As its name suggests, reflective writing is a way of reviewing
what you have learned by writing about it. To reflect means
"to bend back." But writing also helps you move forward.
New ideas develop as you turn your thoughts back
to what you have learned.
What is reflective writing?
is a tool you can use to "interact with new information," according
You can think of reflective writing
as what you learned +
your reaction to it.
Reflective writing is not purely personal, because you write
in response to new information. Suppose that you
learn that psychologist John
Gottmann can predict
whether couples will stay together with over 90%
accuracy. The key to a lasting relationship: having
at least 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative
interaction. In a reflective writing, you might explore
whether you believe Gottmann's findings are credible
or how you could use his research on the job.
While reflective writing is done in response to something you've
learned, it is not purely academic.
such as a research paper, you write as an expert.
The opinions you express are based on objective evidence.
In reflective writing, you explore your
subjective thoughts and feelings. For example, you
might describe what happened when you tried to have
5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction.
How formal is reflective writing?
How formal should your reflective
writing be? It depends. Writing that will not be
shared with others can be as informal as
you like. However, some reflective writings,
such as a case
report or cover letter for
a portfolio, are very formal.
If you do reflective
writing for a class, the level of
formality and objectivity required depends on the assignment
and your teacher's expectations.
How can I write about what I've learned?
can use many different strategies to write reflectively:
|• summarizing what you've learned
||The most important thing I learned today is....
||The manager motivated employees by....
||Who, What, When, Where, Why, How
||Now something I learned in my first term makes sense
||This is how I can use....
||This is right/wrong because.... or This is important
|• becoming self-aware
way I have improved is....
||One reason I succeeded is.... or In the future, I
will avoid that mistake by....
How do I get started?
If your teacher gives you a prompt, find the key
words in the question. For example, you might be asked to write
a paragraph that summarizes the most important idea
you learned in class today. The key words would be paragraph,
most important, and today.
The criteria used to grade your writing are also important.
If you are asked to write a paragraph in class, your
teacher is probably most interested in what you have
to say. If you are writing a letter to introduce
a portfolio of your work, you may be asked to follow
a certain format and you will be expected to polish
your writing. Review the rubric or other grading
criteria before you start.
When you are ready to generate ideas, techniques you can use
include freewriting, questioning,
How do I develop my ideas?
This is how one teacher describes the process
of reflection: "You
will briefly summarize the ideas presented in class
or in your textbook. Then you spend some time thinking
before you continue writing. Then you will give your
opinion on the subject, and you will back up your
opinion with personal experience or examples....Then
you will connect all of the ideas and experiences
by drawing conclusions about your findings and experiences"
I use reflective writing to get new ideas?
At first, your reflections might simply
express what's on your mind. However, one reason
to write reflectively is to develop
and explore new ideas.
To generate new ideas, ask yourself questions like these:
• Does my thinking match that of experts on this
topic? If not, what can I learn by thinking about
• What would happen if I switched points
of view on this topic? (For example,
someone who favors capital punishment might consider
how a defense attorney might think about the death
has my thinking on this topic changed over time?
• What questions do I have about this topic?
How might I find the answers?
• How could I use my knowledge or insights
to help others?