How to deepen the analysis

Reflective writing only needs a brief description or summary, followed by a more sustained analysis. This analysis often comes out of looking at your description or summary, and then asking ‘how?’ and ‘why?’

In the example of reflective writing below, the student has provided just a description:

During my years in primary school, I loved exploring the world using my imagination. A favourite game that I would play with my friends was ‘mothers and fathers’, which involved us each pretending to be a different member of a family, and then enacting family roles and household duties.



The following questions, derived from Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle (as explained in the introductory video), help you analyse this experience. These are the types of questions you can ask when writing your own analyses:

  • What were you thinking at the time?
  • How were you feeling at the time?
  • How have you felt about it since then?
  • What was positive and negative, effective and not effective?
  • Why did you choose this action or take that approach?
  • What theories can help explain this experience?
  • Are there theories that challenge your understanding or interpretation of this experience?
  • How else could you interpret the situation?
  • What else could you have done?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • Did the experience affirm or challenge your existing understandings?
  • How will this new knowledge guide future actions?
  • How can you implement lessons drawn from this experience into your professional practice?

Read the following example of reflective writing. The example comes from an assignment that required the student to reflect on learning theory. To help you write reflections that move beyond description, answer the questions that follow.

Another phase of cognitive development considered important in Constructivist learning theory is the concrete operational stage (between 7 to 11 years). In this stage children are thought to be able to use logical reasoning and deduction. A simple example of this might be understanding and articulating  that the amount of liquid in a tall skinny glass is the same when poured into a shallow wide glass (Snowman, 2009). Thinking on my past learning I can delineate a stage of learning that I could describe as concrete operational, which would roughly equate to my primary schooling. My learning revolved around  understanding logical concepts (e.g. eating unhealthy food will make you unhealthy). Hence there are clear examples from my primary schooling which could apply to a Constructivist theory of learning.

Activity

Read the following two extracts from a student assignment in which they were asked to reflect on themselves as a learner.

After you have read through the two examples, answer the questions below.

Example A

The first formal stage of cognitive development in Constructivist theory is considered to be preoperational (between 2 and 7 years), in which children are able to represent their world with symbols, that is, numbers, language, gestures, shapes, pictures, and colour (Piaget, 1964). Although behaviour  and thinking  at this stage may seem illogical to an adult perspective (Snowman, 2009), make-believe play is seen as an important aspect or hallmark of preoperational cognitivism (Hedges, 2000). Indeed I can distinctly remember many occasions where I enjoyed taking on the role of airplane captain  or dinosaur, for example, during play as a young child. Elsewhere I enjoyed building with Lego even though my early designs may not have seemed logical from an adult perspective. Therefore, reflecting on my preoperational cognitive development I believe experiences from play shaped my learning, consistent  with Constructivist  theory.

Example B

The first formal stage of cognitive development in Constructivist theory is considered to be preoperational (between 2 and 7 years), in which children are able to represent their world with symbols, that is, numbers, language, gestures, shapes, pictures, and colour (Piaget, 1964). Although behaviour  and thinking at this stage may seem illogical to an adult perspective (Snowman, 2009), make-believe play is seen as an important aspect or hallmark of preoperational cognitivism (Hedges, 2000). Indeed I can distinctly remember many occasions where I enjoyed taking on the role of airplane captain or dinosaur,  for  example, during play as a young child. During these moments, I enjoyed acting out, or performing, what I knew about professional responsibilities and prehistoric times. I also tested my understanding of these things through interactions with others, welcoming feedback from others. For instance, my mother  told me that the largest dinosaurs, such as the Brachiosaurus, were actually herbivores, so I pretended to only eat plants. Therefore, reflecting on my preoperational cognitive development I believe experiences from play shaped my learning, consistent with Constructivist theory. It is important to remember  in the classroom environment, therefore, that learning is not simply the act of acquiring knowledge, but is the process of interacting with, enquiring about and ultimately understanding the world in which we live.

Activity