Final note on reflection

time to complete: 10 minutes

Although reflective writing is a genre in itself and common in certain fields, such as medicine, education and social work, you may not be directly asked to write a piece of reflective writing in your modules. You may be asked instead to include reflective elements in an assignment.

The following essay question comes from a postgraduate taught module in archaeology:

Identify a type of food or drink that you consider to represent some aspect of your identity (ethnic, regional, religious, social class, gender, family, etc.). Explain why this food or drink has such meaning.

You will notice that personal experience and knowledge is needed to answer the question, but this is still an academic essay. It requires an academic tone and sources to support any claims, but it should be informed by personal reflection.

Therefore, if you see any words in an assignment, such as you, your, personal, etc. and you think it might be a reflection, it may very well be an assignment like the rest but with reflective elements. It is always good practice to seek clarification from your lecturers and assessors if you are not sure.

To sum up

Reflective writing may be mapped on different reflective models; one of the most commonly used is Gibb’s Reflective Learning Cycle. Based on Gibb’s Reflective Learning Cycle, a reflection may be structured in the following sections: 

  • Description
  • Feelings
  • Evaluation
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion
  • Action plan

However, some of these sections may be combined or come under different headings.

Other reflective models you may encounter are, for example, Kolb’s reflective cycle (1984), the Driscoll model (2007) and Johns’ model for Structured Reflection (2006), but the list is long, and none of them are more ‘correct’ than the others. To help you write your reflection, ask yourself questions about the experience you had, how it made you feel, your thoughts about it, its theoretical context, what you learned from it and how it will inform your actions in the future.

Although reflective writing can be formal or informal, depending on the context and audience, in your studies you will likely be asked to use a formal, academic style. If you use sources to inform your analysis of your experience, remember to reference appropriately. If in doubt whether your assignment is a reflection or not, consult your instructor.