“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 they share a number of features in common.
Models of reflective writing
4R’s Model (QUT, 2010)
Atkins & Murphy (1994)
Pfeiffer & Ballow (1988)
(Learning by doing)
Awareness of thoughts & feelings
Describe the situation
Analyse feelings & relevant knowledge
Evaluate the relevance of knowledge
The following questions are designed help you to address each of these stages in your writing:
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)?
What triggered this response?
What were you thinking? How did you feel?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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).
e.g., what does ‘I will try tobe more assertive next time’ mean?
Revealpersonalinformation(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.
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.
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 futureconditional (I would) when speculating about what you might do in the future.
Example of a reflective report using the Gibbs (1988) model with headings for each stage of the reflection