Writing Reflective Journals
Reflective writing requires you to think deeply and write about an experience, event or course content. Reflective writing records the development of your insights and ideas. It focuses on a specific new understanding and its application to future practice. Reflective writing is not just a description or summary of something that you have observed. Instead, reflective writing requires you to describe, analyse and evaluate. Describing, analysing and evaluating experiences enable you to develop new insights and perspectives. The quality of your analysis is improved by reading widely and thinking critically about what you are learning in your course.
Reflective writing involves writing about:
- What happened (positive or negative) and what you personally learned from the
- What it means, and how it changes the way you think or understand
- What you can change or how you can apply the new learning in the
What should you write about?
What should you reflect on during your studies? Anything and everything! Reflecting on your experiences allows you to discover more about what you are learning and how you learn (this is the reflective process).
You can reflect on:
- how and when you learn best
- what it is that drives your learning and what you are passionate about
- your progress in an area of study over time
- your process in solving a difficult problem in your academic work
- your reactions to the texts you are reading
- what your essay title means and how to go about writing it
- feedback on your assessments and how to improve
- group work tasks and seminar discussions
- your own values, preferences and biases, and how this might impact your own writing
- what is difficult at the moment and why? What is the next step? Who or what can help me?
The 4R’s Reflection Model.
The 4R’s of reflection model can be applied to suit many different contexts and provides you with a general idea of how to organise the information in your reflection.
|Report / Respond||· Give a brief description of the event, situation or issue.
· State your reaction to the situation or issue.
|Relate||· Make a connection between the issue/situation and your own personal skills, experience and understanding.
· Relate this to any relevant theoretical understandings.
|Reason||· Find an explanation for the situation/issue.
· Discover any relationship between theory and practice in order to seek a deep understanding of why something has happened.
|Reconstruct||· Draw a conclusion and discuss improvements that could be made.
· Identify any changes or improvements for future planning.
· Apply your learning to other contexts and your future professional practice.
What? So what? Now what? Reflection Model
There is no right or wrong way to reflect on your studies. Use the “What? So what? Now what?” reflection model to guide your reflection.
|What?||What happened? Establish a context by describing the experience with enough detail to support the following “So what?” section. For example, you can describe who, what, why, when, where.|
|So what?||What have you learnt from this? Why does it matter? This is the sense-making section where you can discuss what resonated with you or those things that challenged your opinions/beliefs.
· What about this experience made an impact on you? Why?
· How is this connected to concepts that are relevant to this unit?
· Are there any links to readings, theories, discussions, journals, etc.?
· What does it make you think about?
· How does it make you feel? Why?
· Does this make you think of any past experiences you might have had? What is the link? What about other current events?
|Now what?||What are you going to do as a result of your experience? This section is where you make connections from the experience and link it to further actions.
· What would you do differently / the same next time? Why?
· How will you apply what you have learnt?
· What are the key points/lessons learnt you would like to share?
· What kind of critical questions does this raise that you might want to pursue further?
|· Where might this reflection lead in the future? Feel free to ask questions or propose new connections here.|
Examples of Reflective Writing.
Example of student’s reflective writing using 4R’s model.
|Report / Respond||I’m particularly interested in environmental education and ways we can teach children to appreciate the natural world around them. At the primary school where I did my first placement, I observed a lesson where a place-based pedagogy (Orr 2013) was applied to a Year 6 class. In this class, the children went into their schoolyard where they collected plant samples, photographed flowers and wrote poems or drew pictures about the trees. I was really inspired by the way the class was organised and how the activities encouraged curiosity in the children.|
|Relate||My own learning experience of environmental education was very different to the experience these children enjoyed. For example, my educational history in natural science was experienced primarily through textbook learning. Unlike these children, my understanding of the environment was seen as separate to the environment around me. Orr (2013, p. 184) characterises text book learning like mine as the ‘abstraction’ of education. He believes abstracted learning emotionally detaches us from our connection to the natural world. To address the emotional disconnect between ourselves and the natural world, Orr encourages exploration of place as a ‘laboratory for learning’.|
|Reason||The children I observed remained engaged and motivated throughout their class. By having to draw what they saw, they noticed the shapes and structures of the plants, soil colours and changes and the place of plants and people within a larger ecosystem. Watching how the children physically engaged with the world around them, I felt they were establishing a deeper connection to nature. My observation of the children in this activity, reflects Orr’s (2013, p. 184) idea, that careful observation of the natural world can build a stronger ethical approaches towards environmental issues.|
|Reconstruct||When I compare the experience of observing the Year 6 class activity to my own experience of learning through textbooks, I can see how hands on teaching can inspire children to be more connected to their learning. I believe that curriculum planning and teaching needs to include activities that encourage students to be more involved in exploring the environment in which they live. As part of my future teaching practice, I intend to explore how hands-on, place-based pedagogy can contribute to educating children about the world around them and in turn build resilience in the face of environmental changes.|
Example of student’s reflective writing using “What? So what? Now what?” model.
|What?||Last week’s lecture presented the idea that science is the most powerful form of evidence. My position as a student studying both physics and law makes this an important issue for me and one I was thinking about while watching the ‘The New Inventors’ television program last Tuesday. The two ‘inventors’ (an odd name considering that, as Smith (2002) says, nobody thinks of things in a vacuum) were accompanied by their marketing people. The conversations were quite contrived, but also funny and enlightening.|
|So what?||I realised that the marketing people used a certain form of evidence to persuade the viewers (us?) of the value of the inventions. To them, this value was determined solely by whether something could be bought or sold—in other words, whether something was ‘marketable’. In contrast, the inventors seemed quite shy and reluctant to use anything more than technical language, almost as if this was the only evidence required – as if no further explanation was needed.|
|Now what?||This difference forced me to reflect on the aims of this course—how communication skills are not generic, but differ according to time and place. Like in the ‘Research Methodology’ textbook discussed in the first lecture, these communication skills are the result of a form of triangulation.|
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