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Reflective Writing Assignments

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Presentation on theme: "Reflective Writing Assignments"— Presentation transcript:

1 Reflective Writing Assignments
Prepared by rebecca shaw, writing coach, University of british columbia

2 Contents Why reflective writing? Types of reflective writing assignments Elements to include in reflective writing Preparing for a reflective writing assignment The reflective cycle Organization of a reflective essay Using evidence in your reflective essay Language use in reflective writing Other resources

3 Why reflective writing?
Your professor/teacher may ask you to complete a reflective writing assignment: To examine your learning processes, including not only what you have learnt, but how you learnt it. To make connections: between what you already know and what you are learning; between theory and practice; between course material and personal experiences. To clarify your understanding – identifying the questions you have, and what you have yet to learn. To think carefully about what you are doing, how you are doing it, and why you are doing it. To learn from mistakes and lessons: avoid repeating mistakes and identify successful principles and strategies to use again. To become an active learner: engage in the learning process by asking questions, raising doubts, and thinking critically about one's own ideas. To encourage you to become a reflective practitioner in your future field. This is the key to life-long learning, growth and meaningful change. Source:

4 Reflective writing assignments may include:
Journal or diary entries Portfolios Narratives Reflections on practice or placements Blogs Reflective writing may also be part of assessments such as: Online discussion forums Group work and group or peer evaluations The reflective essay is gaining popularity in university classrooms. This type of assignment combines reflection and academic evidence usually to examine practice based learning.

5 Types of Reflection Reflection-in-action, e.g. journaling Works on getting to the bottom of what is happening in the experiencer’s processes, decision-making and feelings at the time of the event or interaction. Reflection-on-action, e.g. reflective essay Works of sifting over a previous event to take into account new information or theoretical perspectives available in conjunction with the experiencer’s processes, feelings and actions.

6 Elements to include in a reflective writing assignment
Your professor will likely outline the expectations of what should be included in your reflective writing assignment. Some common elements are listed below: Perceptions Experiences Questions Challenges and confusions Inspirations and ideas Processes and observations Speculations and conclusions Comparisons and connections Actions

7 Preparing to write a reflective writing assignment
Focus on an experience or event  What was outstanding or meaningful, negative or positive? Brainstorm ideas for five minutes Then consider each idea for follow up Other ideas may emerge, so consider them too Talk about the experience to stimulate a range of perspectives Describe the experience  Consider the sequence, outcomes, feelings Use free writing for 10 minutes Create a draft that is filled with your thoughts; that explores some ideas more than others Use this as a basis for a later draft that will bring in more conclusions as you continue to reflect Conduct an evaluation / critical analysis  Why did the event(s) occur in that particular way? What factors contributed to the outcome? Did you achieve your goals? Did your goals change? Did other people achieve the set goals? Were there any problems with resources? How did your actions influence the situation? How did other people impact on the situation? How did the situation affect you? Could you have reacted differently? If you had, what might have happened? Why did you react in that way? How might this experience affect you in the future?

8 Seek out your key points and the issues of significance 
The data you collected in step 3 allows you to identify the important aspects of your reflection on your learning You may find that you have formed new attitudes or values. Did you learn anything about yourself that was unexpected? What changes do you expect to make in yourself or your work? Identify solutions for similar events  Develop a new perspective by conceptualising the situation differently Communicate the results of your reflection clearly The reflective process is also often seen as a cycle as it is through this process that people use their learning and strive to improve by making deliberate changes to their behaviours or trying new approaches. It is very much part of the professional development process in many workplaces. Source:

9 Reflection Cycle Description What happened? Feelings
What were you thinking and feeling? Evaluation What was good and bad about the experience? Analysis What sense can you make of the situation? Conclusion What else could you have done? Action Plan If it arose again what would you do?

10 Basic organization of a reflective essay
Reflection essays are personal and subjective, but they must still maintain a somewhat academic tone and be thoroughly and cohesively organized like any other essay.  Introduction What the essay is about (broad) What exactly the essay focuses on (specific) Why it is important to analyze this How the essay will be developed Body What? What happened? Who was involved? So what? What is most important/relevant aspect of the event/idea/situation? How can it be explained? How is it similar to/different from others? Now what? What have I learned? How can it be applied in the future? Conclusion Restate you main point Should reflect your individual viewpoint Do not describe unrelated events Do not revisit or summarize narrative events

11 Using evidence in your reflective essay
A common misperception is that reflective essays do not require academic evidence. Remember, you are aiming to draw out the links between theory and practice. You will need to keep comparing the two and exploring the relationship between them. There are two sources of evidence which need to be used in reflective writing assignments: Your reflections form essential evidence of your experiences. Keep notes on your reflections and the developments that have occurred during the process. Academic evidence from published case studies and theories to show how your ideas and practices have developed in the context of the relevant academic literature. Analyze the event and think about it with reference to a particular theory or academic evidence. Are your observations consistent with the theory, models or published academic evidence? How can the theories help you to interpret your experience? Also consider how your experience in practice helps you to understand the theories. Does it seem to bear out what the theories have predicted? Or is it quite different? If so, can you identify why it's different? Source:

12 Language use in a reflective essay
As a large proportion of your reflective account is based on your own experience, it is normally appropriate to use the first person ('I'). However, most assignments containing reflective writing will also include academic writing. You are therefore likely to need to write both in the first person ("I felt…") and in the third person ("Smith (2009) proposes that …"). Produce a balance by weaving together sections of 'I thought… 'I felt,…' and the relevant academic theories. This is more effective than having a section which deals with the theory and a separate section dealing with your experiences. Try to avoid emotive or subjective terms. Even though you are drawing on your experiences (and they may well have been emotional), you are trying to communicate these to your reader in an academic style. This means using descriptions that everyone would understand in the same way. So rather than writing, "The client was very unhappy at the start of the session", it might be better to write, "The client was visibly distressed", or "The client reported that he was very unhappy". This shows that you are aware that the client's understanding of 'unhappiness' may be quite different from yours or your reader's.   When writing about your reflections use the past tense as you are referring to a particular moment (I felt…). When referring to theory use the present tense as the ideas are still current (Smith proposes that...). Also see,

13 Other Resources Click on these recommended websites below for further guidance on reflective writing and some useful tools for capturing your reflective thoughts. Thinking Writing - developing reflective thinkers from University of London Reflective journal - Learning Lab from RMIT University  Reflective Writing from UNSW

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