what is a characteristic of reflective writing

what is a characteristic of reflective writing

The Importance of Reflective Writing

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1. Definition of Reflective Writing

As mentioned earlier, reflective writing often involves a ‘replaying’ of events, and then making sense of these events. Describing the event involves a simple recap for the benefit of the reader, and the thoughts you experienced or what you were thinking at the time are then identified. Although sometimes difficult to look back and put yourself in the same frame of mind, this type of reflection is useful as it can identify exactly why things went the way they did i.e. researching a theory why one science experiment took a certain turn. In reflective writing it is common to use the first person – that is, using ‘I’ – as the writer makes their own personal thoughts, feelings and opinions more clear. Text can then be written comparing this event to other similar events, or predicting the outcome of the event had something been done differently. The second from these is particularly useful as it encourages speculative thinking which can lead to interesting and unpredictable conclusions. Step five is the final stage of reflection, and involves identifying what has been learnt from the event.

Reflective writing is a personal thing – it doesn’t follow a set pattern. There are only a few basic ‘rules’ that apply, for instance, it’s important to commit enough time to deep-thinking about the event the reflection is based on. Enough time should also be spent thinking about what was learnt from the event, and how to apply these learnings to future work. Another key with reflective writing is that it is a process. It is not just a matter of thinking what’s in the back of your mind, the thoughts must be ordered and make sense to anyone reading them. This can be the difference between descriptive writing and critical writing. A log can involve descriptive writing, and may even make up a large portion of it. The reflective writing expected by tutors takes the form of critical analysis usually involving an attempt to identify and weigh up alternative explanations of events.

2. Benefits of Reflective Writing

Effective technique for brief, meaningful writing done as homework: Reflection. Reflective writing is used to stimulate and explore your personal experiences. What is learned is applied to future practice in similar situations, so you can use what you have learned from your experiences and knowledge to progress and make changes for the better. Reflective writing can help you to improve your analytical skills because it requires you to express what you think, and more significantly, how and why you think that way. It helps your further understand your learning through self-awareness and theory. This then leads to a change in behaviors and finally development in skills. Reflection goes beyond just replaying or mulling over past events, it is a learning process on which significant events and experiences are fully explored with the aim of learning from them and making changes if necessary. Therefore it is a very transferable skill which can be learned and used to improve crucial thinking and problems solving skills. This enables effective excellence in future decision making and an improved competence in the understanding and control of the techniques and strategies used to manipulate a situation. Reflective writing can also help you to become more self-managed, effective learners. Through writing it encourages you to take time on a regular basis to review, and think about what is happening in your studies and your life. This leads to stimulated awareness and greater clarity which is a great foundation for evidence based decision making. It can make see the connections between what you are leaning and yourself, and some types of reflective writing can guide your learning through an experience to a deeper understanding of a course. This may require more specific and involve writing about your understanding of an experience, or your knowledge of something to discover the best means of practice. This can aid movement from surface to deep features of learning, and most importantly it can create self-confidence and independence as a learner. Through understanding the benefits of reflective writing, the University of Reading has established the importance of reflective learning for academic and personal development, but do different forms of reflection writing have different benefits?

3. Techniques for Effective Reflective Writing

There are a variety of reasons why you may need to write reflectively. For instance, the use of reflective writing in a learning journal can enable you to make a case for how the work you are doing connects to concepts and evidence of the unit you are studying. This linking your work to the learning outcomes increases self-awareness of your learning and can result in you being clearer about how you are actually learning. Reflection can also be used for inter and intra personal development. Often, by reflecting on an incident or experience, you can gain new understanding by seeing things from a different perspective, looking at both the positive and negative possibilities, implications, and by considering what you would do in the future, what you would repeat, and what you would change. These new understandings can then result in changed actions and behaviors at a later date.

Reflective writing provides an opportunity for you to gain further insights from your work through deeper reflection on your experiences, and through further consideration of other perspectives as well as theory to increase your own understanding of what you do, why you do it, and how you do it (Daly, C. S. and Pachler, N., 2006).

4. Examples of Reflective Writing

“This story takes me back a couple of years ago, during a period where a lot of my friends were getting into a lot of trouble. I’d like to think it was some kind of phase teenagers go through when suddenly given a dose of freedom, but no one will ever really know. Prior to the experience, I have something to confess. I am the worst when it comes to laughing at someone else’s misfortune, so I must admit the laughter that followed this story is what enticed me to use it as an example of learning something the hard way.”

Exploring and assessing a personal experience can be a great way to learn more about yourself. This is done through asking yourself a series of questions after the event or experience has occurred. An example is provided below:

Personal experience can provide an excellent resource for reflective writing. An individual may use their personal experiences as a way to explain and explore an event further, which in turn may unlock some previously unknown information. There is a short example of reflective writing given to help you understand what is expected in reflective writing. Below, you can see how an event in somebody else’s life has been explained in reflective writing.

5. Conclusion: Embracing Reflective Writing for Personal Growth

Despite its prevalence in education, there is no universal consensus about what reflective writing is or how it should be done. Nonetheless, there are certain broad themes that resonate across people’s experiences of it. For instance, the idea of reflection as a means to improve practice is found in the literature in many different guises. In English language teaching, Richard-Amato refers to reflection as a means of a teacher problem-solving in a context within an interacting matrix of restrictions and enabling conditions to generate a solution to a technical problem. This is to be assimilated into future teaching practice thus closing the learning circle. (1996:15). Reflection is also seen as an important strategy to achieve autonomous learning and self-improvement through a better understanding of how we learn and the use of certain learning strategies. (see, for example, Griffiths, 1995; Wenden, 1998). This theme of reflection to improve action and enhance autonomous learning can be found in literature from disciplines such as healthcare and management as well as in much of the pedagogic literature. Setting aside the finer points of discrepancy between research, theory and practice regarding these broad themes, let’s for the sake of convenience accept that many people envisage an ideal type of reflection which is essentially a disciplined and structured mode of thought with a clear end-goal. It is methodical and systematic, to the extent that there are models which purport to explain what good reflective practice is (see Gibbs, 1988; Johns, 2000), what it looks like, and how it can be taught and assessed.

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