- JOURNAL –- asks you to engage with and reflect upon your personal lived experience;
- CRITICAL –- asks you to relate those experiences to the course readings and course concepts in an analytical way.
- Why is my favourite childhood memory so special to me?
- What have I always taken for granted about the world? What do I assume to be "normal" and why?
- What am I most proud of about myself and why?
- Have I learned anything about myself from the course readings? If so, what and how?
- What current news story is most annoying/challenging for me?
- How do I self-identify and why?
- What do I usually not tell people about myself and why? (note, you don’t even necessarily have to disclose anything to reflect on this question)
“Writing to reflect is one of the most common activities writers undertake. At the beginning of almost every writing project, writers – who adopt the role of observer […] – spend time exploring and deepening their understanding of their subject [….] writers use reflection to share their thoughts in ways that benefit others”
-- In Conversation, a Writer’s Guidebook (p. 39)
This quotation from In Conversation asks you to consider both WHAT you want to observe (and why/how) and HOW you are going to ensure that your thoughts are of benefit to others. That last criteria is one of the most important thing that marks academic reflective writing out from simple journaling: if you are reflecting on your own experiences in a personal journal, your writing does not need to serve anyone but you. But, your reflective writing for class should demonstrate to your instructor that you have thought deeply about your course contents and found interesting ways to connect them with your own lived experiences.
So, in summary, reflective writing is not:
- Just a journal entry;
- Just an academic essay about a course concept;
- Just a judgment about a course text (i.e., not assessment of whether it is "good/bad," or "right/wrong")
- Just a description or story about a personal event
Reflective writing is:
- A response to your life experience, thoughts, and feelings as they relate to the course;
- A connection between learning and life experiences;
- A critical analysis that explores how course theories/terms have influenced your understanding of your own lived experiences (or your thinking about what it is you think);
- Personal - it is okay to use "I/myself/we/us" pronouns (might actually be strange if you don't!) "
- Julia Lane, SLC Writing Services Associate
Image credit: Self Reflection by Aenne Brielmann from the Noun Project
Graff, G. and Cathy Birkenstein. ( 2014). They say/I say: The moves the matter in academic writing, third edition. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company.
Palmquist, Mike and Barbara Wallrarr. (2018). In conversation: A writer's guidebook. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, Macmillan Learning.
Thank you to Gabrielle Flores-Santiago, M.A., Learning Centre Supervisor and Testing Coordinator at Columbia College for inspiring and generating some of the content included in this post.