Reflective writing: Reflective questioning

  • What is reflection? Why do it?
  • What does reflection involve?

Reflective questioning

  • Reflective writing for academic assessment
  • Types of reflective assignments
  • Differences between discursive and reflective writing
  • Sources of evidence for reflective writing assignments
  • Linking theory to experience
  • Reflective essays
  • Portfolios and learning journals, logs and diaries
  • Examples of reflective writing
  • Video summary
  • Bibliography

On this page:

“...reflection does not necessarily just happen but conditions can be structured to encourage it to happen” Moon, Reflection in learning & professional development

Reflective thinking should always start with the six strategic questions:

Examples of reflective questions

What prior knowledge did I have?

How did I act during the event?

What did I learn from the event that I did not know before?

What links can I make between my experience and other events/ideas from my studies or workplace?

How can I use the knowledge I have gained from this event/experience in the future?

Are there other interpretations of the event? Do I need to consider them?

What are the implications of what happened?

If I distance myself from the event and observe my reactions to it, does it change my perspective?

Based on what I have learned, how should I act in future?

What other information do I need in order to understand the implications of the event?

What is the best way to go forward?

Looking back, would I have done things differently?  If so, what and why? If not, why not?

A student self questioning

Structuring your reflective thoughts

As an exercise in reflective thinking, choose an experience and try to organise your thoughts into this table. This is based on the model from the previous page. The questions below are there to help guide you through your reflection. Note: If you fill in these boxes this page will not store your answers.

Tip: When you are asked to keep a learning log/journal/diary as part of a portfolio or assignment for your course, the above format will help you to reflect on, rather than simply describe, your experience.

As suggested on the previous page, critical thinking is an important part of reflection. The reflective questions on this page can be used as a base for deconstructing your own experiences and the form above is a simple example of how you can structure reflection.

The experience (1), think (2), learn (3) model is very useful for applying to portfolios and simple assignments. The next page will introduce theoretical approaches to reflective practice that can be used to structure reflections that are more detailed.

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  • Last Updated: Jan 19, 2024 10:56 AM
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Writing Beginner

What Is Reflective Writing? (Explained W/ 20+ Examples)

I’ll admit, reflecting on my experiences used to seem pointless—now, I can’t imagine my routine without it.

What is reflective writing?

Reflective writing is a personal exploration of experiences, analyzing thoughts, feelings, and learnings to gain insights. It involves critical thinking, deep analysis, and focuses on personal growth through structured reflection on past events.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about reflective writing — with lots of examples.

What Is Reflective Writing (Long Description)?

A serene and introspective setting with a man writing -- What Is Reflective Writing

Table of Contents

Reflective writing is a method used to examine and understand personal experiences more deeply.

This kind of writing goes beyond mere description of events or tasks.

Instead, it involves looking back on these experiences, analyzing them, and learning from them.

It’s a process that encourages you to think critically about your actions, decisions, emotions, and responses.

By reflecting on your experiences, you can identify areas for improvement, make connections between theory and practice, and enhance your personal and professional development. Reflective writing is introspective, but it should also be analytical and critical.

It’s not just about what happened.

It’s about why it happened, how it affected you, and what you can learn from it.

This type of writing is commonly used in education, professional development, and personal growth, offering a way for individuals to gain insights into their personal experiences and behaviors.

Types of Reflective Writing

Reflective writing can take many forms, each serving different purposes and providing various insights into the writer’s experiences.

Here are ten types of reflective writing, each with a unique focus and approach.

Journaling – The Daily Reflection

Journaling is a type of reflective writing that involves keeping a daily or regular record of experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

It’s a private space where you can freely express yourself and reflect on your day-to-day life.

Example: Today, I realized that the more I try to control outcomes, the less control I feel. Letting go isn’t about giving up; it’s about understanding that some things are beyond my grasp.

Example: Reflecting on the quiet moments of the morning, I realized how much I value stillness before the day begins. It’s a reminder to carve out space for peace in my routine.

Learning Logs – The Educational Tracker

Learning logs are used to reflect on educational experiences, track learning progress, and identify areas for improvement.

They often focus on specific learning objectives or outcomes.

Example: This week, I struggled with understanding the concept of reflective writing. However, after reviewing examples and actively engaging in the process, I’m beginning to see how it can deepen my learning.

Example: After studying the impact of historical events on modern society, I see the importance of understanding history to navigate the present. It’s a lesson in the power of context.

Critical Incident Journals – The Turning Point

Critical incident journals focus on a significant event or “critical incident” that had a profound impact on the writer’s understanding or perspective.

These incidents are analyzed in depth to extract learning and insights.

Example: Encountering a homeless person on my way home forced me to confront my biases and assumptions about homelessness. It was a moment of realization that has since altered my perspective on social issues.

Example: Missing a crucial deadline taught me about the consequences of procrastination and the value of time management. It was a wake-up call to prioritize and organize better.

Project Diaries – The Project Chronicle

Project diaries are reflective writings that document the progress, challenges, and learnings of a project over time.

They provide insights into decision-making processes and project management strategies.

Example: Launching the community garden project was more challenging than anticipated. It taught me the importance of community engagement and the value of patience and persistence.

Example: Overcoming unexpected technical issues during our project showed me the importance of adaptability and teamwork. Every obstacle became a stepping stone to innovation.

Portfolios – The Comprehensive Showcase

Portfolios are collections of work that also include reflective commentary.

They showcase the writer’s achievements and learning over time, reflecting on both successes and areas for development.

Example: Reviewing my portfolio, I’m proud of how much I’ve grown as a designer. Each project reflects a step in my journey, highlighting my evolving style and approach.

Example: As I added my latest project to my portfolio, I reflected on the journey of my skills evolving. Each piece is a chapter in my story of growth and learning.

Peer Reviews – The Collaborative Insight

Peer reviews involve writing reflectively about the work of others, offering constructive feedback while also considering one’s own learning and development.

Example: Reviewing Maria’s project, I admired her innovative approach, which inspired me to think more creatively about my own work. It’s a reminder of the value of diverse perspectives.

Example: Seeing the innovative approach my peer took on a similar project inspired me to rethink my own methods. It’s a testament to the power of sharing knowledge and perspectives.

Personal Development Plans – The Future Blueprint

Personal development plans are reflective writings that outline goals, strategies, and actions for personal or professional growth.

They include reflections on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Example: My goal to become a more effective communicator will require me to step out of my comfort zone and seek opportunities to speak publicly. It’s daunting but necessary for my growth.

Example: Identifying my fear of public speaking in my plan pushed me to take a course on it. Acknowledging weaknesses is the first step to turning them into strengths.

Reflective Essays – The Structured Analysis

Reflective essays are more formal pieces of writing that analyze personal experiences in depth.

They require a structured approach to reflection, often including theories or models to frame the reflection.

Example: Reflecting on my leadership role during the group project, I applied Tuckman’s stages of group development to understand the dynamics at play. It helped me appreciate the natural progression of team development.

Example: In my essay, reflecting on a failed project helped me understand the role of resilience in success. Failure isn’t the opposite of success; it’s part of its process.

Reflective Letters – The Personal Correspondence

Reflective letters involve writing to someone (real or imagined) about personal experiences and learnings.

It’s a way to articulate thoughts and feelings in a structured yet personal format.

Example: Dear Future Self, Today, I learned the importance of resilience. Faced with failure, I found the strength to persevere a nd try again. This lesson, I hope, will stay with me as I navigate the challenges ahead.

Example: Writing a letter to my past self, I shared insights on overcoming challenges with patience and persistence. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come and the hurdles I’ve overcome.

Blogs – The Public Journal

Blogs are a form of reflective writing that allows writers to share their experiences, insights, and learnings with a wider audience.

They often combine personal narrative with broader observations about life, work, or society.

Example: In my latest blog post, I explored the journey of embracing vulnerability. Sharing my own experiences of failure and doubt not only helped me process these feelings but also connected me with readers going through similar struggles. It’s a powerful reminder of the strength found in sharing our stories.

Example: In a blog post about starting a new career path, I shared the fears and excitement of stepping into the unknown. It’s a journey of self-discovery and embracing new challenges.

What Are the Key Features of Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing is characterized by several key features that distinguish it from other types of writing.

These features include personal insight, critical analysis, descriptive narrative, and a focus on personal growth.

  • Personal Insight: Reflective writing is deeply personal, focusing on the writer’s internal thoughts, feelings, and reactions. It requires introspection and a willingness to explore one’s own experiences in depth.
  • Critical Analysis: Beyond simply describing events, reflective writing involves analyzing these experiences. This means looking at the why and how, not just the what. It involves questioning, evaluating, and interpreting your experiences in relation to yourself, others, and the world.
  • Descriptive Narrative: While reflective writing is analytical, it also includes descriptive elements. Vivid descriptions of experiences, thoughts, and feelings help to convey the depth of the reflection.
  • Focus on Growth: A central aim of reflective writing is to foster personal or professional growth. It involves identifying lessons learned, recognizing patterns, and considering how to apply insights gained to future situations.

These features combine to make reflective writing a powerful tool for learning and development.

It’s a practice that encourages writers to engage deeply with their experiences, challenge their assumptions, and grow from their reflections.

What Is the Structure of Reflective Writing?

The structure of reflective writing can vary depending on the context and purpose, but it typically follows a general pattern that facilitates deep reflection.

A common structure includes an introduction, a body that outlines the experience and the reflection on it, and a conclusion.

  • Introduction: The introduction sets the stage for the reflective piece. It briefly introduces the topic or experience being reflected upon and may include a thesis statement that outlines the main insight or theme of the reflection.
  • Body: The body is where the bulk of the reflection takes place. It often follows a chronological order, detailing the experience before moving into the reflection. This section should explore the writer’s thoughts, feelings, reactions, and insights related to the experience. It’s also where critical analysis comes into play, examining causes, effects, and underlying principles.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion wraps up the reflection, summarizing the key insights gained and considering how these learnings might apply to future situations. It’s an opportunity to reflect on personal growth and the broader implications of the experience.

This structure is flexible and can be adapted to suit different types of reflective writing.

However, the focus should always be on creating a coherent narrative that allows for deep personal insight and learning.

How Do You Start Reflective Writing?

Starting reflective writing can be challenging, as it requires diving into personal experiences and emotions.

Here are some tips to help initiate the reflective writing process:

  • Choose a Focus: Start by selecting an experience or topic to reflect upon. It could be a specific event, a general period in your life, a project you worked on, or even a book that made a significant impact on you.
  • Reflect on Your Feelings: Think about how the experience made you feel at the time and how you feel about it now. Understanding your emotional response is a crucial part of reflective writing.
  • Ask Yourself Questions: Begin by asking yourself questions related to the experience. What did you learn from it? How did it challenge your assumptions? How has it influenced your thinking or behavior?
  • Write a Strong Opening: Your first few sentences should grab the reader’s attention and clearly indicate what you will be reflecting on. You can start with a striking fact, a question, a quote, or a vivid description of a moment from the experience.
  • Keep It Personal: Remember that reflective writing is personal. Use “I” statements to express your thoughts, feelings, and insights. This helps to maintain the focus on your personal experience and learning journey.

Here is a video about reflective writing that I think you’ll like:

Reflective Writing Toolkit

Finding the right tools and resources has been key to deepening my reflections and enhancing my self-awareness.

