what is reflective writing

what is reflective writing

The Importance of Reflective Writing

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1. Definition of Reflective Writing

It’s an interesting skill that is as invaluable to a person doing a degree or a diploma in their educational field as it is to someone doing a job in the work field. Learning from an activity can often be more beneficial than the activity itself and this writing gives a platform to express that learning.

This definition opens the doors to many more questions such as “What does it mean to take a helicopter view?”, “What situations provide the most learning to reflect on?” or as our module this assignment and the research upon which it is based were concerned with, “How can we help to develop this skill in students or people in general?”

A good definition of reflective writing is: “A means of allowing you to look back on an experience, be it a work experience or an academic experience and describe what you have learned from it. In essence, it’s a writing that lets you take a ‘helicopter view’ of your learning and it’s a skill that’s invaluable when carrying out a job application or preparing for an interview in the future because you’ll be able to talk articulately and convincingly about your experiences and what you’ve taken from them.”

2. Benefits of Reflective Writing

Lastly, the reason that reflective writing is beneficial to the busy student. Today’s students are said to be more and more result-driven, and reflection can lead to better results. This is because a change in action based on reflection should be a change for the better, and reflection can reveal understanding that is enough to pass an exam. But what is most appealing about recent education culture is the work and the assessment can be done individually. A student can reflect at any time or place that is convenient, an event for problem solution or understanding can be simulated in the writer’s mind, and the result should be easy to compare to the original. This makes reflective writing an economical, low-risk, high-value exercise.

Following this, it has been said that reflective writing is a good focus for problem-solving, decision-making, and changing behavior. This is because the writer is trying to recreate a past event or a process of thinking in order to learn from it. We can also see that the aim of reflection is to attempt to alter the event, either to the future or the past, to lead to a better result.

As well as revealing an understanding, it is said that reflective writing can create a change in the writer. Often what a person understands is tightly related to what they do or have done in the past. Understanding has an effect and a cause, and knowing both of these can lead to change. Basically, if we think someone should do something differently, it is because we think the result will be better. Reflection focuses just on the good and the bad, theory analysis focuses on what should be done. Although there is no guarantee that the change will be a good one, reflection will still cause a direct change in action. This can help to improve the life or work of the writer, thus reaching a better result. In education, making a change is also what many teachers hope for. The understanding that change in students is also a result can be an encouragement for them to try reflective writing. But the greatest place for reflection and change is disputable within the next two good points that reflective writing is beneficial to the student.

Next, it is arguable that reflective writing helps students to reveal an understanding about the course. Reflective writing helps students think about the learning journey that they have been on; this means that their understanding about the course could be revealed to a higher standard. If it is true that learning can involve a change in knowledge, then reflection can make this change more conscious. The student will become more aware of what they did or didn’t understand so that future action can be informed to improve understanding. The information told previously about critical thinking may result in more knowledge, greater judgment, and a change for the better. This is another reason why reflective writing would be useful to a student.

First, it is found that this reflective writing helps to increase the students’ critical thinking. Critical thinking is a complex system of judgments that helps to analyze information and come up with valid conclusions, create an assessment of what is happening, and interpret it. It involves identifying the actual problem and implementing a solution. In helping students to develop critical thinking in this way, it can be very beneficial to their future. This is because critical thinking is an important skill that most employers look for in a prospective employee. Reflective writing encourages taking the time to contemplate the meaning and purpose of work, and this is more likely to create a real solution. Often we do a lot of guesswork in problem-solving, hunches we have on what the problem is. A hasty decision can lead to a costly mistake. Because reflective writing is a single event, on a single problem, it is more formal than a memory, allowing for logical order and a stream of thought. Finally, critical thinking results in making a judgment about what has happened, using information to make a decision. This will be very helpful for the student throughout their life.

3. Techniques for Effective Reflective Writing

When higher and adult education teachers seek to establish a reflective learning task, they often instruct students to reflect on complex and/or challenging events or problems by using their previous experience and learning to attempt to understand the event or solve the problem. This, they hope, will result in a positive change in behavior. It is widely recognized that many students will need to be taught how to reflect. Bloomfield (1999, p. 4) suggests that there is some consensus in the literature that the cognitive processes involved in reflection are difficult. Schoen (1987) has suggested that inexperienced students often experience difficulty thinking on the complex level and has identified three levels of thinking which exist within reflective thought. These are: 1. Derivative thinking or understanding, which takes place when the thinker is taken by surprise and does not understand something and tries to make something familiar of the new experience, 2. Focused practice, and 3. Higher order thinking. Schoen has suggested that most students are capable of only the first level of thinking. Gibb’s reflective cycle, cited by D’elby et al (22/11/09), is often used by teachers as a model for reflective tasks in an attempt to improve the quality of a student’s reflection.

Reflection is defined by Stenhouse (1975, p. 144) as ‘a capacity for autonomous professional self-development through systematic self-study’. Kirk (1986) carries on this argument by suggesting that reflection is ‘an activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, mull it over, and evaluate it’. In the higher and adult education literature, reflection is often referred to using the terminology experiential learning. It has been noted elsewhere that Bonner (1999, 1996/1997) there is a complex body of literature on reflection. For a detailed review of learning styles and the use of reflection in higher and adult education, JArvis et al (2003) have conducted a literature review.

4. Examples of Reflective Writing

A popular large group exercise is to have students create a ‘culture capsule’. These can be entertaining to share with the class at the end of the semester and make a good quality portfolio piece. Students prepare a package with cultural artifacts that they will later reflect on to understand the impact that culture has had on their lives. Items can include, but are not limited to, foods, movies, music, or flags. A student can make many choices based on this. At the student’s discretion, an element of sharing and discussion can be added as an adjunct to this assignment.

In “The Weight of All Things” by Sandra Benitez, the main character, Salvadora, was reflecting on the war. She used many strategies to survive the war, but after it was all over, she was able to take the time to reflect on what had happened. “Damn pictures won’t go away. I have to put them somewhere” (pg. 93). This passage says a lot about how she feels. She thinks she needs to put the memories somewhere inside of her so she won’t forget about it. She feels haunted by these images, not able to escape them. This is why writing can be such an effective way of reflection. Writing is a way of getting ideas out of your head. Salvadora is basically saying that she needs to get the memories out of her head so she won’t be haunted by them. She is reflecting to try and come to terms with what happened in the war, and writing is a way she can do this.

5. Conclusion: Embracing Reflective Writing in Daily Life

When we reflect about the value of reflective writing in our lives, we are reminded of the profound role it plays in making us more thoughtful individuals. Engaging in intentional, focused reflection has a powerful impact on us. It helps to develop our analytical abilities, enabling us to better organize and interpret the massive amounts of information we are continuously exposed to. This, in turn, leads to a deeper understanding of complex issues and more informed solutions. Reflective thinking also provides us with a greater awareness of who we are as individuals as well as changes we are considering. If we understand the ways others are thinking about an issue or a problem, we are in a much better position to articulate our views to try to influence how they are thinking. And vice versa. If others understand where we are coming from they can more effectively influence us. All of this makes it more likely that common ground can be found. Clarity and understanding are then put to good use in finding a solution to the issue or problem. Reflection is often spontaneous and triggered by an event, a dialogue with someone or simply an emotional reaction to something. Capturing these events quickly is important so that the detail is fresh in our minds. A variety of tools can be used for the reflection such as journals, logs, diaries, narratives, letters, and stories. Or reflection may occur in different formats and with or without guidance of a process. Either way the goal is for the reflective process to become a conscious routine allowing us to be more insightful and in turn, make a wiser decision.

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