Writing academically

Reflective Practice

Although it is essential to describe something before you can discuss or analyse it, a reflection is not an account of factual information. Rather, it comprises your perceptions and expectations based on your experience of the evidence. Hopefully, it illustrates your personal and academic growth. Consider the following text:

I woke up late because my alarm didn’t ring. My own fault, but there you are. By the time I had finished my breakfast (my usual bowl of cornflakes and a cup of black coffee with three sugars), I had missed the bus (that’s the number 9, picked up at the bus stop outside Halfords), which had left on time (just for a change). So I got to university and by the time I’d found the right room, I was over thirty minutes late for the theory exam. Unfortunately, the jobsworth invigilator wouldn’t let me take the exam because it was ‘against university regulations’. Didn’t he realize how important it was for me to pass that exam? My overall grade depends on it and now I have to re-sit in September when I wanted to have my holiday in Ibiza.

Reflection can involve three learning domains. Put yourself in the position of the student who wrote this account and reconsider the information by employing the 3R format of reflection:

  • Reaction (affective domain, to feel). As you re-examine the evidence, how do you feel about the account? Could there be other perspectives?
  • Relevance (cognitive domain, to think). How is the evidence meaningful to your understanding of what really happened? What have you learned from this experience? What changes might you make based on this experience?
  • Responsibility (psychomotor domain, to do). How will the knowledge gained from this experience be used in the future? Give examples of possible applications in other areas of your learning .

Now consider the following revised text which could be the result of applying reflective skills:

I was over thirty minutes late for my exam which meant I was not allowed to sit it. This will have repercussions on my degree mark and on my holiday plans. This is the first time I have actually missed an exam but not the first time I’ve been late to exams and important interviews.

   I have learned that:

  • I need to improve my time-keeping
  • The university has strict rules governing late exam arrivals
  • I need to be better prepared

   The reasons I arrived late were:

  • My alarm clock didn’t ring because I forgot to set it
  • I totally rely on the alarm clock; I have no back-up
  • I rely on the bus
  • If I had known which room the exam was, I might have been a few minutes late but could still have sat the exam

In order to improve the situation next year, I plan to:

  • Have a process to check all the clocks in the house
  • Make sure I have a back up such as the alarm on my mobile phone
  • Catch an earlier bus on exam days
  • Ensure I know the correct room well in advance
  • Reflect further on my priorities
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