Here’s a curated toolkit that has empowered my own reflective practice:

  • Journaling Apps: Apps like Day One or Reflectly provide structured formats for daily reflections, helping to capture thoughts and feelings on the go.
  • Digital Notebooks: Tools like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote allow for organized, searchable reflections that can include text, images, and links.
  • Writing Prompts: Websites like WritingPrompts.com offer endless ideas to spark reflective writing, making it easier to start when you’re feeling stuck.
  • Mind Mapping Software: Platforms like MindMeister help organize thoughts visually, which can be especially helpful for reflective planning or brainstorming.
  • Blogging Platforms: Sites like WordPress or Medium offer a space to share reflective writings publicly, fostering community and feedback. You’ll need a hosting platform. I recommend Bluehost or Hostarmada for beginners.
  • Guided Meditation Apps: Apps such as Headspace or Calm can support reflective writing by clearing the mind and fostering a reflective state before writing.
  • Audio Recording Apps: Tools like Otter.ai not only allow for verbal reflection but also transcribe conversations, which can then be reflected upon in writing.
  • Time Management Apps: Resources like Forest or Pomodoro Technique apps help set dedicated time for reflection, making it a regular part of your routine.
  • Creative Writing Software: Platforms like Scrivener cater to more in-depth reflective projects, providing extensive organizing and formatting options.
  • Research Databases: Access to journals and articles through databases like Google Scholar can enrich reflective writing with theoretical frameworks and insights.

Final Thoughts: What Is Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing, at its core, is a deeply personal practice.

Yet, it also holds the potential to bridge cultural divides. By sharing reflective writings that explore personal experiences through the lens of different cultural backgrounds, we can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of diverse worldviews.

Read This Next:

  • What Is a Prompt in Writing? (Ultimate Guide + 200 Examples)
  • What Is A Personal Account In Writing? (47 Examples)
  • Why Does Academic Writing Require Strict Formatting?
  • What Is A Lens In Writing? (The Ultimate Guide)

Banner

Reflective practice - tips and resources

Introduction.

  • Everyday reflection
  • Models of reflection
  • Barriers to reflection
  • Free writing
  • Reflective writing exercise
  • Further reading

Many people worry that they will be unable to write reflectively but chances are that you do it more than you think!  It's a common task during both work and study from appraisal and planning documents to recording observations at the end of a module. The following pages will guide you through some simple techniques for reflective writing as well as how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

What is reflective writing?

Writing reflectively involves critically analysing an experience, recording how it has impacted you and what you plan to do with your new knowledge. It can help you to reflect on a deeper level as the act of getting something down on paper often helps people to think an experience through.

The key to reflective writing is to be analytical rather than descriptive. Always ask why rather than just describing what happened during an experience. 

Remember...

You can learn more about reflective writing in this handy video from Hull University:

Created by SkillsTeamHullUni

Where might you use reflective writing?

You can use reflective writing in many aspects of your work, study and even everyday life. The activities below all contain some aspect of reflective writing and are common to many people:

Think about ... When you reflect

Think about all of the activities you do on a daily basis. Do any of these contain elements of reflective writing? Make a list of all the times you have written something reflective over the last month - it will be longer than you think!

Reflective terminology

A common mistake people make when writing reflectively is to focus too much on describing their experience. Think about some of the phrases below and try to use them when writing reflectively to help you avoid this problem:

Always try and write in the first person when writing reflectively. This will help you to focus on your thoughts/feelings/experiences rather than just a description of the experience.

Using reflective writing in your academic work

Many courses will also expect you to reflect on your own learning as you progress through a particular programme. You may be asked to keep some type of reflective journal or diary. Depending on the needs of your course this may or may not be assessed but if you are using one it's important to write reflectively. This can help you to look back and see how your thinking has evolved over time - something useful for job applications in the future. Students at all levels may also be asked to reflect on the work of others, either as part of a group project or through peer review of their work. This requires a slightly different approach to reflection as you are not focused on your own work but again this is a useful skill to develop for the workplace.

You can see some useful examples of reflective writing in academia from California State University Channel Islands , Monash University ,  UNSW and Sage . Several of these examples also include feedback from tutors which you can use to inform your own work.

Laptop/computer/broswer/research by StockSnap via Pixabay licenced under CC0.

Now that you have a better idea of what reflective writing is and how it can be used it's time to practice some techniques.

This page has given you an understanding of what reflective writing is and where it can be used in both work and study. Now that you have a better idea of how reflective writing works the next two pages will guide you through some activities you can use to get started.

  • << Previous: Barriers to reflection
  • Next: Free writing >>
  • Last Updated: Apr 11, 2024 9:54 AM
  • URL: https://lit.libguides.com/reflective-practice-tips

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Reflective practice toolkit, introduction.

  • What is reflective practice?
  • Everyday reflection
  • Models of reflection
  • Barriers to reflection
  • Free writing
  • Reflective writing exercise
  • Bibliography

reflective writing questions

Many people worry that they will be unable to write reflectively but chances are that you do it more than you think!  It's a common task during both work and study from appraisal and planning documents to recording observations at the end of a module. The following pages will guide you through some simple techniques for reflective writing as well as how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

What is reflective writing?

Writing reflectively involves critically analysing an experience, recording how it has impacted you and what you plan to do with your new knowledge. It can help you to reflect on a deeper level as the act of getting something down on paper often helps people to think an experience through.

The key to reflective writing is to be analytical rather than descriptive. Always ask why rather than just describing what happened during an experience. 

Remember...

Reflective writing is...

  • Written in the first person
  • Free flowing
  • A tool to challenge assumptions
  • A time investment

Reflective writing isn't...

  • Written in the third person
  • Descriptive
  • What you think you should write
  • A tool to ignore assumptions
  • A waste of time

Adapted from The Reflective Practice Guide: an Interdisciplinary Approach / Barbara Bassot.

You can learn more about reflective writing in this handy video from Hull University:

Created by SkillsTeamHullUni

  • Hull reflective writing video transcript (Word)
  • Hull reflective writing video transcript (PDF)

Where might you use reflective writing?

You can use reflective writing in many aspects of your work, study and even everyday life. The activities below all contain some aspect of reflective writing and are common to many people:

1. Job applications

Both preparing for and writing job applications contain elements of reflective writing. You need to think about the experience that makes you suitable for a role and this means reflection on the skills you have developed and how they might relate to the specification. When writing your application you need to expand on what you have done and explain what you have learnt and why this matters - key elements of reflective writing.

2. Appraisals

In a similar way, undertaking an appraisal is a good time to reflect back on a certain period of time in post. You might be asked to record what went well and why as well as identifying areas for improvement.

3. Written feedback

If you have made a purchase recently you are likely to have received a request for feedback. When you leave a review of a product or service online then you need to think about the pros and cons. You may also have gone into detail about why the product was so good or the service was so bad so other people know how to judge it in the future.

4. Blogging

Blogs are a place to offer your own opinion and can be a really good place to do some reflective writing. Blogger often take a view on something and use their site as a way to share it with the world. They will often talk about the reasons why they like/dislike something - classic reflective writing.

5. During the research process

When researchers are working on a project they will often think about they way they are working and how it could be improved as well as considering different approaches to achieve their research goal. They will often record this in some way such as in a lab book and this questioning approach is a form of reflective writing.

6. In academic writing

Many students will be asked to include some form of reflection in an academic assignment, for example when relating a topic to their real life circumstances. They are also often asked to think about their opinion on or reactions to texts and other research and write about this in their own work.

Think about ... When you reflect

Think about all of the activities you do on a daily basis. Do any of these contain elements of reflective writing? Make a list of all the times you have written something reflective over the last month - it will be longer than you think!

Reflective terminology

A common mistake people make when writing reflectively is to focus too much on describing their experience. Think about some of the phrases below and try to use them when writing reflectively to help you avoid this problem:

  • The most important thing was...
  • At the time I felt...
  • This was likely due to...
  • After thinking about it...
  • I learned that...
  • I need to know more about...
  • Later I realised...
  • This was because...
  • This was like...
  • I wonder what would happen if...
  • I'm still unsure about...
  • My next steps are...

Always try and write in the first person when writing reflectively. This will help you to focus on your thoughts/feelings/experiences rather than just a description of the experience.

Using reflective writing in your academic work

Man writing in a notebook at a desk with laptop

Many courses will also expect you to reflect on your own learning as you progress through a particular programme. You may be asked to keep some type of reflective journal or diary. Depending on the needs of your course this may or may not be assessed but if you are using one it's important to write reflectively. This can help you to look back and see how your thinking has evolved over time - something useful for job applications in the future. Students at all levels may also be asked to reflect on the work of others, either as part of a group project or through peer review of their work. This requires a slightly different approach to reflection as you are not focused on your own work but again this is a useful skill to develop for the workplace.

You can see some useful examples of reflective writing in academia from Monash University ,  UNSW (the University of New South Wales) and Sage . Several of these examples also include feedback from tutors which you can use to inform your own work.

Laptop/computer/broswer/research by StockSnap via Pixabay licenced under CC0.

Now that you have a better idea of what reflective writing is and how it can be used it's time to practice some techniques.

This page has given you an understanding of what reflective writing is and where it can be used in both work and study. Now that you have a better idea of how reflective writing works the next two pages will guide you through some activities you can use to get started.

  • << Previous: Barriers to reflection
  • Next: Free writing >>
  • Last Updated: Jun 21, 2023 3:24 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.cam.ac.uk/reflectivepracticetoolkit

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Reflective writing.

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Writing reflectively is essential to many academic programmes and also to completing applications for employment. This page considers what reflective writing is and how to do it. 

What is reflection?

Reflection is something that we do everyday as part of being human. We plan and undertake actions, then think about whether each was successful or not, and how we might improve next time. We can also feel reflection as emotions, such as satisfaction and regret, or as a need to talk over happenings with friends. See below for an introduction to reflection as a concept. 

Reflection in everyday life [Google Slides]

Google Doc

What is reflective writing?

Reflective writing should be thought of as recording reflective thinking. This can be done in an everyday diary entry, or instruction in a recipe book to change a cooking method next time. In academic courses, reflective is more complex and focussed. This section considers the main features of reflective writing. 

Reflective writing for employability

When applying for jobs, or further academic study, students are required to think through what they have done in their degrees and translate it into evaluative writing that fulfils the criteria of job descriptions and person specifications. This is a different style of writing, the resource below will enable you to think about how to begin this transition. 

There are also lots of resources available through the university's careers service and elsewhere on the Skills Guides. The links below are to pages that can offer further support and guidance. 

reflective writing questions

  • Careers and Placements Service resources Lots of resources that relate to all aspects of job applications, including tailored writing styles and techniques.

The language of reflective writing

Reflective academic writing is: 

  • almost always written in the first person.
  • evaluative - you are judging something.
  • partly personal, partly based on criteria.
  • analytical - you are usually categorising actions and events.
  • formal - it is for an academic audience.
  • carefully constructed. 

Look at the sections below to see specific vocabulary types and sentence constructions that can be useful when writing reflectively. 

Language for exploring outcomes

A key element of writing reflectively is being able to explain to the reader what the results of your actions were. This requires careful grading of language to ensure that what you write reflects the evidence of what happened and to convey clearly what you achieved or did not achieve. 

