How to Write a Reflective Essay and Why It’s Important
Did you know that we reflect everyday? It is in human nature to think about what is happening, why it has happened, and how you have coped with it. In college or university you may be asked to write a reflective essay to see how you have obtained knowledge and experience. As a future professional, critical reflection will help you recognize the gaps in your skills and find out more efficient ways to cope with everyday tasks.
Reflective Essay? What Is This?
Actually, a reflective essay is a type of writing that is aimed to analyze experiences and situations. This type of essay differs from traditional academic papers, as it asks to discuss your own feelings and performance. Reflective writing is not a pouring of everything that you feel about a certain topic, as you are still writing an academic paper, not a personal diary. It should be a well-structured text with a clear thought illustrated with examples and evidence. In academic writing, this type of essay may involve reflecting on:
- information that was read in textbooks, articles, and other resources and linking it to practice;
- a finished project and thinking what could be done in other ways to make it better;
- an experience and analyzing how it was dealt with;
- professional or academic practice and how it affected your thinking and practice.
How to Write a Good Reflective Essay in 5 Easy Steps
1. Examine the assignment requirements. Define what you have been asked to write about. Has the professor asked you to use a certain model of reflection? Are there any instructions for the format of the paper? Does the paper need a reference list? Knowing about all peculiarities of the assignment will help you create a good reflective essay from the beginning.
2. Think of the questions and key points you will be addressing in the text of the essay. Consider the following questions to ask yourself:
– What are the most important things I have learned? How have I obtained this knowledge?
– What mistakes have I made? What points of my performance can be improved?
– What skills and aspects of my practice do I want to develop? Why?
– What academic literature relates to my experience? What do experts say about the issue I am going to discuss? What alternative practices do they suggest?
Write a brief description of the event, your thoughts, and people involved considering the questions from above. It will be the basis for your first draft.
3. Choose the appropriate model of reflection (if you were not assigned one). All the models represent a schematic description of reflection and offer a structure for your writing. Choose the models depending on how much analysis and description you need, and what you want to achieve. There is a list of models for reflective writing:
- Gibbs reflective cycle
- Kolb reflective cycle
- Schön model
- Driscoll model
- Johns’ model for structured reflection
- Atkins & Murphy model
- Brookfield model
- Borton model
- Mezirow model of transformative learning
For example, if you choose the most popular one, the Gibbs cycle, you will need to consider the following things: think on what happened and what you were feeling, evaluate the experience, analyze the situation, and think what you could have done better and what you can do to improve your skills.
4. Write the first draft. Write the essay based on the chosen model. Basically, the essay structure will consist of a description, interpretation, exploration of literature, outcome, and an action plan. Let’s see an overview of the main sections:
- In description you need to depict the theory, experience, or practice. Explain what has happened, when, where, and what are the most significant points that need attention.
In interpretation, share you own point of view on what happened. Think how the obtained knowledge or experience connects with your own experience or existing theory. Share your own feelings and explain what made you feel that way. Support the evidence with examples.
- Explore the literature addressing the issue. Connect your experience with course materials or existing theory to reinforce your ideas.
- In the outcome, draw the conclusions about your experience and tell what you could have done in the other way. Describe how the experience has impacted your understanding of the discipline or event. Highlight your new findings as the result of this event.
- In the action plan, describe what you can do for personal and professional development considering the obtained knowledge or experience.
5. Proofread and correct the mistakes. Make sure that your text is clear of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. The text of the reflective essay should be well structured. Keep the balance between descriptions of events and evidence of the effects of your practice.
Tips to Improve Reflective Writing
- Keep a reflective journal. All you need is to make everyday entries and analyze the major events of the day. You will need to describe what has happened, what impact it has on your personality, what you have learned from it, and what you can do better if the situation occurs once more.
- Use restorative questions. These questions may help to analyze a conflict or mistakes in an incident. It may be helpful both for those who have done something wrong, and those affected by the situation.
- Don’t be afraid to use “I” statements. It is confusing for many students to write their own point of view and share feeling in academic writing. But this assignment requires to do so.
- Provide enough academic evidence. Add to your reflection discussion of the existing literature and relate it directly to your experience.
- Discuss the mistakes. For a good reflective essay it’s essential to discuss failures and seek the gaps for improvement even if your practice was more than perfect. Be honest and self-critical.
- Keep the anonymity of the students, clients, patients, and other people involved in your experience by using pseudonyms.
Now, that’s all the basic information you need to know to write a great reflective essay. Reflective writing is a valuable experience in you academics, but it may take much time and work. You need to have strong analytical and critical thinking skills to be able to write a great reflective essay.
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