What is reflection used for?
Reflective tasks are used to develop critical thinking skills by asking you to write reflectively on:
• current knowledge
• work placements
Reflective tasks require you to examine your subjective thoughts and feelings as well as your responses to new information and new experiences in order to:
• identify learning needs and improve your learning processes
• make connections between theory and professional practice
• identify what you understand and any questions you have
The resource Introduction to reflective practice (opens in a new window) provides an introduction to using reflective thinking and learning. If you would like to build on this material then look at Critical reflective practice (opens in a new window).
What types of reflective tasks are there?
Reflective tasks come in various forms including:
• reflective journals
• blogs and wikis
However, a reflective task may also be included as one section of a larger assignment with a particular set of instructions.
Writing the reflective task
The planning for reflective writing is the critical thinking on a particular topic, event or learning process and the writing is how you demonstrate these thoughts.
1. Analyse the task and confirm what type of reflection you are required to write
Always carefully review the assignment you have been given to ensure you are following the task instructions. What exactly are you being asked to reflect on? Is it your experience from a situation, your own learning process, observations you have made etc.?
2. Analyse and evaluate the learning situation or knowledge
Depending on the task you have been given, you will need to evaluate and analyse a particular situation, idea (knowledge), experience, event, process etc. and to consider what was important or significant and why.
3. Use prompting questions to help you write reflectively
The Reflective practice cycle (opens in a new window) provides you with some questions for you to ask and answer in order to help you reflect deeply about the task.
4. Include the characteristics of reflective tasks in your writing
There are some particular characteristics of reflective writing which may differ from the other types of academic writing you have done previously. Important characteristics include:
a. Using first person: Reflective writing is often written in the first person (using ‘I’) because you are writing about your own experiences and thoughts.
b. Using tenses: When writing reflectively you will need to move between the past tense and the present tense.
Use past tense when you are describing an event that took place.
The supervisor was quick to point out where I had gone wrong.
Use present tense when you are making a general comment or referring to the theory.
My job involves managing customers’ money effectively and profitably.
Brownlow’s theory can be applied in this case because it deals with people’s feelings.
c. Using speculative language: When writing in reflective tasks you will often need to speculate about the future or about a hypothetical situation. For instance you may want to comment on a particular workplace and how suitable it would be for your future career. Notice how present and past tenses are used with speculative language in the example below.
Although I enjoyed my placement at Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), I would not like to work there in the future. The reasons for this are first that I prefer to live in rural areas as I grew up in Port Pirie. Most jobs with PwC are in the city and I am hoping to find a position in the country when I graduate. Secondly PwC specialises in mining, utilities and defence industries. I would prefer not to work for any of these industries as I believe they exploit the environment and the interests of people who are less powerful in our society.
d. Connecting theory to practice: While it is important to record feelings and emotions as they can indicate areas where you may need to make changes or develop better strategies,
you should go beyond simply recording the feeling. Try to make connections between events and theory or attempt to understand the context and see the event from different perspectives.
Original text: When the supervisor raised her voice and reprimanded me for arriving late I felt very embarrassed. It reminded me of the importance of punctuality so I will try not to be late in future.
Revised version: When the supervisor raised her voice and reprimanded me for arriving late I felt very embarrassed. While on the one hand I realise that I had contravened an explicit workplace rule, I still believe she could have spoken to me in private and without raising her voice. I have since looked up some texts on workplace communication (reference) and they say it is always important to consider the context before jumping to conclusions about behaviour. This lead me to understanding that the supervisor was under some stress as the organisation was undergoing a major review from Canberra at the time. I still think she could have been more controlled and this experience has taught me the importance of thinking about the feelings others in the workplace.
From descriptive to reflective writing
Descriptive writing is an important starting point in any reflective task as you are required to provide detail about the context to which you are referring to as well as the events or experiences that you have observed.
Useful links (all open in a new window)
Visit the links below for more information about:
• Reflective practice
• Reflective practice cycle
• Critical reflective practice
• Reflective writing (Hull)
Visit the module Assignments for more information about: • Journal writing
There may be resources that have been created with your lecturers, addressing assignment tasks and topics specific to your courses. Follow the links below to find out:
Education, Arts and IT, Engineering and the
Business Health Sciences
Social Sciences Environment
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