Below are some ideas and prompts of how you can write reflectively about outcomes, using clarity and graded language. 

Expressing uncertainty when writing about outcomes:

  • It is not yet clear that…
  • I do not yet (fully) understand...
  • It is unclear...
  • It is not yet fully clear...
  • It is not yet (fully?) known… 
  • It appears to be the case that…
  • It is too soon to tell....

Often, in academic learning, the uncertainty in the outcomes is a key part of the learning and development that you undertake. It is vital therefore that you explain this clearly to the reader using careful choices in your language. 

Writing about how the outcome relates to you:

  • I gained (xxxx) skills… 
  • I developed… 
  • The experience/task/process taught me… 
  • I achieved…
  • I learned that…
  • I found that… 

In each case you can add in words like, ‘significantly’, ‘greatly’, ‘less importantly’ etc. The use of evaluative adjectives enables you to express to the reader the importance and significance of your learning in terms of the outcomes achieved. 

Describing how you reached your outcomes:

  • Having read....
  • Having completed (xxxx)...
  • I analysed…
  • I applied… 
  • I learned…
  • I experienced… 
  • Having reflected…

This gives the reader an idea of the nature of the reflection they are reading. How and why you reach the conclusions and learning that you express in your reflective writing is important so the reader can assess the validity and strength of your reflections. 

Projecting your outcomes into the future:

  • If I completed a similar task in the future I would…
  • Having learned through this process I would… 
  • Next time I will…
  • I will need to develop…. (in light of the outcomes)
  • Next time my responses would be different....

When showing the reader how you will use your learning in the future, it is important to be specific and again, to use accurate graded language to show how and why what you choose to highlight matters. Check carefully against task instructions to see what you are expected to reflect into the future about. 

When reflecting in academic writing on outcomes, this can mean either the results of the task you have completed, for example, the accuracy of a titration in a Chemistry lab session, or what you have learned/developed within the task, for example, ensuring that an interview question is written clearly enough to produce a response that reflects what you wished to find out. 

Language choices are important in ensuring the reader can see what you think in relation to the reflection you have done. 

Language for interpretation

When you interpret something you are telling the reader how important it is, or what meaning is attached to it. 

You may wish to indicate the value of something:

  • superfluous
  • non-essential

E.g. 'the accuracy of the transcription was essential to the accuracy of the eventual coding and analysis of the interviews undertaken. The training I undertook was critical to enabling me to transcribe quickly and accurately' 

You may wish to show how ideas, actions or some other aspect developed over time:

  • Initially 
  • subsequently
  • in sequence 

E.g. 'Before we could produce the final version of the presentation, we had to complete both the research and produce a plan. This was achieved later than expected, leading to subsequent rushing of creating slides, and this contributed to a lower grade'. 

You may wish to show your viewpoint or that of others:

  • did not think
  • articulated
  • did/did not do something

Each of these could be preceded by 'we' or 'I'.

E.g. 'I noticed that the model of the bridge was sagging. I expressed this to the group, and as I did so I noticed that two members did not seem to grasp how serious the problem was. I proposed a break and a meeting, during which I intervened to show the results of inaction.'

There is a huge range of language that can be used for interpretation, the most important thing is to remember your reader and be clear with them about what your interpretation is, so they can see your thinking and agree or disagree with you. 

Language for analysis

When reflecting, it is important to show the reader that you have analysed the tasks, outcomes, learning and all other aspects that you are writing about. In most cases, you are using categories to provide structure to your reflection. Some suggestions of language to use when analysing in reflective writing are below:

Signposting that you are breaking down a task or learning into categories:

  • An aspect of…
  • An element of…
  • An example of…
  • A key feature of the task was... (e.g. teamwork)
  • The task was multifaceted… (then go on to list or describe the facets)
  • There were several experiences…
  • ‘X’ is related to ‘y’

There may be specific categories that you should consider in your reflection. In teamwork, it could be individual and team performance, in lab work it could be accuracy and the reliability of results. It is important that the reader can see the categories you have used for your analysis. 

Analysis by chronology:

  • Subsequently
  • Consequently
  • Stage 1 (or other)

In many tasks the order in which they were completed matters. This can be a key part of your reflection, as it is possible that you may learn to do things in a different order next time or that the chronology influenced the outcomes. 

Analysis by perspective:

  • I considered

These language choices show that you are analysing purely by your own personal perspective. You may provide evidence to support your thinking, but it is your viewpoint that matters. 

  • What I expected from the reading did not happen…
  • The Theory did not appear in our results…
  • The predictions made were not fulfilled…
  • The outcome was surprising because… (and link to what was expected)

These language choices show that you are analysing by making reference to academic learning (from an academic perspective). This means you have read or otherwise learned something and used it to form expectations, ideas and/or predictions. You can then reflect on what you found vs what you expected. The reader needs to know what has informed our reflections. 

  • Organisation X should therefore…
  • A key recommendation is… 
  • I now know that organisation x is… 
  • Theory A can be applied to organisation X

These language choices show that analysis is being completed from a systems perspective. You are telling the reader how your learning links into the bigger picture of systems, for example, what an organisation or entity might do in response to what you have learned. 

Analysing is a key element of being reflective. You must think through the task, ideas, or learning you are reflecting on and use categories to provide structure to your thought. This then translates into structure and language choices in your writing, so your reader can see clearly how you have used analysis to provide sense and structure to your reflections. 

Language for evaluation

Reflecting is fundamentally an evaluative activity. Writing about reflection is therefore replete with evaluative language. A skillful reflective writer is able to grade their language to match the thinking it is expressing to the reader. 

Language to show how significant something is:

  • Most importantly
  • Significantly 
  • The principal lesson was… 
  • Consequential
  • Fundamental
  • Insignificant
  • In each case the language is quantifying the significance of the element you are describing, telling the reader the product of your evaluative thought. 

For example, ‘when team working I initially thought that we would succeed by setting out a plan and then working independently, but in fact, constant communication and collaboration were crucial to success. This was the most significant thing I learned.’ 

Language to show the strength of relationships:

  • X is strongly associated with Y
  • A is a consequence of B
  • There is a probable relationship between… 
  • C does not cause D
  • A may influence B
  • I learn most strongly when doing A

In each case the language used can show how significant and strong the relationship between two factors are. 

For example, ‘I learned, as part of my research methods module, that the accuracy of the data gained through surveys is directly related to the quality of the questions. Quality can be improved by reading widely and looking at surveys in existing academic papers to inform making your own questions’

Language to evaluate your viewpoint:

  • I was convinced...
  • I have developed significantly…
  • I learned that...
  • The most significant thing that I learned was…
  • Next time, I would definitely…
  • I am unclear about… 
  • I was uncertain about… 

These language choices show that you are attaching a level of significance to your reflection. This enables the reader to see what you think about the learning you achieved and the level of significance you attach to each reflection. 

For example, ‘when using systematic sampling of a mixed woodland, I was convinced that method A would be most effective, but in reality, it was clear that method B produced the most accurate results. I learned that assumptions based on reading previous research can lead to inaccurate predictions. This is very important for me as I will be planning a similar sampling activity as part of my fourth year project’ 

Evaluating is the main element of reflecting. You need to evaluate the outcomes of the activities you have done, your part in them, the learning you achieved and the process/methods you used in your learning, among many other things. It is important that you carefully use language to show the evaluative thinking you have completed to the reader.

Varieties of reflective writing in academic studies

There are a huge variety of reflective writing tasks, which differ between programmes and modules. Some are required by the nature of the subject, like in Education, where reflection is a required standard in teaching.

Some are required by the industry area graduates are training for, such as 'Human Resources Management', where the industry accreditation body require evidence of reflective capabilities in graduates.

In some cases, reflection is about the 'learning to learn' element of degree studies, to help you to become a more effective learner. Below, some of the main reflective writing tasks found in University of York degrees are explored. In each case the advice, guidance and materials do not substitute for those provided within your modules. 

Reflective essay writing

Reflective essay tasks vary greatly in what they require of you. The most important thing to do is to read the assessment brief carefully, attend any sessions and read any materials provided as guidance and to allocate time to ensure you can do the task well.

Google Slides

Reflective learning statements

Reflective learning statements are often attached to dissertations and projects, as well as practical activities. They are an opportunity to think about and tell the reader what you have learned, how you will use the learning, what you can do better next time and to link to other areas, such as your intended career. 

Making a judgement about academic performance

Think of this type of writing as producing your own feedback. How did you do? Why? What could you improve next time? These activities may be a part of modules, they could be attached to a bigger piece of work like a dissertation or essay, or could be just a part of your module learning. 

The four main questions to ask yourself when reflecting on your academic performance. 

  • Why exactly did you achieve the grade you have been awarded? Look at your feedback, the instructions, the marking scheme and talk to your tutors to find out if you don't know. 
  • How did your learning behaviours affect your academic performance? This covers aspects such as attendance, reading for lectures/seminars, asking questions, working with peers... the list goes on. 
  • How did your performance compare to others? Can you identify when others did better or worse? Can you talk to your peers to find out if they are doing something you are not or being more/less effective?
  • What can you do differently to improve your performance? In each case, how will you ensure you can do it? Do you need training? Do you need a guide book or resources? 

When writing about each of the above, you need to keep in mind the context of how you are being asked to judge your performance and ensure the reader gains the detail they need (and as this is usually a marker, this means they can give you a high grade!). 

Writing a learning diary/blog/record

A learning diary or blog has become a very common method of assessing and supporting learning in many degree programmes. The aim is to help you to think through your day-to-day learning and identify what you have and have not learned, why that is and what you can improve as you go along. You are also encouraged to link your learning to bigger thinking, like future careers or your overall degree. 

Other support for reflective writing

Online resources.

The general writing pages of this site offer guidance that can be applied to all types of writing, including reflective writing. Also check your department's guidance and VLE sites for tailored resources.

Other useful resources for reflective writing:

reflective writing questions

Appointments and workshops 

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Reflective writing

Advice on how to write reflectively.

Reflective writing gives you an opportunity to think deeply about something you've learned or an experience you've had.

Watch the video below for a quick introduction to reflective writing. The video includes an example of reflecting on practice, but the approach is equally useful when reflecting on theory.

Video tutorial

Reflecting on practice.

Reflective writing may ask you to consider the link between theory (what you study, discuss and read about at university) and practice (what you do, the application of the theory in the workplace). Reflection on practical contexts enables you to explore the relationship between theory and practice in an authentic and concrete way.

"Yesterday’s class brought Vygotsky’s concepts of scaffolding and the ‘significant other’ into sharp focus for me. Without instruction, ‘Emily’ was able to scaffold ‘Emma’s’ solving of the Keystone Puzzle without directing her or supplying her with the answer – she acted as the ‘significant other’. It really highlighted for me the fact that I do not always have to directly be involved in students’ learning, and that students have learning and knowledge they bring to the classroom context."

What this example does well:

  • Links theory to practice.
  • Clearly states where learning occurred.

