Writing

La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Writing

Achieve@Uni
La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Writing

Achieve@Uni
La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Writing

Achieve@Uni

Reflective writing

WHY REFLECT?

“What is it?” Harry asked shakily.

“This? It is called a Pensieve”, said Dumbledore. “I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind… At these times” said Dumbledore, indicating the stone basin, “I use the Penseive. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’ s mind, pours them into a basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form” (Rowling, 2000).

The ability to reflect is one of La Trobe’s Graduate Capabilities. It involves thinking about your responses to what you've read, discussed or experienced in a way that challenges you to modify your assumptions, beliefs and/or practice and help you to develop both as a learner and as a future professional.

WHAT SHOULD I REFLECT ON?

There are two main types of reflection:

  • Reflection on learning (e.g., what you have covered in lectures, readings, discussions, learning activities, group dynamics, and assessment tasks) and
  • Reflection on practice (your experience in clinical placements, teaching rounds or work placements)

WHAT DOES REFLECTIVE WRITING LOOK LIKE?

Reflective writing can take a number of forms including reflective journals, entries, diaries, portfolios or reports. The structure of the writing can also vary which is why it’s always important to read the task instructions and marking guide carefully.

There are a number of different models for doing reflective writing. However, as the following table indicates, they share a number of features in common.

 

Models of reflective writing

COMMON STAGES

4R’s Model (QUT, 2010)

Gibbs (1988)

Atkins & Murphy (1994)

Johns (1994)

Pfeiffer & Ballow (1988)

(Reflective thinking)

(Learning by doing)

(Reflective Practice)

(Reflective Practice)

(Reflective Practice)

Noticing

 

-

-

Awareness of thoughts & feelings

-

Experiencing

Describing

 

Reporting

Description

Feelings

Describe the situation

Description

Publishing

Linking

 

Relating

 

 

Reflection

 

Analysing

Reasoning

Analysis

Analyse feelings & relevant knowledge

Influencing factors

Processing

Evaluating

-

Evaluation

Evaluate the relevance of knowledge

-

-

Generalising/ assimilating

-

Conclusion

Identify learning

Learning

Generalising

Acting/ Reconstructing

 

Reconstructing

Action

Action

-

Applying

The following questions are designed help you to address each of these stages in your writing:

Noticing
  • Was there something you read, discussed or experienced that triggered a specific emotion or response in you (e.g., excitement, interest, irritation, embarrassment, anger, confusion, anxiety)?
Describing
  • What triggered this response?
  • What were you thinking? How did you feel?
Linking
  • How does it relate to what you have been studying or your prior knowledge or experiences?
  • Are there any links to what you’ve learned or experienced in other subjects or contexts?
Analysing
  • Can you identify any patterns or themes?
  • How did others respond? Do they have a different perspective?
  • What internal factors (assumptions, beliefs, values, etc.) were involved? What external factors were involved?
  • What knowledge or theory was helpful for understanding this?

[Reflection on practice]

  • What were the dynamics of the situation?  
  • What were you trying to achieve? Why did you react the way you did?
  • What were the consequences (e.g., for yourself, peers, the patient/client/student, their family)? Could you have anticipated these?
  • Was there another way you could have responded? 
Would this have been more effective?
Evaluating
  • What was positive/went well? What was negative/went wrong?

[Reflection on practice]

  • How well were you prepared for this? Had you already covered the relevant knowledge or skills? Is there anything you wished you’d known beforehand?
Generalising/Assimilating
  • What have you learned from this experience?

  • Are you able to draw any general conclusions or principles?
  • Have you made enough sense of this experience? Do you need to continue to reflect on this?
Acting/Reconstructing
  • How do you feel about it now?
  • Have your beliefs or understandings changed?

[Reflection on practice]

  • What plans might you put in place for if/when you re-encounter such an experience?
  • How would you monitor or evaluate the effectiveness of any changes or actions?
General advice
  1. You usually need to develop an argument (e.g., to support a conclusion) and this needs to be supported by evidence (e.g., from class, readings, or experience).
  2. Be specific
    • e.g., what does ‘I will try to be more assertive next time’ mean?
  3. Do not:
    • Reveal personal information (yours or another person’s).
    • Name people or locations or provide information that could allow them to be identified.
    • Criticise or judge others or be too hard on yourself. Instead, focus on your role in what happened, how you (and others) felt, what you have learnt, and what you might do differently in the future.
  4. Make reflection a habit
    • Write your reflection as soon as possible (the same day) and return to it later.
    • Discuss issues with friends and classmates to develop your own ideas and access a range of perspectives.
Language & style
  • Use first person (I felt, I noticed, I thought…)
  • Use full sentences and paragraphs. Do not use dot points.
  • Do not use abbreviations, contractions (e.g., isn’t), or slang.
  • Tense:
    • Use past tense for previous events.
    • Use present tense when relating a previous incident to current practice, making general comments, or referring to literature.
    • Use future conditional (I would) when speculating about what you might do in the future.

EXAMPLE