Personal Development and Learning

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The Personal Development Reflective Essay Assignment

The reflective essay will become the primary component of the senior portfolio a few years from now, but the process begins here in PDP 150 as students learn to apply their new reflective skills in developing of an effective portfolio. The reflective essay provides the opportunity to describe and document one’s growth as a person during this time in a student’s life, and the key to understanding the task is to emphasize the term “reflective.” In PDP 150, students learn that reflection can sometimes be confused with words such as “reaction” or “response.” Through the many reflective exercises in PDP 150, students learn that to document their reactions or responses to experiences would be to merely document how they feel about them or to describe the emotional or practical impact the experience had on them; whereas critical reflection is something more than this. To critically reflect on experiences is really to engage in an intellectual activity whereby students review in detail what they know (what they’ve read, or learned, or observed, or felt, or experienced) and then draw some conclusions about the significance of those experiences in relation to the context of their lives as a whole. We discuss this process by identifying the four basic steps of explanation, exploration, analysis, and synthesis.

The personal reflective essay assignment isn’t something radically different from the other classroom assignments of the course, but in this assignment the focus of the reflection is the student’s own development. However, earlier assignments should help in a direct way in that when students discuss their intellectual development and discovery, they will probably include readings or films or discussions from either their PDP 150 class (or perhaps their History or Sociology class) that especially provoked their thinking. Or, perhaps they will recall some reading or film or discussion from their...
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