De-identify actual people you have observed or dealt with on placement or work experience using pseudonyms (other names, job titles, initials or even numbers so that real identities are protected). E.g.:

  • "It was great to observe ‘Lee’ try to..."
  • "Our team leader’s response was positive…"
  • "I observed G’s reaction to this..."
  • "Student Four felt that this was…"

"The lectures and tutes this semester have broadened my views of what sustainability is and the different scales by which we can view it . I learned that sustainability is not only something that differs at an individual level in terms of how we approach it ourselves, but also how it differs in scale. We might look at what we do individually to act sustainably, such as in what and how we recycle, but when we think about how a city or state does this, we need to consider pollution, rubbish collection and a range of other systems that point to sustainability on a much larger scale."

  • Clearly states where learning occurred
  • Elaborates on key issues
  • Gives examples.

"On the ward rounds yesterday, I felt Mr G’s mobility had noticeably improved from last week. This may be due to the altered physio program we have implemented and it allowed me to experience a real feeling of satisfaction that I had made a real difference."

Action verbs are usually expressing feelings and thoughts in reflective writing, e.g. felt, thought, considered, experienced, wondered, remembered, discovered, learned.

Reflecting on theory

Some reflection tasks are purely theoretical, where you are asked to consider texts you have read, or ideas you may have discussed in tutorials, and reflect on them.

"Comparing the approaches of Mayr and Ulich (2009) and Laevers (2005) to what 'wellbeing' means for the early childhood setting was very illustrative in that I discovered they seek to do similar things but within different frameworks. Analysing the two constructs highlighted that the detail in Mayr and Ulich’s framework provided a much richer framework in defining and measuring wellbeing than Laevers’ does."

  • References correctly.
  • Considers what the theory has shown.

Using the DIEP model

When writing reflectively for the first time, it’s not uncommon to produce a summary or description of the event or experience without deeply reflecting on it.

Reflective writing needs to go beyond simply summarising what happened. Your reader needs to gain an insight into what the experience meant to you, how you feel about it, how it connects to other things you’ve experienced or studied and what you plan to do in response.

To be sure you don’t leave out any of these critical elements of reflection, consider writing using the describe, interpret, evaluate, plan (DIEP) model to help.

DIEP approach adapted from: RMIT Study and Learning Centre. (2010). Reflective writing: DIEP .

You can and should refer to yourself in your reflection using personal pronouns, e.g. I, we...

Begin by describing the situation. What did you see, hear, do, read or see? Be as brief and objective as possible.

Starting phrases:

  • The most interesting insight from my lecture this week is ...
  • A significant issue I had not realised until now is ...
  • I now realise (understand ...) that ...

Interpret what happened. What new insights have you gained? How does this experience connect with other things you’ve learned or experienced before? How did the experience make you feel?

  • This experience idea is relevant to me because…
  • This reminded me of the idea that…
  • A possible implication could be…

Make a judgement. How useful was this experience for you? What is your opinion? Why do you think this might be?

  • Having realised the importance of ..., I can now understand…
  • This experience will change the way I view ...
  • Being able to see… in this way is extremely valuable for me because…

Comment on how this experience might inform your future thoughts or actions. How could you apply what you’ve learned from the experience in the future? How might the experience relate to your degree or future professional life?

  • This is beneficial to me as my future career requires…  
  • In order to further develop this skill…I will…
  • Next time…I will…by…

[TS] The most surprising insight I have gained so far is how important recording and distributing succinct and accurate information is to the success of the project. [D] In the first week of my internship, I was asked to record some meeting minutes and distribute them to the project team and the client. [I] I initially felt offended as the task appeared trivial to me; it was something we rarely did during team meetings at university. [E] However, after speaking with my industry supervisor, I began to understand how important it is to keep a clear record of the meaningful points raised during meetings. [I] Making accurate notes of the key outcomes was harder than I expected as the rest of my team was relying on my minutes to know what they needed to do. [D]After reviewing my minutes, my supervisor agreed that they were sufficiently clear and accurate. [I] I’ve realised that poorly recorded minutes could have resulted in missed deadlines, miscommunication and costly implications for our contract. [P] To improve my ability to take notes I plan on reviewing the minutes made by my colleagues for other meetings and to investigate note taking techniques such as mind mapping (Trevelyan, 2014). Mind mapping uses links and annotations to record relationships between words and indicate significance. [I] This will help me to continue to develop my skills in this area and develop my ability to “prepare high quality engineering documents” as part of attaining the Stage 1 competency of written communication (Engineers Australia, 2018).

Trevelyan, J. P. (2014).  The making of an expert engineer: How to have a wonderful career creating a better world and spending lots of money belonging to other people . Leiden, The Netherlands: CRC Press/Balkema.

Ask yourself:

  • Have I based my reflection on a specific incident, activity, idea or example?
  • Have I sufficiently critically analysed the situation?
  • Have I integrated theory in a meaningful way? Can I elaborate further to demonstrate the relevance of the idea and my understanding of it?
  • Are my plans specific enough? Can I be more concrete?

When editing your draft, try colour coding each element of DIEP to be sure you have a balance of elements.

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1.18: Reflective Writing

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Learning Objectives

  • Examine the components of reflective writing

Reflective Writing

Reflective writing includes several different components: description, analysis, interpretation, evaluation, and future application. Reflective writers must weave their personal perspectives with evidence of deep, critical thought as they make connections between theory, practice, and learning. The steps below should help you find the appropriate balance among all these factors.

1st Step: Review the assignment

As with any writing situation, the first step in writing a reflective piece is to clarify the task. Reflective assignments can take many forms, so you need to understand exactly what your instructor is asking you to do. Some reflective assignments are short, just a paragraph or two of unpolished writing. Usually the purpose of these reflective pieces is to capture your immediate impressions or perceptions. For example, your instructor might ask you at the end of a class to write quickly about a concept from that day’s lesson. That type of reflection helps you and your instructor gauge your understanding of the concept.

Other reflections are academic essays that can range in length from several paragraphs to several pages. The purpose of these essays is to critically reflect on and support an original claim(s) about a larger experience, such as an event you attended, a project you worked on, or your writing development. These essays require polished writing that conforms to academic conventions, such as articulation of a claim and substantive revision. They might address a larger audience than you and your instructor, including, for example, your classmates, your family, a scholarship committee, etc. It’s important before you begin writing, that you can identify the assignment’s purpose, audience, intended message or content, and requirements.

2nd Step: Generate ideas for content

As you generate ideas for your reflection, you might consider things like:

  • Recollections of an experience, assignment, or course
  • Ideas or observations made during that event
  • Questions, challenges, or areas of doubt
  • Strategies employed to solve problems
  • A-ha moments linking theory to practice or learning something new
  • Connections between this learning and prior learning
  • New questions that arise as a result of the learning or experience
  • New actions taken as a result of the learning or experience

3rd Step: Organize content

Researchers have developed several different frameworks or models for how reflective writing can be structured. For example, one method has you consider the “What?” “So what?” and “Now what?” of a situation in order to become more reflective. First, you assess what happened and describe the event, then you explain why it was significant, and then you use that information to inform your future practice. [1] [2] Similarly, the DIEP framework can help you consider how to organize your content when writing a reflective piece. Using this method, you describe what happened or what you did, interpret what it means, evaluate its value or impact, and plan steps for improving or changing for the future.

The DIEP Model of reflective writing

The DIEP model (Boud, Keogh & Walker,1985) organizes the reflection into four different components:

Describe what happened, what did you do; Interpret: what does the experience mean to you as a learner; Evaluate: how valuable was the experience?; Plan: what will you do with your learning?

Remember, your goal is to make an interpretive or evaluative claim, or series of claims, that moves beyond obvious statements (such as, “I really enjoyed this project”) and demonstrates you have come to a deeper understanding of what you have learned and how you will use that learning.

In the example below, notice how the writer reflects on her initial ambitions and planning, the a-ha! moment, and then her decision to limit the scope of a project. She was assigned a multimodal (more than just writing) project, in which she made a video, and then reflected on the experience:

Student Example

Keeping a central focus in mind applies to multimodal compositions as well as written essays. A prime example of this was in my remix. When storyboarding for the video, I wanted to appeal to all college students in general. Within my compressed time limit of three minutes, I had planned to showcase numerous large points. It was too much. I decided to limit the scope of the topic to emphasize how digitally “addicted” college students are, and that really changed the project in significant ways.

4th Step: Draft, Revise, Edit, Repeat

A single, unpolished draft may suffice for short, in-the-moment reflections, but you may be asked to produce a longer academic reflection essay, which will require significant drafting, revising, and editing. Whatever the length of the assignment, keep this reflective cycle in mind:

  • briefly describe the event or action;
  • analyze and interpret events and actions, using evidence for support;
  • demonstrate relevance in the present and the future.

The following video, produced by the Hull University Skills Team, provides a great overview of reflective writing. Even if you aren’t assigned a specific reflection writing task in your classes, it’s a good idea to reflect anyway, as reflection results in better learning.

You can view the transcript for “Reflective Writing” here (opens in new window) .

Check your understanding of reflective writing and the things you learned in the video with these quick practice questions:

https://h5p.cwr.olemiss.edu/h5p/embed/60

  • Driscoll J (1994) Reflective practice for practise - a framework of structured reflection for clinical areas. Senior Nurse 14 (1):47–50 ↵
  • Ash, S.L, Clayton, P.H., & Moses, M.G. (2009). Learning through critical reflection: A tutorial for service-learning students (instructor version). Raleigh, NC. ↵

Contributors and Attributions

  • Process of Reflective Writing. Authored by : Karen Forgette. Provided by : University of Mississippi. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Reflective Writing. Provided by : SkillsTeamHullUni. Located at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoI67VeE3ds&feature=emb_logo . License : Other . License Terms : Standard YouTube License
  • Frameworks for Reflective Writing. Authored by : Karen Forgette. Provided by : University of Mississippi. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike

Writing Center

Strategic enrollment management and student success, reflective writing, breaking the blank page: how to get started with reflective writing in college, what is reflection.

A personal response to experiences, situations, events or new information. There is no right or wrong way to respond.

Reflection is not:

  • A summary of course notes
  • Only information about descriptions of events/experiences
  • A simple decision about whether something is good or bad, right or wrong

Why should I care?

You will find reflective writing in:

  • Service learning courses and internships
  • Classroom assignments
  • Cover letters for jobs

Where do I start?

Well, that depends on your prompt! Here is an example prompt that you may need to answer for a personal essay, or as part of an assignment for a service learning position or internship:

Describe a major challenge that you  have had to face  and the  steps you took  to overcome the challenge.  How  has confronting the challenge made you a better person, student, or employee?

In a reflective writing prompt, certain phrases will tell you to provide a personal response. These phrase are bolded because they ask for a description about what has changed or what has been learned.

Questions to think about

Once you have decided which challenge you would like to talk about in your paper, you have some important questions to think about.

  • What did I learn?
  • How did my views change?
  • Is this important to me? Why or why not?
  • Did anything surprise me? Why or why not?

Once you have reflected on the experience or information requested by the prompt, you can start to create sentences for your essay!

Reflective sentence templates and examples

Reflective Essay Introduction

Your introduction is a chance to share a key idea and something about yourself.

  • Before ____, I had never ____. = Before my internship, I had never worked in an office.
  • ____ provided me with valuable experiences in ____ = An internship with Capital One provided me with valuable experiences in an office setting.

Reflective Essay Body

Here are some examples of how you might build reflect phrases in the body of your reflective essay.

