reflective writing prompts

reflective writing prompts

The Power of Reflective Writing

1. The Benefits of Reflective Writing

A student who daily enters reflective thoughts in their journal and writes all required reflective assignments for all courses will gradually become an expert reflector. He or she will examine what they are learning both more in depth and in a broader context, they will understand their learning style better, they will find they maintain focus on learning goals and will stay more relevant and more on task. These things will lead to increased effectiveness.

As a writer, learning from your experiences is essential. Without learning from your past, there is a good chance that you will simply keep making the same mistakes and fall into the same pitfalls each time. Reflection is what gives experience its meaning, and writing about that experience gives it double meaning. Experience is something the writer can talk about, and reflection is something that the writer can learn from. Logging the learning process using reflective writing will also help a writer to understand how they learn and what may inhibit it. In general, reflection is a very healthy thing to do, and like all things in life, the more one practices it, the better one will become.

The benefits of reflective writing are deeper than you might think. Reflective writing can help you to improve your analytical skills because it requires you to express what you think, and it helps you to question why you think that. It also encourages you to develop your insights and to identify patterns of change and of stability in what you are learning. You may also find that reflective writing helps you to develop verbal communication skills. Writing about what you are learning can also help you to share and interact with other students, as well as the instructor. It can provide an effective and powerful vehicle for learning about yourself and your skill in communicating.

2. Techniques for Effective Reflective Writing

5. Be honest – Reflection is about being honest with yourself and identifying ways to move forward. It is identifying the good and bad behaviors and attitudes and then working to keep or change them. By being dishonest with yourself, you owe it to be dishonest with someone else, and that doesn’t help to improve any practice.

4. Use a model – There are many models of reflection; some examples can be found here. Using a model to guide your reflection can be very helpful. During management placement, I used the action learning cycle. Having not studied management, I found it an easy way to break things down, analyze what had gone on, and think of ways to keep or change what I had done, which is an essential process in management and leadership.

3. Consider the qualitative – Not everything that is learned can be articulated. For example, a significant amount of the learning will occur in the first placement practice. It may simply be a new way of doing something or an insight into a particular client or piece of work. This type of learning is through insight and is difficult to explain to others.

2. Description – Record what happened as a basis for setting out your thoughts and feelings on the event. Describing the event behind the reflection helps to consolidate the reality of what happened. This sets the scene for more in-depth discussion on what you might do differently next time.

1. Observe – Spend time simply observing. Once you have selected a problem or challenge in your practice, spend some time observing the situation. This may be a critical incident in practice. For example, by observing a meeting with a client group, you may not have been aware of the power dynamics that existed and hindered the outcome of the meeting.

As Lee Ann Hodges noted in “The Power of Reflective Writing,” “The more effective a reflective cycle is used and the more internalized the process becomes, the more adept students get at analyzing their thinking and learning and the more powerful the writing becomes” (p. 78). Below I have listed several techniques on how to write a good reflection:

3. Prompts for Self-Reflection

Prompt 1: Describe an experience in your life that changed you. What did you learn from it? This prompt is an excellent idea for reflective writing. Often times when people are mulling over a life changing experience, live altering decision, or a new way of acting, they have an unclear idea of how this change has affected them or will continue to affect them. Consumers of this prompt are forced to slow down and recollect the events, paying close attention to the chain of events and details. In spending time examining an experience and the chain of events it ignited, one can come to a series of realizations. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint how different aspects of an experience have affected us. By considering the event and its overall effect, one is better able to understand this change and act in a way that is beneficial.

Imagine going on holiday without a map. A bit problematic, as one might say. Most people would not consider going on a trip without some sort of plan, some sort of idea of what to do while they are away. People often map out their trips using a variety of methods. Some use a travel agent to book an entire trip, while others plan day by day, booking and navigating as they go. And some, don’t book anything and just show up in a foreign country with the hopes that they will figure out something to do. Reflective writing is not much different than planning a trip. We are often hoping to achieve a goal, or gain an understanding of something and that writing becomes our map to finding our way. These prompts are a useful map to the many emotions involved in self-reflection.

4. Reflective Writing for Personal Growth

One way to expand the uses of reflective writing is to use it as a method for learning about yourself and how you have changed. Here, reflective writing is focused on acknowledging and analyzing the changes in life and understanding how these changes have come about. Many consider this type of reflection as something that is a very personal activity, which could be pursued in the form of writing a diary or letting thoughts spill out on paper. The aim is to take the stream of thought that is cultivated in these initial writings and to dig deeper into the underlying influences on change. This form of writing can often start with a small amount of prompting, perhaps from a therapist suggesting keeping notes on specific behaviors. An example can be remembered from a psychology student who was asked to provide behavioral analysis on himself dealing with a loss. It was suggested that he might want to document this time in a journal and try to understand the changes of mood and emotion. This sort of writing is not something that would often be shared with others and can be used as a tool for increasing self-awareness. By understanding ourselves better and the underlying influences on behavior, we can develop our future personal and professional actions with purpose and strategy.

5. Using Reflective Writing in Various Settings

High-stakes assessment tasks which require students to show what they know can benefit from learners spending time reflecting on their responses since this enhances awareness of the different strategies and processes that occurred during the planning and formulating of their answer. This can be evidenced through think-aloud assessment interviews or stimulated recall protocols. Using diaries or dialogues in an online environment can also help with the assessment of students’ critical thinking in areas of problem-solving and decision making.

Healthcare professionals are required to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. Critical incident analysis is used to help health professionals reflect on their practice. This can be through either written reflection or in the form of written or recorded audio diaries.

Reflective writing is finding a variety of uses both inside and outside the classroom. Over the years, it has been found to be an important tool in therapeutic settings, service-learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving within the work environment, and high-stakes assessment tasks. Reflection can be a personal and private activity, or it may be shared with others, for example, in a Reflective Discussion Group or writing on an electronic portfolio with a built-in response facility to engage peers or teachers in a written conversation.

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