Reflective Writing: guidance
Reflective writing is a way of turning 'surface' learning into 'deep' learning. In summary, reflective writing: 1. is not just a descriptive account of something event – it shows analysis 2. explores motives, including the perspectives of others, and considers them against the author’s own 3. explores how reactions relate to behaviour
4. question ideas, considers them in depth
5. includes other (potentially critical) perspectives as well as your own: it requires you to ‘stand back’ from the event 6. mentions external information and how it impacted on behaviour 7. links ideas together
8. recognises that the personal frame of reference can change according to the emotional state in which it is written, the gaining of new information, the review of ideas and the effect of time passing Reflective writing: the processes
Reflective writing is associated with higher levels of learning. Developing reflective skills will help you gain clearer perspective of yourself which means clearer identification of your learning strengths and of those areas that require some more work.
▪ Analysis of experiences enables further learning
▪ Critical thinking is encouraged so writing skills are improved
▪ Independent learning is facilitated
▪ Recognition of mistakes enhances professional competence
This involves two main processes:
1. Reflection in Action = recognising when something new is happening which may cause a change or shift in thinking. This reflection may include:
▪ Recognition of something different or surprising
▪ Review of a problem
▪ Seeking extra information from tutor/literature/colleagues
▪ Re-appraisal of previous solutions
2. Reflection on Action is thinking about something that has happened in the past and reviewing the way in which you dealt with it. This could involve:
Writing about your own ideas, skills and learning
Reflective writing often involves appraising current skills and ideas in order to make progress. Some people find it difficult to promote their finer points to others. The idea of selling oneself can conflict with our values. The thought of appearing vain may be a barrier. However writing reflectively about your talents and abilities is different. When writing an academic essay, you are expected to refer to theories, concepts and recognized authors to substantiate the views you express. Similarly, in a reflective piece of work about you should include information or evidence to support the statements you make.
Practice 1: Stages in the Reflective Process
Sometimes reflection may help to gain more control over thoughts, emotions, responses and behaviour and help to achieve a wider perspective on situations. These stages are usually part of the reflective process:
Focus: recall an event/incident/encounter that you witnessed or were involved in and which has left you feeling concerned, confused or unsettled. This could be major or minor.
Awareness: accurately describe the context, sequence of events and outcome. Describe feelings that you experienced in relation to the incident.
Critical Analysis: examine both your positive and negative feelings especially those that you know are stopping you thinking in a rational and clear way. What happened and why did it happen? Should you have challenged /intervened /questioned and what difference might this have made? How did the situation affect you and how did you affect the situation?
Interpretation: develop a new perspective on the situation. This may involve new values/attitudes or a different way of thinking about something.
Innovation: devise other options to deal with similar future situations or incidents.
Commitment: take action to change something
Practice 2: Reviewing your learning