  • I have + improved + my ability to ______ = I have improved my ability to communicate.
  • Having + learned _____, + I now + realize _______ = Having learned how to organize files, I now realize I enjoy it.
  • I have + developed + my knowledge of _______ = I have developed my knowledge of how an office runs.
  • This knowledge + is + important + to me in the workplace because ______ = This knowledge is important to me in the workplace because I will know what to expect.

Reflective Essay Conclusion

Your conclusion is a chance to sum up your reflective essay.

  • Now that I have completed _____, I have new _____ skills. = Now that I have completed my internship at VCU, I have new office skills.
  • I am grateful for _____ and for my experiences in _____. = I am grateful for my internship with Capital One and for my experiences in an office setting.
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Examples of Reflective Writing

Types of reflective writing assignments.

A journal  requires you to write weekly entries throughout a semester. May require you to base your reflection on course content.

A learning diary is similar to a journal, but may require group participation. The diary then becomes a place for you to communicate in writing with other group members.

A logbook is often used in disciplines based on experimental work, such as science. You note down or 'log' what you have done. A log gives you an accurate record of a process and helps you reflect on past actions and make better decisions for future actions.

A reflective note is often used in law. A reflective note encourages you to think about your personal reaction to a legal issue raised in a course.

An essay diary  can take the form of an annotated bibliography (where you examine sources of evidence you might include in your essay) and a critique (where you reflect on your own writing and research processes).

a peer review  usually involves students showing their work to their peers for feedback.

A self-assessment task  requires you to comment on your own work.

Some examples of reflective writing

Social science fieldwork report (methods section), engineering design report, learning journal (weekly reflection).

Brookfield, S 1987, Developing critical thinkers: challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting , Open University Press, Milton Keynes.

Mezirow, J 1990, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: a guide to transformative and emancipatory learning , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Schön, DA 1987, Educating the reflective practitioner , Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.

We thank the students who permitted us to feature examples of their writing.

Prepared by Academic Skills, UNSW. This guide may be distributed or adapted for educational purposes. Full and proper acknowledgement is required. 

Essay and assignment writing guide

  • Essay writing basics
  • Essay and assignment planning
  • Answering assignment questions
  • Editing checklist
  • Writing a critical review
  • Annotated bibliography
  • How do I write reflectively?
  • Examples of reflective writing
  • ^ More support

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What Is Reflective Writing?

What Is Reflective Writing? (07 Best Tips, Types & Examples)

Reflective writing stands as a beacon of introspection in the realm of personal expression and academic discourse. It is a multifaceted genre that invites individuals to delve into the depths of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and to articulate their insights with clarity and authenticity.

At its core, reflective writing is a process of self-examination and self-discovery, where individuals engage in a dynamic dialogue with themselves and the world around them.

It transcends mere narration, weaving together elements of analysis, introspection, and narrative to create a tapestry of understanding and growth.

Whether in the form of personal reflections, academic essays, or professional narratives, reflective writing offers a platform for individuals to explore their inner landscapes, confront challenges, and celebrate moments of triumph.

As we embark on this exploration of reflective writing, we uncover its significance as a tool for fostering self-awareness, enhancing learning, and promoting personal and professional development.

Table of Contents

What Is Reflective Writing?

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what reflective writing is:

Introduction

Reflective writing is a type of writing where individuals explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences regarding a particular topic or event.

The primary purpose of reflective writing is to engage in self-examination, critical analysis , and personal growth. It allows individuals to reflect on their actions, decisions, and beliefs, gaining deeper insights into themselves and their experiences.

Reflective writing typically involves several key steps:

Description

Start by describing the event, experience, or topic you are reflecting on. Provide context and background information to set the stage.

Reflect on the event or experience critically. Consider what happened, why it happened, and how it made you feel. Analyze your thoughts, emotions, and reactions.

Evaluate the significance of the experience or event. Consider its impact on your beliefs, values, and behaviors. Assess what you learned from the experience and how it may influence your future actions.

Conclude your reflection by summarizing your insights and lessons learned. Reflective writing often ends with a plan of action or a consideration of how the experience will shape your future behavior or decisions.

Reflective writing can take various forms, including journals, essays, personal narratives, and self-assessments. The format may vary depending on the purpose and audience.

While reflective writing is often personal and introspective, it can also be shared with others. Some reflective writing is intended for private reflection, while others may be shared with mentors, instructors, or peers for feedback and discussion.

Engaging in reflective writing can have several benefits, including increased self-awareness, enhanced critical thinking skills, improved decision-making abilities, and personal growth and development.

Examples of reflective writing include personal journal entries, reflective essays for academic assignments, self-assessment exercises in professional development settings, and reflective blogs or vlogs shared online.

Overall, reflective writing is a valuable tool for self-reflection, personal growth, and learning from experience. By carefully examining our thoughts, feelings, and experiences, we can gain deeper insights into ourselves and the world around us.

What Is Reflective Writing?

Understanding Reflective Writing

Understanding Reflective Writing is akin to peering into the mirror of the soul, where thoughts, emotions, and experiences converge to create a tapestry of self-awareness and growth.

It transcends mere narration; it’s an intricate dance between introspection and expression, allowing individuals to delve deep into the recesses of their minds and hearts.

Like a masterful painter, reflective writers wield the brush of language to depict their inner landscapes with vivid strokes of insight and revelation.

It’s a journey of discovery, where each word becomes a stepping stone towards understanding oneself and the world around them.

In the realm of reflective writing, the ordinary transforms into the extraordinary, as everyday moments and encounters become portals to profound understanding and enlightenment.

Origins and Evolution

The origins and evolution of reflective writing trace back through the annals of human history, weaving a rich tapestry of introspection and expression.

While its roots may be ancient, with early philosophical musings and spiritual contemplations, its formalization and recognition as a distinct genre emerged more prominently in the modern era.

The 20th century witnessed a surge in interest, particularly within academia, as scholars and practitioners recognized its potential for personal and professional development.

From the introspective diaries of thinkers like Marcus Aurelius to the reflective essays of Michel de Montaigne, the evolution of reflective writing mirrors the shifting paradigms of human thought and society.

Today, in our fast-paced digital age, reflective writing continues to evolve, adapting to new mediums and technologies while retaining its essence as a timeless tool for self-discovery and growth.

Types and Forms of Reflective Writing

Diving into the kaleidoscope of reflective writing reveals a captivating array of types and forms, each offering a unique lens through which to explore the depths of human experience.

Personal reflections shimmer like gems in the sunlight, from the intimate pages of handwritten journals to the digital landscapes of online diaries, offering a sanctuary for raw emotions and unfiltered thoughts to unfurl.

Academic reflections stand as bastions of intellectual inquiry, with reflective essays and critical papers serving as canvases for scholarly introspection and analysis, challenging conventional wisdom and sparking new insights.

Meanwhile, professional reflections stand tall as pillars of growth and expertise, whether in the meticulous records of healthcare practitioners striving for excellence or the reflective teaching practices of educators sculpting minds and futures.

Together, these diverse forms of reflective writing form a mosaic of understanding and evolution, inviting individuals to navigate the labyrinth of their own minds and emerge enlightened and empowered.

Personal Reflections

Personal reflections shimmer as intimate windows into the soul, beckoning us to embark on a journey of self-discovery and understanding.

Within the sacred confines of handwritten journals or the digital realms of online diaries, these reflections serve as sanctuaries for our innermost thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Here, amidst the pages, we lay bare our vulnerabilities, aspirations, and triumphs, weaving a tapestry of our lives with each stroke of the pen or keystroke.

Personal reflections offer solace in moments of turmoil, clarity in times of confusion, and celebration in moments of triumph.

They are mirrors reflecting the intricacies of our beings, allowing us to witness our growth, evolution, and transformation over time.

Through the act of reflection, we navigate the labyrinth of our emotions, untangle the threads of our experiences, and emerge enlightened, empowered, and more deeply connected to ourselves.

Academic Reflections

Academic reflections stand as pillars of scholarly inquiry, inviting individuals to engage in a profound dialogue with their own learning experiences and intellectual pursuits.

Within the framework of reflective essays and critical papers, students and scholars embark on a journey of introspection and analysis, delving deep into the nuances of their academic endeavors.

Here, the rigors of research and study converge with the introspective gaze, fostering a symbiotic relationship between knowledge acquisition and self-awareness.

Academic reflections serve not only as platforms for synthesizing and evaluating information but also as catalysts for personal growth and intellectual maturation.

Through the process of reflection, students and scholars alike navigate the labyrinth of their academic pursuits, grappling with challenges, embracing insights, and ultimately emerging with a heightened sense of clarity, purpose, and scholarly integrity.

Professional Reflections

Professional reflections serve as integral components of continual growth and development within various fields, providing practitioners with invaluable opportunities to refine their skills, enhance their practice, and cultivate a deeper understanding of their professional roles.

Whether in healthcare, education, business, or any other domain, professionals engage in reflective practices to critically evaluate their actions, decisions, and interactions with colleagues and clients.

Through methods such as reflective journals, peer discussions, or structured debriefings, individuals gain insights into their strengths and areas for improvement, fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.

Professional reflections not only facilitate the refinement of technical expertise but also nurture the cultivation of empathy, resilience, and ethical decision-making.

By embracing reflective practices, professionals embark on a journey of self-discovery and refinement, ultimately enhancing the quality of their work and the outcomes for those they serve.

Techniques for Effective Reflective Writing

Embarking on the voyage of effective reflective writing is akin to navigating through a labyrinth of introspection and expression, where each technique serves as a guiding star illuminating the path to self-discovery and insight.

Like a seasoned explorer, one may employ mindfulness techniques to anchor oneself in the present moment, allowing thoughts and emotions to unfurl with clarity and intention.

Alternatively, one might wield the brush of narrative storytelling, painting vivid portraits of personal experiences with strokes of descriptive language and emotional resonance.

For those seeking deeper introspection, critical analysis and evaluation become indispensable tools, enabling the dissection of thoughts and actions with surgical precision, uncovering hidden truths and illuminating pathways to growth.

Whether through mindfulness, narrative, or critical analysis, effective reflective writing transcends mere observation, inviting individuals to embark on a transformative journey of self-awareness and enlightenment.

What Is Reflective Writing?

Self-Reflection Strategies

Self-reflection strategies serve as the compass guiding individuals through the labyrinth of their own thoughts, emotions, and experiences, offering a sanctuary for introspection and growth.

Like a skilled navigator, one may employ mindfulness techniques to anchor oneself in the present moment, fostering awareness and acceptance of one’s inner landscape.

Through practices such as meditation or mindful breathing, individuals cultivate a space for observation without judgment, allowing thoughts and emotions to arise and dissipate like ripples on a tranquil pond.

Alternatively, journaling serves as a vessel for the exploration of inner truths, providing a canvas upon which to articulate thoughts and feelings with clarity and authenticity.

By engaging in structured reflection prompts or free-form writing, individuals unveil layers of self-awareness, uncovering patterns, motivations, and aspirations hidden beneath the surface.

Whether through mindfulness or journaling, self-reflection strategies empower individuals to embark on a journey of self-discovery and transformation, illuminating pathways to personal growth and fulfillment.

Narrative Techniques

Narrative techniques in reflective writing are the brushstrokes that paint the canvas of personal experiences with vivid colors of emotion and detail.

Much like a master storyteller, individuals harness the power of narrative to weave a compelling tale of their inner journey, inviting readers to immerse themselves in the tapestry of their thoughts and feelings.

