Writing academically

Reflective Assessments: plans, journals & essay


Reflective writing is often related to change. At university, these changes are often recorded in a portfolio. For example, Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) Leaders who seek accreditation compile a portfolio that reflects their development throughout their tenure. This incorporates an action plan which might look like the one below.

Relevant Skills I Already Possess

Relevant Skills I Need to Gain

How I Intend to Achieve Skills

Reflection on Progress






This is a very basic plan that includes a notion of progression (change) and a degree of reflection on the development of skills. It would usually be accompanied by explanatory text.

At  University, some schools ask for a more detailed action plan as part of the reflective work that accompanies a placement. In particular, some lecturers expect students to be able to reflect on the objectives that they set themselves throughout the length of a placement. Generally, these are referred to as SMART objectives.

SMART is an acronym:

S = Specific Objective
M= Measurable
A= Achievement
R= Relevance
T= Timescale

A goal setting action plan using SMART objectives might look like the one below which is used in the School of Services Management.

Specific Objective (using precise wording)

Means of Measurement (can you evaluate success)

Means of Achievement (resources & support required)

Relevance (why/how is it important to your goals)

Timescale (how long will this take)
















In this example, reflection is required within the actual planning as well as on completion of various stages.

Reflective Journals

The reflective diary or journal is for you to write about what YOU want

  • Your feelings about learning experiences
  • Lecturers, other students, employers, mentors
  • Ambitions and progress
  • Challenges to your learning
  • Challenges at work
  • Your decision making
  • The decision making of others
  • Situations where you learn the most
  • Situations where you learn the least
  • Linking theory to practice
  • Worries and hopes

Reflective Assignments

Read the assignment briefing carefully and ensure that you know how and where marks will be allocated. In general, you should follow the same rules that you normally do to produce an academic essay. For example, structurally, there should still be an introduction, the main body and a conclusion. However, there are some other pointers that you need to be aware of:

  • You will be used to writing in the third person but in reflective writing,
  • Generally the first person is preferred.
  • Practice writing in the first person but do not allow your work to become ‘chatty’.
  • Express your feelings in a clear, well thought out way.
  • Learn to write the analysis of your experiences in an articulate way that relates, where appropriate, to theory. 
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