What Is Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing is used to analyze and examine an event, memory, or observation. The writer reflects on the meaning and impact of the occasion.

Defining Reflective Writing

Most writing is creative writing, where you describe something that happened or you make up a story. Reflective writing gives the writer insights and can lead to further learning. It is like rewinding your life to a past event and then thinking about how is affected your life, what you could have done differently to change the outcome, or what came out of the event.

Reflection is a mental process. It is contemplation or a long consideration.  Thoughts or opinions that come to you while you are reflecting are called reflections. Unlike a reflection in a mirror, it in as interpretation of what is going on between learning and thinking.

When you are writing about a reflection, there are factors that can affect how you express it. These are:

  • Why you are writing
  • Whether others will read it
  • How you feel about your writing
  • Your emotions at the time of writing
  • How capable you are at writing reflectively

Process of Reflection

There are three areas of reflection and these are detailed below:

  • Technical – This is what worked or did not work and why, problems solving techniques, and theories that were used or tested.
  • Group – This is the team dynamics; how everyone worked together and why, how could they have done better, and what worked or did not work and why.
  • Individual – What did I learn, how did I learn it, how did I feel and why, and what could I have done better?

Following are some guidelines for reflective writing:

  • What are you going to reflect on and why are you reflecting?
  • What did you think and feel and what were your reactions?
  • What was good and bad?
  • What was really going on?
  • What are the general and specific conclusions that you have made?
  • What could have been done differently and what will be affected by what you have learned?

Examples of Reflection

There is very good example of reflection given in J. K. Rowling’s book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that can effectively answer the question, “What is reflective writing?”  Following is the excerpt:

Harry stared at the stone basin. The contents had returned to their original, silvery white state, swirling and rippling beneath his gaze.

“What is it?” Harry asked shakily.

“This? It is called a Pensieve,” said Dumbledore. “I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.”

“Err,” said Harry who couldn’t truthfully say that he had ever felt anything of the sort.

“At these times” said Dumbledore, indicating the stone basin, “I use the Penseive. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into a basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.’

Harry has just experienced the Pensieve, where people can revisit the past and reflect upon what happened there.  Reflection is an integral part of the learning process, and sometimes you are not even aware you are doing it.

Topics and Prompts for Reflective Writing

Here are a list of topics for reflective writing and writing prompts:

  • How well did you write an assignment?
  • What is the quality of your relationship with someone?
  • What are some experiences you gained in your job?
  • How you want to behave differently?
  • What is your process for problem solving?
  • How well did you do in school last year?

Here are writing prompts to get you started on reflective writing:

  • If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?
  • Describe your room and what you feel about it and your possessions.
  • I am comfortable when…
  • I feel angry when…
  • I feel frustrated when…
  • The most interesting story my family ever told was…
  • What do you want to do before you turn 30? (or any age or date)
  • What are some things you are grateful for and why?

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