Through the artful use of descriptive language, dialogue, and pacing, narratives breathe life into the mundane moments of everyday existence, transforming them into profound reflections on the human condition.

Whether recounting moments of triumph, adversity, or introspection, narrative techniques infuse reflective writing with depth and resonance, forging connections between the storyteller and the audience.

In the realm of reflective writing, narratives serve as vessels of empathy and understanding, bridging the gap between individual experiences and universal truths, ultimately illuminating the path to self-awareness and growth.

Critical Analysis and Evaluation

Critical analysis and evaluation are the sharp tools wielded by reflective writers to dissect the complexities of their experiences, thoughts, and actions with surgical precision.

Like skilled detectives, individuals engage in a meticulous examination of their narratives, probing for underlying motives, biases, and assumptions.

Through the lens of critical inquiry, they unravel the threads of their reflections, teasing out insights and revelations hidden within the fabric of their stories.

Employing techniques such as questioning assumptions, examining evidence, and considering alternative perspectives, individuals navigate the terrain of their reflections with rigor and intellectual honesty.

By subjecting their narratives to scrutiny, they uncover layers of meaning and significance, transforming personal anecdotes into profound reflections on the human condition.

In the crucible of critical analysis and evaluation, reflective writers forge a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them, paving the way for personal growth and enlightenment.

Benefits and Purposes of Reflective Writing

Reflective writing stands as the alchemist’s crucible, where the raw materials of experience, emotion, and thought are transmuted into the gold of self-awareness, growth, and understanding.

Beyond mere documentation, it serves as a transformative tool for individuals to distill the essence of their experiences, extracting valuable insights and lessons that might otherwise remain hidden in the depths of memory.

Like a mirror reflecting the soul, reflective writing offers individuals the opportunity to engage in a profound dialogue with themselves, unraveling the intricacies of their thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Through this process, they cultivate a deeper understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, aspirations and fears, ultimately forging a path towards personal growth and fulfillment.

Moreover, reflective writing fosters empathy and connection, inviting readers to bear witness to the storyteller’s journey and find resonance in their own experiences.

In essence, the benefits and purposes of reflective writing extend far beyond the page, permeating every facet of human existence with the promise of insight, growth, and transformation.

Personal Growth and Self-Development

Personal growth and self-development are the sacred fruits harvested from the fertile soil of reflective writing, nourished by the seeds of introspection and nurtured by the gentle rains of contemplation.

Through the act of reflection, individuals embark on a journey of self-discovery, traversing the landscape of their innermost thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Like a gardener tending to their garden, they cultivate self-awareness, uprooting weeds of doubt and watering seeds of potential.

With each stroke of the pen or keystroke, they unearth insights and revelations, fostering a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world.

Through the lens of reflection, they confront challenges with courage, embrace strengths with humility, and chart a course towards their fullest expression of authenticity and fulfillment.

Personal growth and self-development, thus, emerge as the blossoms of reflection, radiant and resplendent, illuminating the path to a more enriched and empowered existence.

Enhancing Learning and Critical Thinking Skills

Reflective writing serves as the crucible in which learning and critical thinking skills are forged into tools of profound insight and understanding.

Through the process of reflection, individuals engage in a dynamic dialogue with their own experiences, dissecting, analyzing, and synthesizing information with keen intellectual rigor.

This act of introspection cultivates a deep understanding of the subject matter, allowing learners to connect theoretical concepts with real-world applications.

Moreover, reflective writing prompts individuals to question assumptions, challenge perspectives, and explore alternative viewpoints, fostering a culture of critical inquiry and open-mindedness.

By honing their critical thinking skills through reflection, individuals not only enhance their capacity to evaluate information but also develop a nuanced understanding of complex issues.

Ultimately, reflective writing becomes a catalyst for transformative learning experiences, empowering individuals to navigate the complexities of the world with clarity, discernment, and intellectual curiosity.

What Is Reflective Writing?

Applications of Reflective Writing

Reflective writing serves as the alchemist’s elixir, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary across a myriad of applications.

In education, it becomes the compass guiding students through the labyrinth of learning, fostering deep introspection and critical analysis as they navigate complex subjects and concepts.

In healthcare, it emerges as the healer’s tonic, enabling practitioners to reflect on their experiences, refine their skills, and enhance patient care with empathy and insight.

Within the realm of business and leadership, it assumes the mantle of the visionary’s scroll, empowering professionals to navigate the turbulent waters of decision-making with clarity, integrity, and foresight.

Whether in the classroom, the clinic, or the boardroom, reflective writing becomes a beacon of transformation, illuminating pathways to growth, understanding, and excellence in every facet of human endeavor.

Education and Pedagogy

In the realm of education and pedagogy, reflective writing emerges as the cornerstone of transformative learning experiences, inviting students and educators alike to embark on a journey of self-discovery and intellectual growth.

Through the act of reflection, students engage in a dynamic dialogue with their own learning experiences, uncovering insights, confronting challenges, and charting pathways to mastery.

Educators, too, harness the power of reflective writing to refine their teaching practices, critically evaluating their methods, and adapting strategies to meet the diverse needs of their students.

Whether through journaling, reflective essays, or classroom discussions, reflective writing becomes a catalyst for deeper understanding, fostering a culture of inquiry, empathy, and lifelong learning within educational settings.

By integrating reflective practices into pedagogy, educators cultivate not only academic excellence but also the essential skills of critical thinking, self-awareness, and personal growth that empower students to thrive in an ever-changing world.

Challenges and Considerations in Reflective Writing

Embarking on the journey of reflective writing unveils a labyrinth of challenges and considerations, each adding depth and nuance to the process.

One must navigate the treacherous currents of emotional vulnerability, confronting the raw truths and uncertainties that lie beneath the surface.

Moreover, the quest for authenticity poses a formidable challenge, as individuals grapple with the tension between candid self-expression and societal expectations.

Ethical considerations loom large on the horizon, prompting reflection on the implications of sharing personal experiences and perspectives with others.

Additionally, the specter of resistance and self-doubt lurks in the shadows, threatening to derail the journey before it even begins.

Yet, amidst these challenges, lies the promise of growth, insight, and transformation. By embracing the obstacles and uncertainties inherent in reflective writing, individuals emerge strengthened, wiser, and more deeply connected to themselves and the world around them.

Overcoming Resistance to Self-Reflection

Overcoming resistance to self-reflection is akin to navigating through a dense forest shrouded in mist, where each step forward is met with uncertainty and trepidation.

Yet, beneath the veil of resistance lies the promise of profound self-discovery and growth. To navigate this terrain, one must first confront the shadows of fear and self-doubt that obscure the path ahead.

Embracing vulnerability becomes the compass guiding individuals through the fog, allowing them to shed the armor of defensiveness and open themselves to the transformative power of introspection.

Cultivating self-compassion becomes the lantern illuminating the darkness, offering gentle encouragement and forgiveness as individuals confront their innermost thoughts and emotions.

Moreover, fostering a mindset of curiosity and acceptance becomes the sturdy rope bridging the chasm of resistance, enabling individuals to lean into discomfort and explore the depths of their inner landscape with courage and humility.

Ultimately, by embracing the journey of self-reflection with open hearts and minds, individuals transcend resistance, emerging stronger, wiser, and more deeply connected to themselves and the world around them.

Dealing with Emotional Vulnerability

Dealing with emotional vulnerability in the context of reflective writing requires the courage to venture into the depths of one’s soul, where raw emotions ebb and flow like turbulent waters.

It’s a journey fraught with uncertainty, where the weight of past traumas and insecurities can cast a shadow over the process.

Yet, it is within this vulnerability that the seeds of growth and healing are sown. By creating a safe and nurturing space for expression, individuals can gently unravel the knots of suppressed emotions and confront the ghosts of their past.

Embracing self-compassion becomes the guiding light through the darkness, offering solace and understanding amidst the storm.

Moreover, seeking support from trusted allies and mentors provides a lifeline of empathy and validation, reminding individuals that they are not alone in their struggles.

Through this process of courageous vulnerability, individuals unearth the buried treasures of resilience, authenticity, and self-acceptance, emerging from the depths with newfound clarity, strength, and emotional well-being.

Ethical and Confidentiality Issues

Navigating the ethical and confidentiality issues inherent in reflective writing demands a delicate balancing act between transparency and discretion.

As individuals delve into the intimate recesses of their thoughts and experiences, they must tread carefully to ensure that personal boundaries are respected and ethical standards upheld.

Safeguarding confidentiality becomes paramount, as the sanctity of trust between writer and audience must be preserved at all costs.

Moreover, individuals must grapple with the ethical implications of sharing potentially sensitive information, weighing the benefits of transparency against the risks of harm or exploitation.

By adhering to ethical guidelines and exercising discernment in their writing, individuals can navigate these murky waters with integrity and compassion, honoring the sacred trust bestowed upon them by their readers and peers.

Ultimately, by upholding the principles of confidentiality and ethical conduct, reflective writers can harness the transformative power of self-expression while safeguarding the dignity and privacy of themselves and others.

Case Studies and Examples

Case studies and examples in reflective writing serve as beacons of illumination, illuminating the path to understanding and insight with their vivid narratives and poignant anecdotes.

Like windows into the human experience, they offer glimpses into the complexities of real-life situations, providing context and depth to abstract concepts and theoretical frameworks.

Whether recounting moments of triumph, adversity, or epiphany, each case study and example becomes a testament to the transformative power of reflection, showcasing the profound impact it can have on individuals and communities alike.

Moreover, by highlighting diverse perspectives and experiences, case studies and examples foster empathy and connection, bridging the gap between theory and practice, and inspiring others to embark on their own journeys of self-discovery and growth.

In the tapestry of reflective writing, case studies and examples emerge as jewels of wisdom, sparkling with the brilliance of human resilience, compassion, and understanding.

Future Directions and Innovations in Reflective Writing

As we peer into the horizon of reflective writing, the future unfolds like a tapestry woven with threads of innovation and possibility.

Emerging technologies stand poised to revolutionize the landscape, offering digital platforms and interactive tools that amplify the reach and impact of reflective practices.

Virtual reality environments beckon, providing immersive spaces for self-exploration and narrative expression, while artificial intelligence algorithms offer personalized feedback and insights tailored to individual needs and preferences.

Moreover, interdisciplinary collaborations promise to enrich the tapestry of reflective writing, as diverse fields—from psychology to neuroscience to creative arts—converge to deepen our understanding of the human psyche and enhance the efficacy of reflective interventions.

As we embark on this journey of innovation and discovery, the future of reflective writing shines bright with promise, inviting individuals to embark on a transformative voyage of self-discovery and growth unlike any other.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about What Is Reflective Writing?

What exactly is reflective writing.

Reflective writing is a genre that involves introspection and self-examination, where individuals articulate their thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a structured manner. It goes beyond mere narration, often incorporating analysis, critical thinking, and personal insight.

What are the benefits of reflective writing?

Reflective writing offers numerous benefits, including enhanced self-awareness, improved critical thinking skills, and personal growth. It provides a platform for individuals to process their experiences, gain insights, and make meaning out of their lives.

How does reflective writing differ from other types of writing?

Unlike other forms of writing that focus primarily on conveying information or arguments, reflective writing emphasizes self-reflection and introspection. It encourages individuals to explore their thoughts and feelings, often in a subjective and personal manner.

