The structure of reflective writing

Reflective writing can take a number of forms. Sometimes it is given as a stand-alone assessment task, for example, when you’re asked to reflect on your own learning in light of educational theory. Yet, reflective writing in Education is more commonly incorporated into other writing tasks, such  as  essays. This means that the way you structure your writing will be determined by the purpose of the task, and the expectations of your lecturer.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is one model for developing and structuring a piece of reflective writing as outlined in the introductory video. However, regardless of which model or approach you use, several elements are generally present in reflective writing.

When reflecting on an experience (such as a classroom observation) you might address the following questions in your writing:

  • Description – What happened?
  • Analysis – Why did it happen? What were you feeling? What theories might help explain what happened? Are there other perspectives that challenge your views?
  • Outcomes or Action – What did you learn? What would you do differently next time?

When reflecting on your learning (such as an educational theory you’ve learned about within a unit) you might address the following questions:

  • Description – What is the concept, idea or theory you are reflecting on?
  • Analysis – Are there aspects you found particularly interesting or challenging? Does it tie in with anything you have learned in the past? Has it changed the way you think, or affirmed something you already knew?
  • Outcomes or Action – What else might you need to find out? Do you have any questions? How might you incorporate or apply these ideas in the future, perhaps in your professional life?

Whether reflecting on an experience, on your own learning, or both, you will need to make sure you include description, analysis and outcomes or action.