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About this book

Packed with practical advice, this concise guide explains what reflective writing is and how to approach it. It provides students with all the key information and strategies they need to develop an appropriate reflective writing style, whatever their subject area. Annotated examples from a range of disciplines and contexts show students how to put these tips into practice. It also includes a section on applying reflective practices to personal development and career planning.

This handy guide is an indispensable resource for students of all disciplines and levels, who are required to develop and demonstrate reflective qualities in their work. It will be particularly useful to students writing reflective logs on placements.

Table of Contents

Understanding Reflective Writing

Frontmatter

1. About reflection

Abstract
Reflection starts with thinking about something. As Jenny Moon (2005 p1) observes, we don’t reflect on ‘simple’ things like the route to the corner shop, but on ‘things for which there is not an obvious or immediate solution’.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

2. Getting started on reflective writing

Abstract
‘Reflective’ writing is new to most people. The comments below point to the confusions around what reflective writing is when it is part of a course or programme, which, of course, is assessed in some way or another:
  • ‘I thought I wasn’t supposed to use “I” in my writing…’
  • ‘I’m not putting what I really think if it’s going to be assessed!!’
  • ‘They say to reflect on the link between theory and practice – but what does that mean?’
  • ‘Can I say what I think without backing it up with references?’
You can see the tension, the opposite pulls, in reflective writing required as part of a college programme.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

3. Reflective and critical writing

Abstract
The words ‘critical’ and ‘reflective’ are often used in the same assignment brief.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

4. Asking strategic questions

Abstract
The six strategic questions2 used by many people to get started on tackling a task are just as useful in relation to your reflective writing task. Read your course materials carefully, and check online to make sure you have all the information available. Lecturers will of course assume you have read it all!
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

Form and Style in Reflective Writing

5. Reflecting on yourself and your experiences

Abstract
You and your thoughts and experiences are the starting points for reflective writing.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

6. Finding your voice

Abstract
Since the focus of reflective writing is you, your thoughts and development, your readers want to hear your ‘voice’. Students sometimes feel that under the weight of all the reading they have to do — commenting on what this writer said and how it’s different from that writer’s opinion — that their own voice isn’t right, or isn’t good enough. Wrong. It’s always you who’s writing, not a machine or some ideal-type student, and your reader wants a sense of who you are — particularly in reflective writing.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

7. A reflective diary or learning journal

Abstract
Students across a range of disciplines are often asked to keep a reflective diary, portfolio or journal. This is not really surprising since a diary/log/journal is a record of your development as a learner or practitioner in your field. Exactly what goes in your journal will, of course, vary from one discipline to another.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

8. Learning journals and assessment

Abstract
The fact that your work will be assessed introduces an external dimension to your reflective writing. You are writing for an audience that is not yourself. So, as with any other writing, you need to have a clear sense of what the person reading your work is looking for.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

9. Portfolios

Abstract
A portfolio can take many forms and has many purposes. It will, of course, be set as an assessed piece of work, but it can also be a key piece of evidence for future employers. It tends to be a bulky item with all evidence of your work or experience in it. It will include reflective entries: the ‘learning journal’ and perhaps a longer piece of reflective writing that articulates the processes involved from start to finish. Your reader should be able to see the link between what you say you have done or learnt and the evidence that supports your claims.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

10. Reflection in research

Abstract
Research starts with an interest in something. When you start researching, you ask questions (about the research topic, or the research process), reflect on what you’ve done, and where you go next. Research is an iterative process — you go backwards and forwards, but also onwards and upwards, and reflection drives it.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

Reflection in Reading and Writing

Frontmatter

11. Linking theory and practice

Abstract
The purpose of writing about what you have read is not simply to show your reader, tutor or instructor that you have done the required reading by dropping in references here and there. The purpose is to show that you can see the link between theories, ideas and approaches you read about, and their relevance to your personal experience. To do this you need first to understand the content, and then to reflect on the implications for you and your practice.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

12. Writing a critical review or annotated bibliography

Abstract
Writing a critical review or keeping an annotated bibliography may be set as a task by tutors for a number of reasons. It may be to encourage you to:
  • become familiar with finding and using research papers
  • think critically about what you’ve read — to take you beyond repeating back what the article says
  • keep records of your research — it’s surprisingly easy to forget what you’ve read!
  • gain confidence in writing about research in your own way, in your own ‘voice’.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

13. That ‘reflective’ quality in writing

Abstract
Your assessors often use assessment criteria to explain what they are looking for in your writing. The criteria for the higher grades are likely to include words and phrases explained in the ‘steps’ towards the upper end of the ‘staircase’ (p. 13):
  • … original interpretation…
  • … insightful and innovative contribution to…
  • …thorough and reflective data collection, analysis and interpretation…… articulate and justify a point of view…
  • … analyse research findings… relate to personal experience… excellent level of criticality…
And where is ‘reflection’ in these? The answer is ‘everywhere’, often unspoken, underpinning these specific qualities. To achieve these higher-order qualities, you have to have a sense of curiosity, a questioning approach to practices and ideas, be open to different ideas, be honest with yourself, and rigorous and analytical in your research and actions — and show this in your writing.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

14. Getting the balance right

Abstract
If you get comments like this…
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

Using Frameworks in Reflective Writing

Frontmatter

15. Choosing a framework

Abstract
Check your guidance so you are clear about the form your reflective writing should take. Are you being asked to:
  • use a particular framework
  • choose a framework
  • combine or adapt a framework?
If you have choice or flexibility about the framework you use, you will be expected to explain why you chose that particular framework and not another — to justify your choice or adaptations. This process sets in train critical thinking about the frameworks as you work out which best suits your situation.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

16. Using a framework for reflection: Gibbs’ reflective cycle

Abstract
Graham Gibbs (1988) adapted the experiential learning cycle to acknowledge the importance of feelings and emotion in learning:
It is from the feelings and thought emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated. And it is generalisations or concepts that allow new situations to be tackled effectively. (Gibbs 1988 p9)
He also emphasises the importance of being able to generalise, to transfer knowl- edge and insights gained from one situation to another. As a result, this framework is frequently used in developing practitioner courses (such as Healthcare and Business).
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

Reflection for Career Planning

Frontmatter

17. Doing the groundwork

Abstract
The workshops in this section are designed to help you get started on this reflection.
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

18. Finding your evidence

Abstract
In a ‘person specification’ an employer explains who they are looking for. For example, they may be looking for someone who can …
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro

19. Conclusion: the habit of reflection

Abstract
We commented earlier (p. 54) that reflection isn’t just a one-off activity to complete a task, but can become ‘a habit of mind, one that transforms’ (Yancey 1998 p12).
Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams, Jane Spiro
Additional information