Every day we are learning something new and adding them to our experiences. Perhaps it doesn’t cross our mind until and unless it’s a major issue, but the process of learning does not stop for one single day. Well, that is how life goes. As a student, you may learn tonnes of interesting stuff every day, but how many of them are really leaving a mark on your mind? The concept of quality learning can be described as the process where students actively and purposefully engage themselves with issues and activities they presume as important. Has that happened to you while writing an academic paper? Don't worry. No one is going to arrest you if your answer is no. But you must know there's something wrong with your approach if you have never had that kind of involvement in any of those projects.
Perhaps you haven’t heard about the term “reflective writing”, or maybe you have but don’t know what it is. In both cases, you need to know that quality learning is a part of reflective thinking or writing. Reflective writing is a distinct form of writing that is used to critically analyze and scrutinize an occurring, memory or observation. We are talking about those writings where the meaning and impact of an event are reflected from the words of the writer. You must have heard people talking about how important creative writing is, but what you may not know is that reflective writing holds more significance on your overall learning.
In simpler words, reflective writing can be described as:
- The writer’s response to experiences, events, new information or opinions
- The writer’s response to thoughts and emotions
- A process of thinking to explore one’s learning
- A chance to obtain self-knowledge
- An opportunity to have a better understanding of what one has learnt
- An opportunity to improve writing skills
- A way of understanding the underlying meaning of what is being taught.
Reflective writing is like travelling back to your past and absorbing its effects and then putting them into words accordingly. Reflection, in this context, is a mental process that can be described as long consideration. Unlike a reflection in the mirror, it interprets what’s going on between learning and thinking. In reflective writing, there are certain factors that can determine how you are going to express your thoughts. Those are:
- What is the purpose of your writing?
- What defines the credibility of the writing?
- What are your thoughts about the writing?
- What do you feel while writing the paper?
- How efficient are you in reflective writing?
How does it work?
In order to pursue reflective writing, you need understand the underlying guidelines of reflective writing. You need to comprehend those guidelines that are disguised as several questions.
- On what you are about to reflect and what is the reason behind the reflection?
- What are your thoughts, feelings and reactions to the event?
- What did you like and what did you unlike?
- What was the actual scenario?
- What are the conclusions that you could make?
- What changes could have been made?
- Will that change affect anything?
You need to answer these questions in order to engage in reflective writing. You may spend a great amount of time at college/university thinking. Thinking about what you have learned, what you have encountered or how your thought process has changed. The process of thinking generally has two aspects: one is reflective thinking, and another one is critical thinking. If you look closely, you may find that those two aren't much different. In fact, both are closely connected.
As the popular belief goes, there's no right or wrong way of reflective thinking, but a series of questions to answer. In fact, the process of reflective thinking starts with you. Before you can start assessing anyone else's ideas or words, you need to take a breather and recognize and evaluate your own thoughts. This includes revisiting your past experiences and understanding of the topic in-hand. You may also require exploring how and why your thought process runs in that particular way. You need to evaluate the foundation of your understanding that is built with your beliefs, attitudes, values and assumptions.
Through reflective thinking, you can have clarity of the link between what you have experienced and the things that you are learning. This allows you to turn into a more active, aware and critical learner. It also enables you to have a better understanding of the things you learn in a more logical sense. It’s a lot different from writing a standard university essay or summarizing the course notes. In fact, just conveying information, instruction or any argument does not count as reflective writing. When you put your knowledge and experience in describing the topic; that is when you actually perform reflective writing.
How do you write a reflective essay or assignment?
- Keep your focus on the outcomes of you learning
- Choose an effective way to draft an assignment
- Introduce the structure of the main content in such a way that it provides adequate support for the introduction
- Describe what you felt about event or experience at the time of its occurrence
- Provide an evaluation of the experience
- Give an analysis of the event
- Prepare a compelling conclusion.
How does reflective writing help quality learning?
Now that you have learned what reflective writing or reflective thinking is, it will be easier for you to understand the link between reflective writing and quality learning. Well, as mentioned earlier, reflective writing comes from your experience. It is something that you connect with emotionally. Technically, you learn better when you can connect with your studies emotionally. This is the reason why reflective writing is a better way of learning on any given day. It enables you to analyze the lessons critically where you go beyond the superficial layer of the given study material and start comprehending its practical implications in day-to-day life. So whatever you learn in this process, gives you a better understanding of the subject or discipline you study.
Generally, what most of the student prefer to do is read the content, learn what those sentences say, and then write on the topic whatever they understood from that reading. It does save some time, but the student's involvement in this kind of learning is quite shallow and superficial. This is the reason why a lot of students forget what they learned a few months ago. Let’s admit it; we have all done this. And luckily, it has worked for most of us. But at the end of the day, are you content what you have learned? Perhaps not!
As mentioned earlier, the reflective writing you not only put the things that you have read in the books or other sources, but you also write your interpretation of the learning which has the influence of your past experiences and how you felt about those experiences (events or occurrence). Since reflective writing bridges the gap between your learning and thinking, you get a better understanding of the lessons, and they don't easily fade away. So, if you were wondering why the things you learn fade away with time, it is maybe because you have never tried reflective writing in the recent time.
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