Reflective writing is an analytical practice in which the writer describes a real or imagined scene, event, interaction, fleeting thought or memory and adds personal reflection on its meaning. Many reflective writers have questions like “What did I notice?”, “How did it change me?” or “What could I have done differently?” on reflection
Thus, reflective writing focuses on writing that is not just descriptive. The writer revisits the scene to note details and emotions, reflect on its meaning, examine what went well or identify the need for additional learning, and relate what happened to the rest of life.
“Reflection is a way of research: a deliberate way of systematically recalling the experience of writing in order to rethink the current situation of writing.”
The more someone writes reflectively, the more likely they are to reflect regularly in their daily life, think outside the box, and challenge accepted practices.
In reflexive writing, the writer tries to convey his own thought process. Consequently, reflective writing is one of the most personal writing styles as the writer is clearly involved in the work. This writing style invites both the reader and the writer to introspection and exploration of their own thoughts and beliefs, and gives the writer and reader a closer, less distant relationship.
Reflective writing usually consists of a description or explanation of an event and its context; interpretation, or how the experience has challenged existing opinions; and the outcome, or how the experience has contributed to personal or professional development.
Most reflective letters are written in the first person because it speaks of the personal experience of the writer, but often in academic writing it is supplemented by a third person because the writer must support his point of view with external evidence.
Reflective writing is usually a style that needs to be learned and practiced. Most aspiring writers are initially non-reflective and must move from imitation writing to their own style of genuine critical thinking.
It is noted that reflection “is a dialectical process by which we develop and achieve, first, specific learning goals; second, strategies for achieving these goals; and third, a means of determining whether we have achieved these goals or other goals. … ”
The concepts of reflection and reflective writing are social constructs that are widespread in academic literature, and their meanings have different interpretations in different contexts.
Characteristics of reflective writing
The main characteristics of reflective writing:
- Reflection: The author reflects on a problem (that is, the topic he is writing about) and considers how his own experiences and perspectives might influence their answer. It helps the writer learn about himself and also contribute to a better end product that accommodates biases.
- Evidence: The writer considers and cites a variety of perspectives and evidence to provide truly comprehensive thinking. “Testimony” can mean either academic evidence or the author’s own reflections and experiences, depending on whether this reflection is personal or academic.
- Clarity: The writer must be clear and coherent. Because reflexive writing introduces the reader to both the author’s own thoughts and other outside perspectives, cohesion and readability are critical to ensuring that the reader is not lost between points of view.
If the meditation is written for academia, i.e. not a personal meditation or a journal, additional features include:
- Theory: Academic thinking will combine theories and other academic works to explain thinking. For example, a writer might say, “Smith’s social activity theory may explain why I reacted this way.”
- Learning Outcomes: Academic reflection will include comments on how the writer learned from the experience, what he would have done differently, or how his views or opinions changed as a result of the experience.
Reflective writing in academia
Reflective writing helps students better understand their goals. Reflective writing is regularly used in academia as it helps students think about how they think. In other words, it is a form of metacognition. It is often assigned to higher education students and is especially useful for students and practitioners in composition, education, and health as it helps them reflect on their practice. Typical academic reflections include portfolios, resumes, and journals. Reflective writing is not limited to academic writing because it often takes many different forms. Sometimes it is used in individual assessment tasks, and sometimes it is included in other tasks, such as an essay.
Evidence shows that reflective writing is a good way to increase empathy in medical students. Another study found that students who were tasked with reflective writing during camp developed greater self-awareness, better understanding of their goals, and were better able to recognize their personal development.
Reflective writing is useful for improving collaboration as it helps authors understand how they sound when they voice their thoughts and opinions to others. It is also an important part of the reflective learning cycle that involves planning, acting, observing, and thinking. Students may hesitate to write reflectively, as this requires them not only to consider, but also to actively quote what they usually hide or ignore in academic writing, such as their anxieties and flaws.
Reflective writing in the academic environment is sometimes criticized because of concerns about its effectiveness. Reflexive writing assignments are often low in course grades and may be considered secondary when under heavy workload. It has also been argued that reflective writing assignments are only assigned as “strenuous work,” since they do not require much maintenance and are relatively easy to evaluate. In addition, because the students know that they will receive grades from their thinking, this may not be accurate.
However, reflective writing is becoming increasingly important in education as reflecting on the work done helps students see opportunities for improvement.
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