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Reflective writing: Reflective writing for academic assessment

“...reflection is intimately linked with the process of learning - learning from, learning that, learning to do, learning to be.”

Jenny Moon, Reflection in learning & professional development

Reflective writing for academic assessment

Reflective writing straddles many disciplines and activities, including:

  • Experiments
  • Observations
  • Field trips
  • Reading
  • Art work
  • Exhibitions
  • Product design
  • Interpretations
  • Placements
  • Language learning
  • Group work
  • Journeys
  • Portfolios, ePortfolios, learning logs, journals, diaries
  • The Hull Employability Awards

A normal requirement of assessment at university is the ability to write in an academic style. Based on the application of reason and argumentation, academic essays draw on other academic sources. The style of writing is impersonal and discursive. Reflective writing style is different in several respects.

Student considering their writing

The purpose of academic reflection


To make connections

The idea behind reflective writing is that what you learn at university builds on your prior knowledge, whether it is formal (e.g. education) or informal (e.g. gained through experience).  Reflective writing helps you develop and clarify the connections between what you already know and what you are learning, between theory and practice and between what you are doing and how and why you do it.

To examine your learning processes

Reflective writing encourages you to consider and comment on your learning experiences – not only WHAT you learned, but also HOW you did it.

To clarify what you are learning
(Identifying outcomes)

Reflecting helps you to clarify what you have studied, integrate new knowledge with previous knowledge, and identify the questions you have and what you have yet to learn. You may also learn new things about yourself through this process.

To reflect on mistakes and successes

Reflecting on mistakes can help you avoid repeating them.  At the same time, reflecting on your discoveries helps identify successful principles to use again.

To become an active and aware learner

Many learners go through university with a passive approach to learning. Such learners engage with the learning process by accepting information that is presented to them. They often do not consider learning as a skill. Taking an active approach will help you develop your process of learning (making it easier and quicker). Such learners recognise the contestable nature of information that is presented to them. They often engage with activities, quizzes and further research to build their own understanding and viewpoint. That is a winning idea for any student.

To link practice and theory You can use your experiences to evaluate academic evidence/theories in practice. You can also use academic theories to interpret your reflections. This is a very important part of academic reflective writing.

To become a reflective practitioner once you graduate and begin your professional life

For lots of professions, reflective practice is an important part of the job. This is valuable in many, if not all professions and is valuable for helping you continue to identify and build your professional skills development.

The table above is adapted from The Learning Centre, University of New South Wales (2013)