Reflective Writing

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What is Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing models are used widely throughout academia in a number of different disciplines, from nursing to business studies. The practice refers to a learner reflecting on an experience and analysing how they coped with it. This could be an incident which has happened in a placement such as a ward or classroom or it may be a particularly tricky presentation you had to deliver. Reflective writing models can help give you structure or a ‘framework’ to that reflection to help you break down the experience in a comprehensive and methodical way. You are then able to learn from that experience, by assessing how you managed it, why you behaved in the way you did and learn how to improve or duplicate it in the future.

Benefits of Reflective Writing.

It is important that the reflective practice does not just take place for negative situations but also for situations where the outcome has been desirable, in order to repeat this or to help others to learn from your lead. Taking the time to reflect on a particularly difficult or successful situation can help you break down what exactly about that situation caused the reaction and encourages wider reading and learning about that situation. The idea of having ‘a good, hard think’ about a situation has proven to be unrivalled in terms of learning and gaining results from learning from our own actions. The actuality of putting this learning process into words is what reflective writing is based on, so our educators are able to see our progression and understand our thought processes.

Different Reflective Writing Models?

When it comes to following a reflective writing model, you have an abundance of choice available to you. There are a range of models available to learners and their styles and levels of depths are suited to everyone individually. What works for a learner on one course may not suit their colleague on the same course. It is up to you to select one most suited to your needs. Here are a few models listed which may help you start your selection process:

  • ERA Cycle (Experience, Reflection Action). Reference: Jasper, M. (2013). Beginning Reflective Practice. Andover: Cengage Learning.
  • Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle. Reference: Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.
  • Gibb’s Reflective Cycle. Reference: Gibbs, G. (1998) Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit, Oxford Polytechnic.
  • Driscoll’s What Model. Reference: Driscoll, J. (ed.) (2007) Practicing Clinical Supervision: A Reflective Approach for Healthcare Professionals. Edinburgh: Elsevier. based off of: Borton, T. (1970) Reach, Touch and Teach. London: Hutchinson.
  • Rolfe et al. Framework for reflective Learning. Reference: Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • John’s Model for Reflexive Learning. Reference: Johns, C. (1995). Framing learning through reflection within Carper’s fundamental ways of knowing in nursing. Journal of advanced nursing, 22(2), 226-234.

As you will see, some of these models were more designed towards a certain field (for example, nursing and healthcare) and yet have grown and have become applicable to many other areas of study, lending themselves to reflective practice in any field of study. The structure remains the same, simply applied in a different way. If engaged with correctly, it will allow the same level of reflection and learning as in the original field it was designed for.

Common Mistakes with Reflective Writing

Reflective writing is a constructive process when done correctly. Common mistakes can be made when a learner engages too lightly with a reflective process. For example, when Gibb’s Reflective Cycle asks you to reflect on your feelings regarding the experience, it is easy to say you felt happy/ sad/ frustrated/ overwhelmed or out of your depth; what is less is easy in assessing why you felt that way and the actions that led to those feelings. Engaging critically is a skill required throughout academia and applying it to reflection is no exception. Reading further to see how others have engaged deeply in the thought process and how you can deepen your critical reflection by thinking about the circumstances surrounding and what led to that situation and how and why you reacted in the way you did gives you big points with your markers and really aids your learning process.

Reflective writing is a learnt skill, and it can sometimes be hard to reflect on an experience within these confines or to put the experience into a chronology that fits into the mould of your selected reflective model. It is important you explore and experiment with different reflective writing models to see which one works best for you.


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