Reflective Writing

‘It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated. And it is generalisations that allow new situations be tackled effectively.’ (Gibbs, 1998) ‘Reflective writing provides an opportunity for you to gain further insights from your work through deeper reflection on your experiences, and through further consideration of other perspectives from people and theory. Through reflection we can deepen the learning from work.’ (Watton et al, 2001)

Reflection is an exploration and an explanation of an event or a situation (in this case, the CTEC3901 ‘Methods’ tutorials), not just a description of them, in order to draw lessons for the future.

What is the purpose of reflective writing? Reflective writing provides evidence of reflection, which involves:  Looking back on an event (in this case, the CTEC3901 Methods tutorials); analysing the event, thinking in depth about it from different perspectives; and considering what the event means for you and your ongoing progress as a learner. So reflective writing is more personal than other forms of academic writing. Reflection:  Makes links between theory and practice  Integrates new knowledge with previous knowledge  Helps develop understanding  Helps you to learn from experience: to avoid repeating mistakes, to identify successful aspects that can be applied to other situations, to learn how to handle similar situations better in the future. So reflection is about looking back at an event or situation: but with a view to learning something from it that can be applied in the future. To be effective, reflection needs to go beyond a description of an event; it requires you to:
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  

Step back, think about your role in the event Consider the perspectives of others involved (other students, the tutor) Show what you have learned from the process (the event and the reflection on it).

How to go about reflective writing? There is more than one way to go about reflective writing. This is a brief guide to getting started. One overall structure for a piece of reflective writing is: Description Description: Interpretation Outcome

Keep this short A brief description of what happened. So what? Why did you do what you did, in the way that you did? Why did other people do what they did? (students, tutor) What were you trying to achieve? How did you feel at the time? (about the tasks, about the process) How do you feel now, afterwards, as you reflect about it? Now what? What are the implications for you, and for others? What might you do differently in a similar situation in the future? What have you learned, not just about the topic but about your own approach to learning and studying; your own behaviour in tutorials; the behaviour and approach to learning of the other people involved and how that impacted on you, etc?

Interpretation:

Outcome:

Often reflection results in a personal action plan: it can reveal errors, anxieties, weaknesses in your approach to studying as well as strengths and successes. So it can result in consideration of: what are you going to do differently in similar situations (other tutorials, labs etc.) in the future? What steps are you going to take on the basis of what you have learned?
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Further Information This handout draws upon the following sources, where further information and guidance may be found: Reflective Writing: a basic introduction. Portsmouth University http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/studentsupport/ask/resources/handouts/w rittenassignments/filetodownload,73259,en.pdf [accessed 23-11-2011] Reflective writing. UK Student Portal. http://www.uk-student.net/modules/wfsection/article.php?articleid=63 [accessed 23-11-2011]

References Gibbs, G. (1998) Learning by Doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. FEU. Watton, Pete, Collings, Jane & Moon, Jenny (2001) Reflective Writing. University of Exeter http://as.exeter.ac.uk/media/level1/academicserviceswebsite/studentandstaff development/documents/Reflective%20Writing%20%20Guidance%20notes%20for%20students.pdf [accessed 23-11-2011]

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