Reflective Writing

Reflective writing is a way to evidence your reflective thinking. Thinking reflectively helps you:

• understand the concept of reflective writing

• recognise the benefits of reflecting on your developing teaching philosophy

• distinguish features of reflective writing.

Reflective writing is: your response to experiences, opinions, events or new information your response to thoughts and feelings a way of thinking to explore you’re learning an opportunity to gain self-knowledge.

Reflective Writing | 6.07 mins

In this course reflective writing occurs in your portfolio. There is no right and wrong in reflective writing; however, it is important to show you can link the theories presented throughout your course and your practical placement experience to your own understandings.

Reflective writing for academic assessment

Reflective writing straddles many disciplines and activities, including:

  • Experiments
  • Observations
  • Field trips
  • Reading
  • Workshops
  • Interpretations
  • Placements
  • Group work
  • Journeys
  • Portfolios

A normal requirement of assessment in higher education is the ability to write in an academic style. Based on the application of reason and argumentation, academic essays draw on other academic sources. The style of writing is impersonal and discursive. Reflective writing style is different in several respects.

The purpose of reflection as part of academic assessment

The table is adapted from The Learning Centre, University of New South Wales

It is important to consider why you are being asked to reflect in assessments. Understanding this will really help you to ensure you meet all the criteria for the assessment. You need to make sure you reflect on all aspects of learning from the event(s) while looking forward to future events to apply this learning.

What do you reflect on?

While you should be reflecting on all your studies, the primary reason behind reflection within the associate degree program is to focus on ‘The Self’ and ‘The Other’ making a link between theory and practice and your personal academic development.

In this kind of reflection, the focus is on YOU. You need to reflect on your experiences to highlight the learning and development you have achieved. You will use your experiences as reflective learning points to inform future events.

For this kind of reflection, you should consider:

What you are learning? | After all that's why you're here.

How you are learning it? | Reflect on how you learn best so you can get the most form the learning experience (Learning Styles

How you are using what you are learning? | By understanding the why you are learning and the value in learning is a fantastic motivator

What your strengths and weaknesses in learning are | Knowing your strengths and weakness can help you identify gaps and areas to focus on. This can be for improving your weaknesses and maximising your strengths

What are your priorities? | There are many aspects to defining your priorities be they career, learning, or personal priorities. You may wish to focus on certain areas to achieve your desired goal. You could be matching requirements for your future career goals

How can you improve and build upon your learning process? | The more you figure out how you learn and what works best for you – the easier you will find your studies.

How well you are working toward your short, medium, and long-term goals? | By setting goals you have establish check points to test your progress and how successful you are in meeting these targets. Use reflection to keep checking your progress and revise your goals if you need to.

How your reflection can inform future practice | Reflection is about improving your future. Use reflection to inform future practice.

Do not forget to also consider:

  • Your motivations.
  • Your attitudes, ideas, and change these.
  • The Skills you need for different components of your study and learning.
  • If anything is blocking your learning.
  • The gaps in your knowledge and skills
  • How you might address any of these gaps.

Do not be too hard on yourself or underestimate your skills, but be honest. You often know more than you think you do. An example of this is the mature student who has been out of formal education for a few years, but who has a wide range of experiences and transferable skills that he or she can use in his or her learning. For example, s/he might be good at multi-tasking or a great manager of time.

Also, think positively about moving yourself and your skills forward - keep motivated.

Differences between discursive and reflective writing

Writing reflectively requires a personal style of writing that you may not be used to. Most assignments at university are discursive, using reason and evidence to present an argument. This style of writing is impersonal and is usually written in the third person. Reflective writing however, in centred on first person experiences, supplemented with references to the literature alongside personal thought. First person writing involves talking from a personal perspective (this involves the using the first-person singular pronoun "I" or the first person plural, "we"). The table below contrasts discursive and reflective writing:

Reflective writing is written in the first person, examines personal experiences and is not limited to academic evidence. Unless you have experience with reflective practice, your first attempt(s) at reflective writing may feel very uncomfortable. This is because it requires a very different style and approach to your usual writing. Stick with it...it gets much easier with time and practice.

Section Summary

Reflective writing is the process of evidencing your reflective thinking.

Remember: Reflective writing is different to the discursive writing style of most academic assessments. You need to adapt your writing style for such assessments.

You may write reflectively as part of academic assessments, often focusing on theory in practice, but you may also write reflectively as part of your development. In both cases you need to present evidence and draw meaningful reflections from it. To maximise any learning from this, you need to:

  • Make connections between your experiences and academic theory
  • Examine your learning process
  • Clarify what you are learning
  • Reflect on mistakes and successes
  • Become an active learner
  • Actively reflect on your own practice

Reflective Thinking guide – University of Reading http://libguides.reading.ac.uk/ld.php?content_id=23073792

Reflective Writing guide – University of Reading http://libguides.reading.ac.uk/ld.php?content_id=23073800

Resources for reflective learning http://www.ithaca.edu/hs/students/experiential/docs/summerscholars/studentreflectionres.pdf

Reflection: turning experience into learning, David Boud, Rosemary Keogh, and David Walker (ed). UTAS library Call number LB 1060 .B68 1985


Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. [London]: FEU.

Moon,J. A. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: Theory and Practice. Psychology Press

Moon,J. A. (2004) A handbook of Reflective and experiential Learning: Theory and Practice. Routledge Falmer, London.

Schön, D. A. (1983) The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.


Created with images by jarmoluk - "book exposition composition" • qimono - "water drop droplet" • © Axel Naud - "Reflect" • DariuszSankowski - "knowledge book library"

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