Writing academically

Writing Reflectively

Introduction to Writing Reflectively

At University, reflective writing may appear to be more overtly encouraged on some units within some courses compared with others. For example, students who are required to maintain a ‘reflective’ journal or submit a ‘reflective assignment’ will, from necessity, be more familiar with this particular style of learning and writing.

Nonetheless, because reflective writing is associated with higher levels of learning, it is expected that all university students should develop skills that help them to learn from the process of reflection. In particular, reflection is a very important component of PDP.

Developing reflective skills will help you gain a more honest perspective of yourself which, in turn, means clearer identification of your academic strengths and of those areas that require a little more work.

  • Analysis of experiences enables further learning
  • Critical thinking is encouraged so academic writing is improved
  • Independent learning is facilitated
  • Recognition of mistakes enhances professional competence

More importantly, you will be able to recognise what affects your learning and performance and thus how to progress. This involves two main processes:

Reflection in Action = recognising when something new is happening which may cause a ‘surprise’. Components of this reflection may comprise:

  • Recognition of the ‘surprise’
  • Review of a problem
  • Seeking extra information from tutor/literature/colleagues
  • Re-appraisal of previous solutions

Reflection on Action = thinking about something that has happened in the past and reviewing the way in which you dealt with it. This could lead to

  • Self–Promotion 
    • Reflective writing often involves appraising our current skills and attributes in order to effect progression. However, some people find it difficult to promote their finer points to others. For example, consider how you felt when writing your personal statement for your UCAS documentation; or how long it took you to complete your application for a placement or a job. Depending on culture or personality, the idea of selling oneself can be contrary to usual values.
  • Activity
    • If you are in your first semester, construct a list of skills and attributes that you think you will need to maintain a successful university career
    • Or
    • If you are considering a specific type of job, devise a list of traits and abilities that a successful applicant will need to develop
    • Next give an explanation of why EACH of these skills and traits are essential
    • Now write down all of your existing abilities and attributes that already match those on your first list and explain HOW you know you possess them i.e. what EVIDENCE do you have?

The thought of appearing vain or bigheaded is unattractive. Writing reflectively about your talents and abilities is different however. When writing an academic essay, you are expected to refer to theories, concepts and recognized authors to substantiate the views you express.

Similarly, a reflective piece of work about you should include evidence to justify the statements that you make.

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