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Reflection And Reflective Writing Sample Assignment

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Introduction – reflection and reflective writing

Reflection lies somewhere around the notion of learning and thinking. We reflect in order to learn something, or we learn as a result of reflecting. Reflective writing is the expression on paper/screen of some of the mental processes of reflection.

It is also worth noting that you will learn not only from the ‘in the head’ reflection but from the process of representing the reflection itself. It is a part of the process of writing reflectively to be as aware as possible of the influences that are shaping the writing that you actually do.

What is reflective writing?

We will start from what reflective writing is not. It is not:

  • conveyance of information, instruction or argument in a report, essay or ‘recipe’;
  • straight-forward description, though there may be descriptive elements;
  • a straight-forward decision eg about whether something is right or wrong, good or bad etc.
  • simple problem solving like recalling how to get to the nearest station.

In the context of your higher education program, reflective writing will usually have a purpose (eg you will be writing reflectively about something that you have to do or have done). It will usually involve the sorting out of bits of knowledge, ideas, feelings, awareness of how you are behaving and so on. It could be seen as a melting pot into which you put a number of thoughts, feelings, other forms of awareness, and new information. In the process of sorting it out in your head, and representing the sortings out on paper, you may either recognise that you have learnt something new or that you need to reflect more with, perhaps further input. Your reflections need to come to some sort of end point, even if that is a statement of what you need to consider next.

It is also worth recognising that reflective writing may be a means of becoming clearer about something. For example, you might use reflective writing to consider the kind of career direction that you might take. Into the ‘melting pot’ you might then ‘put’ ideas, information, feelings, other people’s perspectives and advice. A metaphor for reflection or its expression in reflective writing in this context is ‘cognitive housekeeping’ to imply its nature as a sorting out, clarifying process.

From what has been said above, it will be obvious that reflection is not a straight-forward and ‘tidy’ process itself. When you have to represent the process for someone else to read, you will inevitably tidy it up – but if a tutor is expecting reflective writing, s/he will not be looking for a dry ‘single-track’ account, or just a conclusion. It is also all right to use the first person – ‘I’ - in reflective writing.

Let us assume that you are reflecting on a presentation that you have just done in class. We said, above, that reflective writing is not a ‘straight-forward’ description. You will probably have to describe what you are about to reflect on and perhaps relate it to the purpose for which you are reflecting. But reflection is more than that. You might want to evaluate your performance in the presentation, for example. This may be represented by you questioning yourself, perhaps challenging yourself. You may consider your reactions, and even the manner in which you have intially viewed the situation and written about it. Your writing may recognise that others may have different views of the same event. So with regard to the presentation, you might think about the performances of others – and so on.

You will often find there to be unexpected rewards in working in this manner. You will find out things that you had not considered, you even find that your academic writing becomes more fluent; you may find that you can solve problems more easily when you have reflected on your processing of similar problems.

A final note

‘Reflection’ is a word in every-day language but that in some contexts it is a subject of academic study, with many books and papers devoted to it. The material in this paper is derived from three books Moon, J (1999, 1999a and 2003), which provide an introduction to the literature for those who are interested in taking this further.

Moon, J (1999)

Reflection in Learning and Professional Development, Kogan Page, London

Moon, J (1999a)

Learning Journals: a Handbook for Academics, Students and Professional Development, Kogan Page, London

Moon, J (2003)

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