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Reflective writing: Types of reflective assignments

“Reflection in a programme of study or professional context is a purposeful activity. It drives learning and change...”

Williams et al., Reflective thinking

What do you reflect on as part of assignments?

While you should be reflecting on all of your studies and assignments, the previous page introduced some aspects of courses that often explicitly require reflection. This page will consider what issues you should address when reflecting on each area of your course - especially as part of an assessment.

 

Types of reflective assignments

There are two different kinds of reflection that you may encounter at university and the sections below consider each. If the focus of your assignment is to look at theory in practice, you are likely to be looking at reflection focused on theory and academic evidence. This is often the case for disciplines where reflective practice is an important part of the profession (Social Work, Nursing and Education are good examples). If you are being asked to reflect as part of your learning or as personal development, you are likely to be looking at reflection focused on you and your development. This is also the case for students reflecting as part of their Hull Employability Awards.

 

Reflection focused on theory and academic evidence

In this kind of reflection, the aim is to relate theory and academic evidence to practice (and vice versa). This is achieved by comparing your experiences to theory and exploring the relationships between both. This will enable you discuss to what extent they are comparable or not. Theory can also be used to reflectively interpret your experiences. See the video on our Linking theory to experience page for examples of how to do this.

For any kind of reflection, you should consider:

The event or experience

How does the event or experience relate to theory or academic evidence?

Theory and/or academic evidence

What is the relationship between the theory/evidence and your event/experience?

The relationship between

This is the relationship between the event/experience and theory/academic evidence. To what extent are the two comparable? Why is this?

Evidence

As with all academic writing you must consider evidence. In this context your experiences, reflections and academic evidence can be used.

Your understanding

Can you apply theory or academic evidence to your reflection to increase your understanding of it?

Your development

All the ideas in developmental reflection below are often applicable to an academic context. (See below)

 
 

Reflection focused on you and your development:

In this kind of reflection, the focus is on you. You need to reflect on your experiences to highlight the learning and development you have achieved. You need to use your experiences as reflective learning points to inform future events.

For any kind of reflection, you should consider:

What you are learning

It's why you are here after all! (In assignments, only a brief description needs to be written about what you are learning as your lecturer knows the topic already.)

How you are learning it

We do simply absorb information. Reflect on how you learn best so you can keep doing it

How you are using what you are learning

Seeing the use and value of what you are learning is a fantastic motivator

What your strengths and weaknesses in learning are

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you identify areas to focus on. This can be for both improving your weaknesses and maximising your strengths.

What your learning priorities are

There are many aspects to defining your learning priorities. You may wish to focus on certain areas to achieve your desired grade. You could be matching requirements for your future career goals. Perhaps you're sticking to your strengths or interests?

How you can improve and build upon your learning process

The more time you put into figuring out how you learn and what works for you - the easier you will find your studies.

How well you are working toward your short-, medium- and long-term goals.

There is no point in setting yourself goals if you do not have any checks in place to see if you are succeeding. Use reflection to keep checking on your progress and revise your goals if you need to.

How your reflection can inform future practice

Reflection is all about improving for the future. Use your reflection to inform future practice. This works for all disciplines - from scientists devising a new approach for experimentation to nurses devising ways to improve their patient care.

Do not forget to also consider:

  • your motivation
  • your attitudes and ideas, and changes in these
  • the skills you need for different components of your study and learning
  • if anything is blocking your learning
  • the gaps in your knowledge and skills
  • how you might address any of these gaps.

 

Confidence

Do not be too hard on yourself or underestimate your skills, but be honest. You often know more than you think you do. An example of this is the mature student who has been out of formal education for a few years, but who has a wide range of experiences and transferable skills that he or she can use in his or her learning. For example, s/he might be good at multi-tasking or a great manager of time.

Also, think positively about moving yourself and your skills forward - keep motivated.

Summary

There are many different layers of reflection. You may be doing a lot of this already, but consciously acknowledging your reflections will help you to take account of your progress and plan for the future. If you reflect on the learning process itself - it will help you improve as a learner, giving you more time to focus on your discipline.