Reflective writing is:
- your response to experiences, opinions, events or new information
- your response to thoughts and feelings
- a way of thinking to explore your learning
- an opportunity to gain self-knowledge
- a way to achieve clarity and better understanding of what you are learning
- a chance to develop and reinforce writing skills
- a way of making meaning out of what you study
Reflective writing is not:
- just conveying information, instruction or argument
- pure description, though there may be descriptive elements
- straightforward decision or judgement (e.g. about whether something is right or wrong, good or bad)
- simple problem-solving
- a summary of course notes
- a standard university essay
THE PURPOSE OF REFLECTIVE WRITING
To make connections
The idea behind reflective writing is that what you learn at university builds on your prior knowledge, whether it is formal (e.g. education) orinformal (e.g. gained through experience).
Reflective writing helps you develop and clarify the connections:
- between what you already know and what you are learning
- between theory and practice
- between what you are doing and how and why you do it.
To examine your learning processes
Reflective writing encourages you to consider and comment on your learning experiences—not only WHAT you’ve learned, but HOW you learned it.
To clarify what you are learning
Reflecting helps you to:
- clarify what you have studied
- integrate new knowledge with previous knowledge
- identify the questions you have
- identify what you have yet to learn.
To reflect on mistakes and successes
Reflecting on mistakes can help you avoid repeating them. At the same time, reflecting on your discoveries helps identify successful principles to use again.
To become an active and aware learner
To become a reflective practitioner once you graduate and begin your professional life
HOW DO I WRITE REFLECTIVE READING
What can I discuss?
- Your perceptions of the course and the content.
- Experiences, ideas and observations you have had, and how they relate to the course or topic.
- What you found confusing, inspiring, difficult, interesting and why.
- Questions you have
- How you:
- solved a problem;
- reached a conclusion;
- found an answer;
- reached a point of understanding.
- Possibilities, speculations, hypotheses or solutions.
- Alternative interpretations or different perspectives on what you have read or done in your course.
- Comparisons and connections between what your are learning and:
- your prior knowledge and experience;
- your prior assumptions and preconceptions;
- what you know from other courses or disciplines.
- How new ideas challenge what you already know.
- What you need to explore next in terms of thoughts and actions.
TYPES OF REFLECTIVE WRITING
Journal: requires you to write weekly entries throughout a semester. May require you to base your reflection on course content.
Learning diary: similar to a journal, but may require group participation. The diary then becomes a place for you to communicate in writing with other group members.
Log book: often used in disciplines based on experimental work, such as science. You note down or ‘log’ what you have done. A log gives you an accurate record of a process and helps you reflect on past actions and make better decisions for future actions.
Reflective note: often used in law. A reflective note encourages you to think about your personal reaction to a legal issue raised in a course.
Essay diary: can take the form of an annotated bibliography (where you examine sources of evidence you might include in your essay) and a critique (where you reflect on your own writing and research processes).
Peer review: usually involves students showing their work to their peers for feedback.
Self-assessment: requires you to to comment on your own work.
Clarify your task
Clarify the practical aspects
Find out what form your task should take. You may need to submit a book or folder or complete an online component. In addition to writing, you may be able to include pictures, diagrams, media clippings etc.
Gather your ideas
Before you write, you need to think and reflect. Start by drawing up a Mindmap.
Mindmapping is a technique that can help you expand your thinking, structure your ideas and make connections. You can use a Mindmap to plan your assignment and arrange items to create the structure of your writing.
- Write your topic in the centre of a blank page.
- Draw related ideas on ‘branches’ that radiate from the central topic. When you get a new idea, start a new branch from the centre. Include any ideas, topics, authors, theories, experiences associated with your topic.
- Map quickly, without pausing, to maintain a flow of ideas. Associate freely and do not self-edit; at this stage anything and everything is OK.
- Circle the key points or ideas. Look at each item and consider how it relates to others, and to the topic as a whole.
- Map the relationships between the ideas or key points using lines, arrows, colours. Use words or phrases to link them.
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