your tutor on the reflective approach required prior to beginning and writing the reflective piece. Remember that reflective writing has a descriptive component and so must have a wide range of adjectives to draw from. This is why we are more than happy to provide a list of adjectives to help you get started in the right direction.

2. Benefits of Reflective Writing

Enhancing self-awareness through reflective writing will result in a greater understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses, leading to enhanced self-confidence. This is a powerful force for change, as learning is dependent on believing that it is within one’s power to create positive change. Whilst the awareness of weaknesses does not feel pleasant initially, a student who has developed a strong sense of self-awareness will readily admit when they do not understand, will seek additional help when required, and will be open to feedback and constructive criticism about their performance. It is this commitment to learning that will provide the means to overcome the weakness, developing strengths and the wherewithal to persist in the face of adversity to improve all-round performance. With the improved self-esteem and confidence that results, learners will be better placed to take risks, are more likely to challenge themselves and will be open to new experiences that will further expand their knowledge and greater success in academic and professional activities. By being aware that reflective learning will lead to increased self-awareness and greater change in behavior, it is even more feasible for students to adopt reflective practice.

3. Techniques for Effective Reflective Writing

– Your writing should be ‘deeper’ and more ‘thoughtful’. Think about the information presented and your reaction to it. Draw on your emotions and compare them with how you felt in similar situations in the past as well as what you were thinking at the time. – Be open and honest about your emotions; this will help you to paint an authentic picture of your state of mind when you were concerned with the issue you are discussing. Using writing to share your thoughts and feelings can be informative and even pleasant to look back on after some time has passed. – Freewriting is another good way to start the reflective process. Start with a short piece of writing on a topic, then reflect on it after a day. Then try a shorter writing session where you reflect on that piece of writing. Keep streamlining your topic and reflections until you have neatly linked them all together. This can also be an effective way to structure a piece of writing. – Remember that developing a highly structured piece of writing that is not well written will not be as productive as a thoughtful reflection that is well written. Do not get overly concerned with structure at the beginning as it is likely subjects will develop unpredictably. Take the time to refine your writing and it will be more useful to you in the end.

Try to use the following tips to create effective reflective writing:

4. Applying Reflective Writing in Various Fields

Reflective writing has also been suggested to be useful for students in transition and negotiating transformational learning. Bloom et al. (59) suggested that at particular stages in one’s professional development, for example during professional training; midwifery to health visiting, or initiation to a new leadership role, reflective writing can help to ease the transition and address issues of role adjustment. Reflective writing has been suggested as beneficial for promoting autoethnography. Autoethnography is essentially an approach to studying cultures through writing one’s own culture. Reflection is seen as a critical component of this approach, with the author needing to be critically aware of one’s self and experience in the culture being studied. An example of a qualitative study employing an autoethnographic approach to explore the student experience of midwifery education.

Reflective writing is being increasingly considered in the training of healthcare professionals. Daly et al. (54) suggested that it should be seen as a core skill and a way of enhancing the quality of caring practice. It is also a medium through which professionals can address the emotional and psychological consequences of their work. Hazel et al. (55) explored reflection in radiography to address work-related stress. They compared the reflection of students and experienced radiographers and found that it was more beneficial for experienced practitioners, suggesting that students need training in reflective techniques. An increasingly growing body of literature has addressed the use of reflective writing within medical education itself. Sandars (56) has written a comprehensive text for doctors and medical educators. Keen and Bussey (57) have suggested that reflective writing could be used to overcome a challenge to the apprenticeship model of medical training, by helping students to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Gibbs and Gambrill (58) suggested that reflective writing is a tool to help student healthcare professionals to address difficult day-to-day ethical dilemmas and decisions.

5. Conclusion: Embracing Reflective Writing for Personal Growth

Reflective writing is an easy and natural process, and we all possess the skills, but it needs fostering and structure. Being a highly essential skill, it should be developed within the academic curriculum. Reflective writing takes many forms, which means that it can only truly be defined by the writer. Common forms of reflective writing include essays, journals, and diaries, each of which has its own structure, purpose, and consistency. Journals and diaries are regular entries written in response to a stimulus whose focus is the event and response. These require a constant commitment to writing and are best used for long-term reflection. Essays differ as they are structured around an introduction, main body, and conclusion, and there is often a specific assessable task to be done. Essays can be written in response to a stimulus similar to journals and diaries, or they can be written in the writer’s choice of event, past, present, or future. Reflection can also be verbal or non-verbal, and it can be done individually or with groups. Entry style and form need to be tackled according to individual circumstances. A lot of people may not have the dedication or skills to keep a diary, and similarly, some people’s best way of expression can be through speech or only a small part of writing. Non-verbal reflection is essentially a mental process and can include things such as thinking, mind mapping, diagrams, and visual imagery. Reflection is an extremely flexible process, and there is arguably no right or wrong way for doing it. It simply needs to suit the individual and circumstance.

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