A great deal of your time at university will be spent thinking; thinking about what people have said, what you have read, what you yourself are thinking and how your thinking has changed. It is generally believed that the thinking process involves two aspects: reflective thinking and critical thinking. They are not separate processes; rather, they are closely connected (Brookfield 1987).
Figure 1: The Thinking Process (adapted from Mezirow 1990, Schon 1987, Brookfield 1987)
- a form of personal response to experiences, situations, events or new information.
- a 'processing' phase where thinking and learning take place.
There is neither a right nor a wrong way of reflective thinking, there are just questions to explore.
Figure 1 shows that the reflective thinking process starts with you. Before you can begin to assess the words and ideas of others, you need to pause and identify and examine your own thoughts.
Doing this involves revisiting your prior experience and knowledge of the topic you are exploring. It also involves considering how and why you think the way you do. The examination of your beliefs, values, attitudes and assumptions forms the foundation of your understanding.
Reflective thinking demands that you recognise that you bring valuable knowledge to every experience. It helps you therefore to recognise and clarify the important connections between what you already know and what you are learning. It is a way of helping you to become an active, aware and critical learner.
Reflective writing is:
- your response to experiences, opinions, events or new information
- your response to thoughts and feelings
- a way of thinking to explore your learning
- an opportunity to gain self-knowledge
- a way to achieve clarity and better understanding of what you are learning
- a chance to develop and reinforce writing skills
- a way of making meaning out of what you study
Reflective writing is not:
- just conveying information, instruction or argument
- pure description, though there may be descriptive elements
- straightforward decision or judgement (e.g. about whether something is right or wrong, good or bad)
- simple problem-solving
- a summary of course notes
- a standard university essay
See next: How do I write reflectively?
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Have you ever logged in to your class to check your grades and sat there staring blankly in amazement because you failed a test or got a big fat “F” on an essay?
After you got the anger (and maybe a few tears) out of your system, did you think about why you failed so miserably?
Maybe you reflected on the situation and learned a valuable lesson about the importance of time management. As a result, you’re now a more conscientious student.
If you spent any amount of time pondering your failed assignment, then you already know something about writing a reflective essay. It’s this type of thinking about what you’ve learned or how the experience changed you that is the essence of a reflective essay.
In this post, I’ll give you a short tutorial on what makes a reflective essay, well, reflective. I’ll also point out the strengths of two reflective essay examples to help you get started.
The Reflective Essay
If you look at your own reflection in a mirror, you’ll see yourself as you are today, not as you were yesterday.
Wow—that sounds pretty deep, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Each day you change in some way.
If you’re writing a reflective essay, you’ll think about (or reflect on) how you’ve changed or perhaps how an event changed you.
For example, if you were walking to class yesterday and were almost hit by a car as you crossed the street, you might reflect on how the near-death experience changed you forever.
If you’re still not quite sure what it means to reflect, read How to Write a Reflective Essay That Is Interesting or check out this informative SlideShare.
But even if you know what a reflective essay is, that doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to write a good reflective essay.
Here are two reflective essay examples to help illustrate what makes a reflective essay good.
Reflective Essay Example #1: A Personal Account of Anorexia
Even though this essay isn’t very long, it’s a good example of the core component of the reflective essay: an explanation of how an event or experience affects the writer.
The writer of this essay discusses a personal struggle with anorexia. She explains how the experiences shaped her view of herself and how they helped determine her career goal.
A Personal Account of Anorexia
Reflective Essay Example #2: The Pressures of College
Reflective essay example #2 offers a different take on this type of essay as it includes a response to an article.
The writer of this essay reflects on personal pressures he faces in college and discusses strategies to overcome these pressures.
The Pressures of College
Final Thoughts on Our Reflective Essay Examples
As you can see, like most essays, the reflective essay follows a basic essay format. It has a solid introduction, a clear thesis statement, examples and evidence to support body paragraphs, and a strong conclusion.
Now you know what makes a reflective essay good (thanks to my helpful article and our reflective essay examples).
If you still don’t know what to write about, here are 15 topics to inspire you. You can also check out more reflective essay examples. Here’s a few worth looking at:
If you’re already inspired and have a topic in mind but don’t quite know how to organize your ideas, try outlining. Use this reflective essay outline to get started.
Now that you’re a more conscientious student, after reflecting on your academic career, be proactive. Let a Kibin editor help revise and perfect your paper.
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