How to write reflectively

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Writing is a great way to help us reflect on new information or skills in a deeper way in that can enhance understanding. In an age of constant stimulation and distraction, it’s all too easy to forget what we’ve learned if we skimp on reflection. Whether you are a good writer or not, no matter what field you are working in – creative or technical, athletic or educational, and so on – getting in to a habit of writing reflectively will help you understand what you’re learning at a deeper level. Put simply, if you want to understand more about yourself and your practice, start writing reflectively.

Pen and paper vs laptop or tablet

My short answer is hand, my long answer is both. Let me explain.

Handwriting takes longer, which is a good thing. Reflective writing by hand gives you more thinking time, a valuable asset in a world of hectic distraction. It’s also easier to delete your writing or correct it grammatically when you are using technology, tempting you to write what you think you should write rather than what you want to write. Reflective writing should not be perfect writing, it simply needs to be manageable. Even 15 minutes of reflective writing weekly can have a great impact on your creative practice or artform and deepen your knowledge of a particular subject. But be practical; if you are in a lecture or watching a YouTube video and need to take notes in a hurry, or you’re at the coffee shop and start spontaneously reflecting, then by all means use a laptop. But be sure to dedicate a set period of time to deeper reflective writing by hand each week. If you can, slot in your reflective writing after you’ve learned something new or following a creative session. Often significant things we have thought about we forget when life takes over.

What is reflective writing?  

Let me wrap this one up inspired by The Reflective Practice Guide (Bassot, 2015) with some key phrases for you to jot down:

·      Reflective writing is always written in the first person it’s more personal and demands a high level of self-awareness, which reflective writing allows us to develop;

·      Reflective writing is critical – it asks you to offer a critique and evaluate your work. It is not descriptive, rather it asks you to write down what happened and critique the process;

·      Reflective writing is analytical – think of a SWOT analysis where you are required to assess your strengths and weaknesses, whilst also considering your thoughts, engaging with your emotions and challenging what you think you know;

·      Reflective writing should be honest and spontaneous – write whatever comes to mind and let the writing flow freely;

How to structure your reflective writing?

Knott and Scragg (2013) offer a great structure for us to replicate, which requires a lined journal for your reflective writing – remember we are doing this by hand.

Stage 1 – Reflecting

Focus on an issue or concern that you have in relation to your practice and development. Write freely to capture your thoughts and emotions.

Stage 2 – Analyze  

Prompting yourself with the following questions will help you through this more difficult stage of reflective writing:

·      What is happening?

·      What assumptions am I making?

·      What does all of this show about my underlying beliefs

·      Are there alternative ways of looking at this, if so, what are they?

Stage 3 – Action

Now it’s time to take action. Again, here some questions can help get you moving:

·      What action could I take?

·      How can I learn from this experience?

·      How might I respond if this situation occurred again?

·      What can I learn from this experience regarding my beliefs about myself?


Now it’s time to get reflective! Pull out your notebook and pen and use this structure to reflect on something that has happened this week.

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