Adapted from A Complete Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay by Oxbridge Essays, 2018; Reflective Writing Structure. A Writer’s Reference, Western Sydney University, 2016; How to Write a Reflection Paper. Trent University, 2019.
Assignments that involve reflective writing include journals, vignettes, blog postings, and reflection essays. Much like a personal diary, reflective writing involves your personal thoughts. However, you are writing for an academic audience and need to use academic language. Your writing should demonstrate to the instructor that you have thought deeply and critically about how your thoughts have developed or changed as a result of the learning experience in question.
There are two main types of reflective writing:
Type 1: An Experiential Reflection – a focus on personal growth
Here you are asked to analyze a personal life experience as it relates to the question and then reflect on how you have grown as a result.
The instructor will likely require you to narrow your reflection to a particular episode in your life. Some examples may include the following: A time when you had to make animportant decision, an interview that you conducted for a class assignment, or a work placement or practicum.
Recount your experience, painting a clear picture of your situation for the reader. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What was going on?
- Who was involved?
- When did it occur?
- What was my role?
- What behaviors did I observe?
- How did I feel?
- How is this situation connected to the assignment question?
- How is this situation connected with the themes introduced in the course?
After you have recounted your experience, it is time to start the reflective process. Ask yourself the following questions to help you think about the impacts of your experience:
- Why did particular things happen?
- Do I feel the same way about the situation now?
- How have my thoughts changed?
- What would I do differently in a similar situation in the future?
- What did this experience teach me about myself? About working in the field? About society?
- How does my experience relate to the concepts covered in the course?
Type 2- A Reading Reflection – a focus on text
This also involves two parts, first an analysis of a piece of text and then a reflection of how it could be relevant to your life experiences.
In this part you demonstrate your understanding of the text. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the main point?
- How is it developed?
- What is the purpose?
- What is the impact of the text?
- How do my observations relate to the concepts covered in the course?
- What ideas stood out to me? Why? Were they new or in opposition to other sources?
After you have recounted your observations of the text it is time to start the reflective process. Ask yourself the following questions to help think about the impacts of your observations:
- Does the text align with my existing ideas and beliefs? How does it align or not align?
- Does this text challenge my existing ideas and beliefs?
- Does the text help me to better understand the topic?
- Does the text enable me to better understand the course topic?
- Does the text enable me to better understand the wider field of study?
- How might my future work change because of what I have learned?
Note that both types of reflective writing involve analyzing and reflecting. When constructing your paper, these two parts do not need to be in any particular order. They can comprise two separate parts of your paper or can be incorporated into each paragraph. The instructor may set out how you should do this. Make sure you follow the rubric if your instructor has provided one.