What are some common techniques used in reflective writing?

Techniques for reflective writing vary, but they often include methods such as journaling, free writing, guided reflection exercises, and structured reflection prompts. These techniques help individuals organize their thoughts and delve deeper into their experiences.

Where is reflective writing commonly used?

Reflective writing finds applications in various fields, including education, healthcare, business, and personal development. It is often used in academic settings for assignments such as reflective essays or journals, as well as in professional contexts for personal development and practice improvement.

How can I get started with reflective writing?

Getting started with reflective writing is simple. Begin by setting aside time for introspection, finding a quiet space to reflect, and choosing a writing medium that suits you, whether it’s pen and paper or a digital platform. Then, start writing freely about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, without worrying about grammar or structure.

Is there a right or wrong way to do reflective writing?

Reflective writing is inherently personal, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What matters most is authenticity and sincerity in exploring your thoughts and experiences. There are no right or wrong answers; the goal is to engage in honest self-examination and learning.

How can I use reflective writing to improve my personal or professional life?

Reflective writing can be a powerful tool for personal and professional development. By regularly reflecting on your experiences, identifying patterns, and setting goals for growth, you can gain valuable insights and make positive changes in your life and work.

In conclusion, reflective writing emerges as a profound and transformative practice that transcends mere expression to become a journey of self-discovery and growth.

It invites individuals to delve into the depths of their thoughts, emotions, and experiences, weaving together introspection, analysis, and narrative to create a tapestry of understanding and insight.

Through reflective writing, individuals cultivate self-awareness, enhance critical thinking skills, and foster personal and professional development.

It finds applications across various domains, from education to healthcare to personal development, offering a versatile tool for exploration and learning.

As we embrace the practice of reflective writing, we embark on a voyage of self-discovery and empowerment, where every word becomes a stepping stone towards a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

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Reflection Toolkit

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

One of the most famous cyclical models of reflection leading you through six stages exploring an experience: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan.

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle was developed by Graham Gibbs in 1988 to give structure to learning from experiences.  It offers a framework for examining experiences, and given its cyclic nature lends itself particularly well to repeated experiences, allowing you to learn and plan from things that either went well or didn’t go well. It covers 6 stages:

  • Description of the experience
  • Feelings and thoughts about the experience
  • Evaluation of the experience, both good and bad
  • Analysis to make sense of the situation
  • Conclusion about what you learned and what you could have done differently
  • Action plan for how you would deal with similar situations in the future, or general changes you might find appropriate.

Below is further information on:

  • The model – each stage is given a fuller description, guiding questions to ask yourself and an example of how this might look in a reflection
  • Different depths of reflection – an example of reflecting more briefly using this model

This is just one model of reflection. Test it out and see how it works for you. If you find that only a few of the questions are helpful for you, focus on those. However, by thinking about each stage you are more likely to engage critically with your learning experience.

A circular diagram showing the 6 stages of Gibbs' Reflective cycle

This model is a good way to work through an experience. This can be either a stand-alone experience or a situation you go through frequently, for example meetings with a team you have to collaborate with. Gibbs originally advocated its use in repeated situations, but the stages and principles apply equally well for single experiences too. If done with a stand-alone experience, the action plan may become more general and look at how you can apply your conclusions in the future.

For each of the stages of the model a number of helpful questions are outlined below. You don’t have to answer all of them but they can guide you about what sort of things make sense to include in that stage. You might have other prompts that work better for you.

Description

Here you have a chance to describe the situation in detail. The main points to include here concern what happened. Your feelings and conclusions will come later.

Helpful questions:

  • What happened?
  • When and where did it happen?
  • Who was present?
  • What did you and the other people do?
  • What was the outcome of the situation?
  • Why were you there?
  • What did you want to happen?

Example of 'Description'

Here you can explore any feelings or thoughts that you had during the experience and how they may have impacted the experience.

  • What were you feeling during the situation?
  • What were you feeling before and after the situation?
  • What do you think other people were feeling about the situation?
  • What do you think other people feel about the situation now?
  • What were you thinking during the situation?
  • What do you think about the situation now?

Example of 'Feelings'

Here you have a chance to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work in the situation. Try to be as objective and honest as possible. To get the most out of your reflection focus on both the positive and the negative aspects of the situation, even if it was primarily one or the other.

  • What was good and bad about the experience?
  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • What did you and other people contribute to the situation (positively or negatively)?

Example of 'Evaluation'

The analysis step is where you have a chance to make sense of what happened. Up until now you have focused on details around what happened in the situation. Now you have a chance to extract meaning from it. You want to target the different aspects that went well or poorly and ask yourself why. If you are looking to include academic literature, this is the natural place to include it.

  • Why did things go well?
  • Why didn’t it go well?
  • What sense can I make of the situation?
  • What knowledge – my own or others (for example academic literature) can help me understand the situation?

Example of 'Analysis'

Conclusions.

In this section you can make conclusions about what happened. This is where you summarise your learning and highlight what changes to your actions could improve the outcome in the future. It should be a natural response to the previous sections.

  • What did I learn from this situation?
  • How could this have been a more positive situation for everyone involved?
  • What skills do I need to develop for me to handle a situation like this better?
  • What else could I have done?

Example of a 'Conclusion'

Action plan.

At this step you plan for what you would do differently in a similar or related situation in the future. It can also be extremely helpful to think about how you will help yourself to act differently – such that you don’t only plan what you will do differently, but also how you will make sure it happens. Sometimes just the realisation is enough, but other times reminders might be helpful.

  • If I had to do the same thing again, what would I do differently?
  • How will I develop the required skills I need?
  • How can I make sure that I can act differently next time?

Example of 'Action Plan'

Different depths of reflection.

Depending on the context you are doing the reflection in, you might want use different levels of details. Here is the same scenario, which was used in the example above, however it is presented much more briefly.

Adapted from

Gibbs G (1988). Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit. Oxford Polytechnic: Oxford.

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Top 20 Reflective Questions for Students

Table of Contents

As students, we are constantly learning new things. Every day, we are presented with further information and ideas we need to process and make sense of. This can be a lot of work! Sometimes, taking a step back and going through reflective questions examples can be helpful.

Reflective questions are a great way to do this. They help us to think about our experiences and what we’ve learned from them. By taking the time to reflect on our learning, we can ensure that we understand and internalize the new information.

Folow this article to reflective questions examples to work with!

What Are Reflective Questions?

Reflective questions are questions that we can ask ourselves about our experiences. They encourage reflection on our actions and the lessons we took away from them. Reflective questions can be used after any learning experience, large or small.

Reflective Questions Examples

Here are 20 reflective questions examples that can help students think about their learning:

1. What was the most important thing that I learned today?

2. What did I find most challenging about today’s learning?

3. What questions do I still have about what I learned today?

4. How does what I learned today connect to what I already know?

5. What real-world applications can I see for what I learned today?

6. What examples can I use to illustrate what I learned today?

7. What would I like to learn more about related to what I learned today?

8. How can I use what I learned today in my future studies or career?

9. What connections can I make between what I learned today and my life experiences?

10. If someone asked me to explain what I learned today, how would I do it?

reflective writing questions

Personal Reflective Questions

11. What did I learn today that I can use in my personal life?

12. What did I learn today that I can use in my academic life?

13. What did I learn today that I can use professionally?

14. What did I learn today that I can use in my community life?

15. What did I learn today that I can use in my global life?

16. How has what I learned today changed or challenged my beliefs or perspectives?

17. What new insights or understandings have I gained from what I learned today?

18. What has this learning experience taught me about myself?

19. How can I apply what I’ve learned from this experience to other areas?

20. What else would I like to know or explore related to what I learned today?

Why Should Students Ask Reflective Questions?

Reflective questions can be helpful for students in several ways. Asking reflective questions can help students to:

  • Understand new information more deeply
  • Make connections between different concepts
  • See real-world applications for what they are learning
  • Reflect on their own beliefs and perspectives
  • Develop a better understanding of themselves and their learning process

When Should Students Ask Reflective Questions?

Students can ask them at any point after they have learned something new. It can be helpful to ask them regularly, such as at the end of each day or week or after each learning experience.

However, asking them spontaneously whenever a student wants to reflect on their learning is also OK.

How Can Students Ask Reflective Questions?

There are a few different ways that students can ask reflective questions. Here are some ideas:

  • Write them down in a journal or notebook
  • Talk about them with a friend or family member
  • Discuss them in a study group
  • Ask them out loud to oneself
  • Use a question prompt card deck or app

These are just a few examples of reflective questions that students can ask themselves after learning something new.

By taking the time to reflect on their learning experiences, students can ensure that they understand the latest information and internalize it in a meaningful way. What other reflective questions would you add to this list?

Top 20 Reflective Questions for Students

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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10 Summer Reflection and Goals Writing Prompts

10 summer vacation writing prompts, 10 summer outdoor adventures, 10 summer journal prompts.

Summer is the perfect time for kids to explore creativity and improve their writing skills. With these summer writing prompts , children can reflect on their experiences, imagine new adventures, and set goals for the upcoming school year. Our collection of writing prompts for summer will keep kids engaged and inspired throughout the sunny season. Let’s dive in!

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40 Summer Writing Prompts for Kids

  • Write about your favorite memory from the past school year.

This prompt encourages kids to reflect on a positive experience and practice descriptive writing by detailing their memorable moment.

  • What are three goals you have for the next school year? How will you achieve them?

This prompt helps kids set specific, achievable goals and think critically about the steps needed to reach them.

  • Describe a time you overcame a challenge and what you learned from it.

Encourages kids to reflect on their problem-solving skills and the lessons learned from facing difficulties.

  • What new skill would you like to learn over the summer? Why?

Prompts kids to think about personal growth and the reasons behind their interests in new activities.

  • Reflect on a book you read this year that had a big impact on you. What did you learn from it?

Encourages kids to analyze and articulate the influence of literature on their thoughts and feelings.

  • Write about a person who inspired you this past year and explain why.

This prompt helps kids practice gratitude and recognition of positive role models in their lives.

  • Describe a project or assignment you were particularly proud of this year. What made it special?

Encourages kids to take pride in their achievements and articulate what made their work stand out.

  • Think about a time you helped someone this year. How did it make you feel?

This prompt fosters empathy and reflection on the positive impact of helping others.

  • What is something you want to improve about yourself this summer? How will you work on it?

This is one of the best summer writing ideas to encourage self-awareness and goal-setting for personal development over the summer.

  • Imagine it’s the end of next school year. Write a letter to your future self about what you hope to have accomplished.

This creative exercise helps kids envision their future success and the steps needed to achieve their goals.

  • Describe your dream summer vacation. Where would you go and what would you do?

This prompt encourages kids to use their imagination and detail the perfect vacation, enhancing their creative writing skills.

  • Write a story about a summer vacation that didn’t go as planned.

This prompt helps kids practice narrative writing by imagining unexpected events and solutions during a vacation.

  • What are three things you always pack for a vacation? Why are they important to you?

Encourages kids to think about their personal essentials and explain their significance, fostering organizational skills.

  • Imagine you are a tour guide in a place you’ve visited. Write a tour for new visitors.

This prompt enhances descriptive writing and creativity as kids detail interesting facts and sights about a place.

