Workshop outline • What is reflective writing? • Why reflect? • Problems in reflecting • Forms of reflective writing
Introduction • What is reflective writing? • Have you undertaken reflective writing before? • What reflective writing activities have you undertaken? • Have you got any thoughts on reflective writing?
What is reflective writing? Reflective writing involves ‘consideration of the larger context, the meaning, and the implications of an experience or action’ (Branch and Paranjape, 2002, cited in Monash University, 2013).
Your response to experiences, opinions, events or new information Your response to thoughts and feelings A way of exploring your learning An opportunity to gain self-awareness A way to achieve clarity and better understanding of what you are learning A chance to develop writing skills A way of making meaning out of what you study Just conveying information, instruction or argument Pure description (though there may be descriptive elements) Straightforward decision or judgement (for example, about whether something is right or wrong, good or bad) Simple problem-solving A standard university essay Reflective writing Reflective writing is Reflective writing is not
Definition • A style of writing which may be private or public • A way to explore and clarify our response to ideas, opinions, situations or challenges • An opportunity to examine links between theory and practice • A way of learning through reflecting on our experiences
Aim • Reflective activity allows us to learn about ourselves and equips us with the tools to enable us to move forward in a positive way. • By engaging in reflection on a regular basis, we continue to learn and develop as we study or work. For this reason, it is important to view reflection as a continual, ongoing process rather than as an occasional activity.
How is it similar to core academic writing? • It requires research and development • Depending on the task, it should focus on the question and answer the question • It involves critical thinking and analysis • The writing should be organised into paragraphs with accurate sentence structure, etc. • It requires a formal style • The discussion should be clear and coherent
How is it different to core academic writing? • It is usually used in specific ‘genres’ such as critical incidents, journals, etc. • It connects with personal feelings and behaviour • It includes observation and evaluation • It may be quite descriptive and informal • The use of the 1st person is appropriate • It tends to link theory to practice
Steps to reflect Before you go into a new learning/work environment: • Step one: Tell the story of what you might experience in as much detail as you can. Make sure you note anything that you are confident about as well as anything you might find difficult. • Step two: Try to identify the main themes. Look holistically at what you have written. Think about everyone involved. • Step three: Consider the factors that might influence your behaviour and experiences. Include your feelings, beliefs and assumptions as well as any factual information you have been given. • Step four: Link your thoughts to your previous experiences. What happened the last time you went into a new learning/work environment. How might the new experience reflect these previous experiences? Is it likely to be similar or different and why? How are you going to prepare for this new experience?
1. General statement about the topic 2. Definitions/context 3. Specific statement 4. Purpose of the essay/ thesis statement. For example: It is the purpose of this essay to explore... INTRODUCTION (generally 10% of the wordcount) Firstly, before looking at…, it is important to take an overview of… 1. Topic sentence 2. Examples to support claims (with referencing) 3. Contrasting sentence(s)—however, in contrast, nevertheless 4. Concluding sentence—in sum, to sum up, in brief, in other words, in short Referencing: Jones (2002) argues that… Smith (2006, p. 26) states that ‘…’ MAIN BODY To conclude, in conclusion, 1. Recall the issues raised in the introduction 2. Summarise the main points of the essay 3. Come to a clear conclusion without introducing any new topics or ideas • CONCLUSION(generally 10% of the word count)
Reflection and critical thinking At university, a considerable amount of your time will be spent thinking and reflecting about what other people have said, interesting facts that you have learned and how your thinking has changed. The thinking process seems to involve two aspects: reflective thinking and critical thinking. They are not separate processes. On the contrary, they are closely connected (The Learning Centre, 2010).
Reflection and critical thinking Critical Thinking Critical Thinking Reflective Thinking Reflective Thinking The Thinking Process (adapted from: The Learning Centre, 2010)
Why reflect? ‘We reflect in order to learn something, or we learn as a result of reflecting’ (Moon, 2006).
Reasons • To learn from our experience through reflection • To consider and explore feelings, reactions, responses in more depth • To explore situations from different perspectives • To gain skills to move forward and make progress both personally and professionally • To explore gaps in our knowledge • To look at how we can adapt to situations • To look at relationship between theory and practice • To develop further self-awareness
Problems in reflecting
Concerns • Unsure of writing style • Uncertain about the requirements of the task • Concerned over use of appropriate language • Feeling uncomfortable expressing thoughts • Not able to think of ideas, events or issues • Not able to accept strengths or weaknesses • Not willing to discuss ideas with others
Forms of reflective writing
Forms of reflective writing They may be structured or unstructured: • Diary • Log book • Study or work journal • Assignment
The benefits of reflection This situation allowed/enabled me to explore my approach to… reflect on my… Reflecting upon the incident… Reflection has provided me with the opportunity to… Your knowledge and skills Considering the situation from different perspectives allowed me to/provided me with… This provided/equipped me with a new way of approaching… I have begun to recognise my strengths as well as my weaknesses recognise/identify my knowledge and skills build upon my… enhance my… I now feel more confident about integrating new ideas with present knowledge presenting my view/opinion articulating my feelings I can now appreciate the significance of my experience value my past experience Language for Reflective Writing Your opinions, views and goals • Articulating/revising/re-evaluating my opinions gave me the opportunity to • examine/explore… • enhance my practice/ability by… • develop/work towards/re-evaluate my goals… • function autonomously/as an individual… • become an active/independent learner… • plan realistic career/educational/personal goals Professional development • It led me to question… • It helped me to • gain a sense of ownership of my professional development • extend/enhance/develop my professional knowledge • develop/enhance my self-awareness/self-esteem • increase my confidence… • interact with/and gain insights from my peers/colleagues…
Exercise 1 • Moon (2006) suggests using free writing activities to get your ideas flowing. If you find it difficult to get started with reflective writing, try thinking of a topic and write continuously about it for five minutes. Suggestions for topics could include why you chose this course and how you think it will help you to develop in the future. It is likely that once you begin writing, you will surprise yourself at how much you do. • Spend five minutes free writing topics such as: Learning, Professional development, Health, Inter-professional work.
Exercise 2 • Make a list of three things which you have learned about yourself from the following: • your course/ your job • a particular experience, such as preparing an essay, giving a presentation etc.
Exercise 3 • Choose an incident or event on placement/at university/at work • Get started by describing what happened. Then begin to try to reflect on the events following the stages in Gibbs’ model: Feelings, Evaluation, Analysis, Conclusion and Action Plan • Make notes for each stage
References Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods. London: Further Education Unit. Monash University (2013) Language and Learning Online: What is reflective Writing? Available at: http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/writing/medicine/reflective/1.xml (accessed: 4 June 2013). Moon, J. (2006) Learning Journals: a Handbook for Reflective Practice and Professional Development. Oxon: Routledge. The learning Centre (2010) Reflective writing. Available at: http://www.lc.unsw.edu.au/onlib/pdf/reflective.pdf (accessed: 4 June 2013).