reflective writing pdf

reflective writing pdf

The Importance of Reflective Writing

1. Introduction

Reflective writing is writing which considers, explores and evaluates with the aim of gaining new understanding, for instance about oneself, a piece of literature, or a life experience. It is a way of pausing, thinking, carefully choosing one’s words and constructing a logically organised presentation. Reflective writing is the understanding and examination of the problem – reflective writing seeks out to identify, analyse or assess what the problem is, what caused it, and why it happened. Reflective writing is meant to help the reader understand a different or updated view of the problem and is often divided into 3 phases. Reflective writing enables the writer to distance him/herself from the event or experience, so that it can be evaluated and understood in its entirety, so that they can improve on that experience in the future. It does not have to be in the form of an essay, a ‘diary’ style is often chosen, because it is less formal and easier to write. Although traditionally reflective writing is in response to some form of event, whether it be taking place in reality, or a mental event e.g. considering an idea or learning how to do something new.

2. Benefits of Reflective Writing

1. It can help you to make sense of what has happened and think about what you could have done differently. 2. It is a way of helping you to become an active, aware and critical learner. 3. It can help you to clarify what is known, what is unknown and what is ambiguous. 4. It can lead to an improved final product. When you write notes, you produce a final written report. This may look quite different if you are writing it at the end of a research project, which is after several months, several changes in direction, and a few reassessments of the original proposal. The notes taken at these different times can be used for reflective writing – it helps you to link what has happened, albeit sometimes in a non-linear way. The final report will benefit from seeing the progression, understanding the changes, and being able to clarify the reasons something was done in its current form.

Reflective writing is a way of processing your practice-based experience to produce learning. It has a number of benefits:

3. Techniques for Effective Reflective Writing

Although the process of reflection is a matter of personal philosophy, experience, and self-discipline, a few general recommendations may identify three basic features of good reflective writing. In keeping with the notion that reflection involves looking inwards, and in an attempt to move writing about reflection beyond mere description of events, Gibbs (1988) offered a model which is structured around the following points: Description, Thoughts and associations, Evaluation, Analysis, Conclusion, and Action Plan. Whilst not being a perfect model to be applied to all types of reflection, for all experiential learning Gibbs model is cyclical and is adequate in that it promotes a greater awareness of the sequence of events and stresses the importance of making a final decision regarding what will be done if the situation arises again. An analysis of the resources that can be used to inform teaching, such as formal theory and knowledge about teaching, previous experience, and acquired knowledge and skills, is integral to comprehensive reflective activity, helping to inform decisions in the future and add to knowledge about teaching. Drawing on the work of Carper (1978), practitioners in the field of teacher education have recommended that students of teaching should seven seek to reflect upon practice from the viewpoints of the four knowledge types identified in the same work. Carper highlighted that while being able to draw only on the knowledge embedded in tradition and the knowledge from their practice, practitioners tended to be unable to critically evaluate their practice or gain any new orientation of the action being considered. Reflection using all four types of knowledge can be enhanced through the use of critical companions and critical friends, mentors or tutors. Through discussion and debate, sharing ideas and thoughts on paper, and questioning by a more experienced colleague, problem areas can be highlighted and easier seen from different perspectives. This can promote deep reflection that may otherwise be hindered by rationalization of actions with knowledge at a single level. An effective technique for getting deeper into the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of practice is to keep a dialogue journal, a written conversation with self that is continued over a period of time. This can be more explorative than traditional reflection on an event and can be used to question and reframe thoughts.

4. Examples of Reflective Writing

The following example comes from a student who undertook a social work placement at a brothel. The student had previously been asked to change his professional field and had strong feelings against this profession. The report is largely a description and analysis of the incident, which helped the student form a summary of the event and of what was learned from the event and how this learning was useful in the future. This type of report does not differ much from other descriptive reports. However, the report also asks the student to give an account of an incident which was from his past placement. This is a comparison and contrast of the incident with a similar incident and analysis of how this event was actually an incident of discrimination. The management of feelings, the “as I felt like I won’t in the first incident,” to the understanding and future actions form the biggest part of this report. This is an important point; the reflective report is often quite “deep,” investigation to discover the “why” and the “how” of an event or incident. However, a reflective report is not solely a description of the event, but an exploration of the full sequence and how this event has affected the author and his resulting future actions. This is shown strongly in the instance at the end of the report with the statement “have you ever felt uncomfortable with where you are?” This question constitutes the learning undertaken from this event and is the final piece to allow the author to move the future incident to the understanding phase.

It’s important to remember that reflective writing is an in-depth and complex form of writing and therefore, the same type of description and analysis may not always be appropriate. For instance, in a lab report, the purpose is to discuss the method and try to explain how different the results were from the anticipated. In contrast, a “reflective” report is a summary of the incident and is used for further learning or future recommendations. A reflective report should also not have a concise format; for this, the reflection would be much more structured with a beginning, middle, and end and would have summarized any learning outcomes. This is more akin to the reflective thesis.

Reflective writing takes many forms – letters, editorials, reviews, and poetry. For example, the instructor can ask you to respond to a lecture or other school assignment so that you can show what you know and understand. Alternatively, you may be asked to adopt the position of a person or character who is very different from your own in order to help you think more deeply and systematically about your beliefs, values, and behaviors. Journals, blog posts, and personal narratives can all be considered types of reflective writing. Therefore, reflecting on symbolic meanings and connections at personal, interpersonal, professional, and societal levels can be an important step towards understanding and learning to act differently in the future.

5. Conclusion

Reflective writing has emerged in recent years as a critical aspect of teaching and learning at both secondary and tertiary levels. Despite its current popularity, there remains a dearth of literature that discusses reflective writing, its implementation in various disciplinary areas, and its effect on student learning. Drawing on the study of health sciences, this paper has aimed to: • Provide an overview of what reflective writing is and its possible benefits for tertiary learning and teaching. • Demonstrate how Gibbs’ model of reflection can be used as a teaching framework to help students improve their reflective writing skills. • Emphasize the importance for students to have a clear understanding and expectations of reflective writing tasks. • Increase the awareness of the dearth of literature discussing reflective writing in tertiary education, to encourage more disciplinary-based research into reflective writing and its effects on learning and teaching. It is our belief that this will be an important contribution to the higher education sector and will facilitate the improvement of the reflective writing skills of tertiary students. This will provide an array of benefits for students, including the improvement of critical thinking and analytical skills, self-awareness and personal development, and problem-solving skills. This will be of particular benefit to those students studying in the health and education areas. By providing a clear understanding of what the reflective process involves and the criteria that will be used to assess reflective writing tasks, educators will be able to minimize confusion and equip students with skills that are essential for their future professions.

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