  • Write a diary entry from the perspective of someone on a vacation in a place you want to visit.

Encourages kids to practice empathy and perspective-taking by imagining a vacation through someone else’s eyes.

  • Describe the best summer vacation you’ve ever had. What made it so special?

This prompt allows kids to reflect on past experiences and practice detailed, narrative writing.

  • If you could travel anywhere in the world this summer, where would you go and why?

Encourages kids to research and dream about different cultures and places, broadening their geographical knowledge.

  • Write a story about a magical vacation where anything can happen.

This prompt sparks creativity and imagination as kids invent a fantastical vacation adventure.

  • What would you do if you had a summer vacation on another planet?

Encourages creative thinking and science fiction writing as kids imagine the possibilities of interplanetary travel.

  • Imagine you’re visiting a country where you don’t speak the language. How would you communicate and what would you do?

This prompt helps kids think critically about communication and problem-solving in new environments.

  • Write about a time you went camping. What did you see, hear, and feel?

This prompt encourages kids to use sensory details to describe their camping experience, enhancing their descriptive writing skills.

  • Describe an ideal day spent at the beach. What activities would you do?

Kids can practice creating vivid imagery as they outline their perfect beach day, from building sandcastles to swimming in the ocean.

  • Imagine you found a secret path in the woods. Where does it lead and what do you find?

This prompt sparks creativity and adventure as kids invent a mysterious journey through nature.

  • Write a story about a treasure hunt with your friends in your backyard or a local park.

Encourages kids to craft an exciting narrative, complete with clues, challenges, and hidden treasures.

  • What is your favorite outdoor game or sport to play in the summer? Describe a fun game you played.

This prompt helps kids reflect on their physical activities and practice detailing rules and experiences of their favorite games.

  • Describe a nature walk you took. What plants and animals did you encounter?

Enhances observational skills and descriptive writing as kids recount their discoveries on a nature walk.

  • Imagine you are an explorer discovering a new island. What do you find and how do you survive?

This prompt encourages imaginative thinking and adventure as kids create a story about exploring an uncharted island.

  • Write about a day spent fishing. Did you catch anything? What was the experience like?

Kids can reflect on patience and the joys of fishing, detailing their experience and any catches they made.

  • What would you do if you had a treehouse? Describe your perfect treehouse and how you’d spend your time there.

Encourages creative thinking and detailed description as kids design and enjoy their ideal treehouse.

  • Describe a summer picnic. What food do you bring, and who do you invite?

This prompt allows kids to plan a fun, social outdoor event, detailing the setting, food, and activities with friends or family.

  • Write a daily journal entry for a week during your summer break. What did you do each day?

This prompt encourages kids to practice consistent writing and reflection on their daily activities and experiences.

  • Describe your perfect summer day from start to finish.

Kids can use their imagination to detail an ideal day. This is one of the best summer journal topics to practice narrative and descriptive writing.

  • Write about a new hobby or activity you tried this summer. How did you feel about it?

Encourages kids to reflect on new experiences, helping them articulate their thoughts and feelings.

  • What is your favorite summer tradition with your family? Describe it in detail.

This prompt fosters appreciation for family traditions and helps kids practice descriptive writing.

  • Imagine you are a character in your favorite book or movie for a day. Write about your adventures.

Kids can practice creative writing and perspective-taking by immersing themselves in a familiar story world.

  • Write a letter to a friend or family member about your summer so far.

Encourages kids to summarize their experiences and practice writing letters, an important communication skill.

  • Describe a summer day when the weather was extreme. What did you do to stay cool or warm?

This prompt helps kids practice descriptive writing and think about how they adapt to different weather conditions.

  • Imagine you kept a nature journal for the summer. What would you write about and draw?

Encourages kids to observe and document the natural world around them, fostering an appreciation for nature.

  • Write a story about finding a mysterious object while playing outside. What happens next?

This prompt sparks creativity and adventure, allowing kids to invent a narrative around a found object.

  • Reflect on the best part of your summer so far. Why was it special to you?

This is one of the best summer writing prompts for students that will help them practice reflection and gratitude by identifying and describing their most memorable summer moments.

With these summer writing prompts, kids can enjoy a creative and fun-filled summer. Encourage them to write regularly and watch their imaginations soar. Happy writing!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are some fun camping writing prompts.

Fun camp related summer writing prompts include describing a night under the stars, writing about a campfire story, or imagining an adventure in a hidden forest.

What are some ocean writing prompts?

Ocean writing prompts can include imagining a day as a marine biologist, writing a story about finding a message in a bottle, or describing an underwater adventure with sea creatures.

What are some summer writing prompts for elementary students?

Summer writing prompts for elementary students include reflecting on their favorite summer memory, describing a perfect picnic, or imagining a day at a magical amusement park.

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  1. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  4. Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay or Report

    reflective writing questions

  5. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  1. Reflective writing: How-to guide for students

  2. Reflective #writing and #essaywriting

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  5. ask THESE questions to reconnect with yourself 🤍

  6. Reflection Writing

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  1. Reflective writing: Reflective questioning

    The reflective questions on this page can be used as a base for deconstructing your own experiences and the form above is a simple example of how you can structure reflection. The experience (1), think (2), learn (3) model is very useful for applying to portfolios and simple assignments. The next page will introduce theoretical approaches to ...

  2. What Is Reflective Writing? (Explained W/ 20+ Examples)

    What is reflective writing? Reflective writing is a personal exploration of experiences, analyzing thoughts, feelings, and learnings to gain insights. It involves critical thinking, deep analysis, and focuses on personal growth through structured reflection on past events. ... a question, a quote, or a vivid description of a moment from the ...

  3. Reflective writing

    The key to reflective writing is to be analytical rather than descriptive. Always ask why rather than just describing what happened during an experience. ... Being able to reflect on something is also an important part of critical thinking and writing as it allows you to question arguments made in the literature, be open minded about different ...

  4. Reflective writing

    The key to reflective writing is to be analytical rather than descriptive. Always ask why rather than just describing what happened during an experience. ... Being able to reflect on something is also an important part of critical thinking and writing as it allows you to question arguments made in the literature, be open minded about different ...

  5. PDF REFLECTIVE WRITING

    Types of reflective writing. 1. REFLECTION: when you ask questions about something you would like to better understand, e.g. a problem to solve or an issue to consider. 2. REFLECTIVE PRACTICE: when you reflect on the relationship between practice in your area of study and the theories you are being introduced to. 3.

  6. Reflective Writing Guide

    Reflection is: a form of personal response to experiences, situations, events or new information. a 'processing' phase where thinking and learning take place. There is neither a right nor a wrong way of reflective thinking, there are just questions to explore. Figure 1 shows that the reflective thinking process starts with you.

  7. Reflective writing

    The language of reflective writing. Reflective academic writing is: almost always written in the first person. evaluative - you are judging something. partly personal, partly based on criteria. analytical - you are usually categorising actions and events. formal - it is for an academic audience. carefully constructed.

  8. Reflective writing

    Reflective writing may ask you to consider the link between theory (what you study, discuss and read about at university) and practice (what you do, the application of the theory in the workplace). Reflection on practical contexts enables you to explore the relationship between theory and practice in an authentic and concrete way.

  9. 1.18: Reflective Writing

    1st Step: Review the assignment. As with any writing situation, the first step in writing a reflective piece is to clarify the task. Reflective assignments can take many forms, so you need to understand exactly what your instructor is asking you to do. Some reflective assignments are short, just a paragraph or two of unpolished writing.

  10. Reflective Writing

    Reflective Essay Body. Here are some examples of how you might build reflect phrases in the body of your reflective essay. I have + improved + my ability to ______ = I have improved my ability to communicate. Having + learned _____, + I now + realize _______ = Having learned how to organize files, I now realize I enjoy it.

  11. Using Reflective Writing to Deepen Student Learning

    Research in learning sciences illustrates the many benefits of reflective writing. When provided with clear and authentic prompts and given repeated opportunities to think about their course work and educational, professional, or clinical experiences, students are better able to retain and transfer learning to new contexts. Reflective writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously ...

  12. PDF Questions to Guide Students in Reflecting on Their Own Writing

    Questions to Guide Students in Reflecting on Their Own Writing Self-reflection can help students become better learners and more efficient writers. You can help students acquire a habit of reflective practice by asking them to write about one or more of the questions below on the day their paper is due. It is usually a good idea to

  13. PDF Sample Reflection Questions

    The 40 Reflection Questions. Backward-Looking: 1. How much did you know about the subject before we started? 2. What process did you go through to produce this piece? 3. Have you done a similar kind of work in the past (earlier in the year or in a previous grade; in school or out of school)? 4.

  14. Examples of Reflective Writing

    We thank the students who permitted us to feature examples of their writing. Prepared by Academic Skills, UNSW. This guide may be distributed or adapted for educational purposes. Full and proper acknowledgement is required. Learn more about the different types & examples of reflective writing including journal, learning diary, peer review and more.

  15. What Is Reflective Writing? (07 Best Tips, Types & Examples)

    Reflective writing stands as a beacon of introspection in the realm of personal expression and academic discourse. It is a multifaceted genre that invites individuals to delve into the depths of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and to articulate their insights with clarity and authenticity. At its core, reflective writing is a process ...

  16. 50 Learning Reflection Questions For Students

    Learning Reflection Questions For Students. Also, I previously create questions students can ask themselves before, during, and after learning to improve their thinking, retention, and metacognition. A few highlights from the 'after learning' (which qualify them as reflective questions for learning) include: 1. How did that go?

  17. How to Write a Reflection Paper in 5 Steps (plus Template and Sample

    Use these 5 tips to write a thoughtful and insightful reflection paper. 1. Answer key questions. To write a reflection paper, you need to be able to observe your own thoughts and reactions to the material you've been given. A good way to start is by answering a series of key questions. For example:

  18. 10 Reflection Questions for Writers

    If you know what your best writing was and what contributed to that writing, you'll be able to write even better in the future. Look back at the past month, past few months, or the past year of writing. Then take some time to think through and answer these reflection questions. 1.

  19. Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

    Gibbs' Reflective Cycle was developed by Graham Gibbs in 1988 to give structure to learning from experiences. It offers a framework for examining experiences, and given its cyclic nature lends itself particularly well to repeated experiences, allowing you to learn and plan from things that either went well or didn't go well. It covers 6 stages:

  20. PDF Reflective Writing through the Use of Guiding Questions

    Reflective writing may come in various forms such as reports, portfolios, journals and more recently emails, to name a few. Ward and McCotter (2004) ... students are provided with reflection guiding questions prior to writing a reflection, the quality of a low level . Moussa-Inaty Reflective Writing 106 reflection may be positively impacted. In ...

  21. Top 20 Reflective Questions for Students

    What Are Reflective Questions? Reflective questions are questions that we can ask ourselves about our experiences. They encourage reflection on our actions and the lessons we took away from them. Reflective questions can be used after any learning experience, large or small. Reflective Questions Examples. Here are 20 reflective questions ...

  22. 40 Best Summer Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages

    10 Summer Journal Prompts. Summer is the perfect time for kids to explore creativity and improve their writing skills. With these summer writing prompts, children can reflect on their experiences, imagine new adventures, and set goals for the upcoming school year. Our collection of writing prompts for summer will keep kids engaged and inspired ...