Approaching a reflective or reflexive writing task

Reflective and reflexive writing needs to do more than just describe what you have learned. You need to make connections between your experience and prior learning, reflect on how and why your understanding may have changed, and if required, refer to relevant theoretical readings to explain your points. The three steps below may help you in approaching a reflective or reflexive writing assessment. Always refer to your assessment instructions for specific requirements.

This is an example of reflective writing about the concept of witchcraft:

I knew (or thought I knew):
Witchcraft involved the burning of thousands of women, and that it was a terrible thing. Likewise there were trials to try and prove witchcraft, ridiculous things like weighing them down and I thought that it was to do with a lot of burning of poor and defenceless women at the mercy of the Catholic Church, who were either pursuing their own belief practices or were caught being outspoken. I had some idea that there were different approaches to the 'persecution' of the witches, but not the depth of the judicial response and sometimes the caution.

I learned:
That I had assumed a lot of knowledge from popular culture about a) gender in the early modern period; b) the relationship of church and state; c) what witchcraft was. The gendered element of witchcraft then is complex in its own right. History is not static and there were continuing reforms and debates going on the whole time and so everything was in transition.

I want to keep learning:
What witchcraft as 'inversion' meant for understandings of gender, and how these bigger concerns in society translated into a fixed judicial system.

A quality piece of reflective writing will have the following attributes:

Self-assessment and self-understanding:

  • evidence of awareness of personal learning processes
  • consideration of how and why learning changed
  • evidence of appropriate and honest appraisal
  • articulation of personal learning and limits.

Making connections:

  • articulation of connections between prior and current knowledge
  • evidence of capacity to form connections across the unit’s themes and topics
  • integrating prior knowledge with new knowledge
  • providing relevant examples to prove knowledge.

Sample assignment: Reflective journal

Your reflective writing will be based on the notes you made. Look at the example below, which is based on the notes we made in the example above.

Click the icons preceding each sentence to see the lecturer's feedback on this reflective journal entry.

Reflection is not…

One last thing to remember about reflecting in an academic context is that this isn't the same as the kind of feedback on the unit that you might do for SETU (Student Evaluation of Teaching and Units) - you're not judging the content and quality of what you've experienced.

It is also not:

  • a diary
  • a description of the reading or experience
  • a list
  • everything you think and feel put together
  • private free writing
  • a series of complaints or criticisms.

Taking this on board as you prepare your reflections will also help you avoid the trap of talking about your personal opinions or biases instead of truly reflecting.


Check the instructions

Remember to read the instructions carefully to ensure you are answering the question correctly. You can also use any marking guidelines or rubrics provided to determine how best to approach the task.