PPS: Reflective writing
What is reflective writing in the Pharmacy context?
Reflective practice is a process designed to help you analyse an experience or situation in order to create new understandings, and ultimately develop greater self awareness. This is vital in the Pharmacy context, as your effectiveness as a practitioner in the Pharmacy field can have a direct impact on the health of your customers or clients.
Reflective writing encourages you to think about what you have learned and how you have learned it, while taking into account your observations of your experiences and beliefs. This type of reflection draws upon your past experiences as learners, as well as your current experiences while on placement or in an internship, and links these with theoretical learning in your Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science units.
Tips for writing a great reflection View
Go beyond recounting or describing
Students can sometimes make the mistake of thinking that reflective writing simply requires you to recount an event or describe a particular situation. Reflective practice within university assignments extends beyond this, and requires you not only to narrate or describe, but also to analyse and evaluate the situation to develop new ways of thinking.
Explore and explain the why
While a description simply recounts what took place, reflective analysis explores why events unfolded in a particular way. Reflective writing considers theories that help explain what happened, and the significance of these scenarios regarding your proposed actions for improvement.
Take the time to reflect
To become competent at reflective writing requires practice and involves making time to think about the experiences you have had. Writing about your experiences should help you achieve this. A journal, diary or notebook might help establish the habit and provide you with valuable information when it comes to writing down these insights for a future assignment.
Structure your sections along the What?, So what? and Now What? questions
In line with Borton’s (1970) framework, you should consider structuring your reflection in a way that answers these questions:
What? This section is descriptive and should answer the question “What happened?” Consider what skills, concepts or theories you’ll be reflecting on. Additionally, discuss how the situation made you feel.
So what? This section analyses and evaluates why the situation happened in the way it did, and whether your views were challenged. You might ask the following additional questions:
It’s important to remember to link your analysis to your future career as a pharmacist.
Now what? This final section outlines proposed actions you will take in the future, in a similar situation, or in general. Ask yourself what you learned and what you’ll do differently next time.
Use SMART goals
Remember when writing a reflection for your Personalised Learning Plan (PLP), that you must include a SMART goal in your proposed action.
What does reflective writing involve?
Reflective writing requires you to show that you can analyse and evaluate what you read, think and do, by acknowledging a range of viewpoints and possibilities. When you undertake a reflective task, you need to draw connections between what you have been asked to reflect on and relevant theories and content you have learned in your course.
While there are numerous reflective practice models available, Borton’s (1970) framework is the preferred model for the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash.
This simple framework is guided by three main questions:
What? Describe the event
The question “What?” is a prompt for you to briefly describe the situation in which you are/were developing a particular skill.
- Your description needs to be concise but provide enough detail for the reader to have a clear understanding of the situation including what happened and who was involved.
- Remember to acknowledge your feelings about your skill development and your reaction to the event.
So what? Analyse and evaluate the event
The question “So what?” is a prompt for the next step in the reflective process, which requires you to make sense of your description of the event, situation and skill. This involves analysing, evaluating and interpreting both the situation and your skill(s) and reactions.
To analyse, you need to explore the causes and consequences of the actions, and how and why you reacted in that experience. You also need to examine how and why the experience unfolded in the way that it did.
To evaluate, you should reflect and comment on what was negative (e.g. what did not go well or didn’t work) and positive (e.g. what went well and what worked) about the experience or the situation.
To interpret the situation, ask yourself what the situation and skill - and your reaction to it - mean for you as a developing scientist/pharmacist, or as a student and a peer. For example, does it mean you need to rethink your approach to the situation, your understanding of a process, or the way you engage with others?
Now what? Propose an action to improve
Answering the “Now what?” question is a prompt for you to think about the implications. This stage is integral to your written reflections as you investigate ways to improve your performance in the future.
In this section of your reflection, you need to develop SMART plans you will put in place to further refine your skills.
To address the “Now what?” question, you can ask yourself additional questions, such as:
- What am I going to do in relation to the situation based on my analysis and evaluation of it?
- How will it influence my practice in the future?