Notes on Reflective Writing and Driscoll’s Reflective Framework
As students many of you will have approached your learning in a passive way. This means you have read the textbooks and journal articles, listened to the lectures and rote learned for exams without actively engaging in the discussions, tutorials or resources. In contrast, reflective learning requires you to become an active participant in your own learning by: challenging your assumptions, asking new questions, extending the relevance of theory and deepening your understanding of everyday life and practice.Reflection allows us to integrate theory into practice and allows us to consider deeply something we may not have given much thought to. Reflection is concerned with consciously looking at and thinking about our experiences, actions, feelings and responses and then interpreting and analysing them in order to learn from them (Boud et al 1994). Thinking and writing are closely connected processes. Thinking about your learning and writing it down helps to clarify your thoughts and emotions and the development of new ways in which to view the experience and in the case of health care professionals, your practice. Reflection on academic content or practice may enable you to make your personal beliefs,biases and expectations clearer to you.
Reflective journals are a vehicle for reflection. They are usually kept as an ongoing tool to enable you to reflect on learning, experience or practice over time. They may have many different styles. What is the purpose of keeping a journal? Maintaining a journal should be adopted as part of your learning and professional practice. The value of maintaining a journal includes:
1. It is a personal means of recording your own thoughts, experience and analysis with focus and order.
2. It enhances your learning skills because it will force you to deal with issues, questions and “messy’ information that is not straight forward.
3. It helps generate personal-practical knowledge and enables you to learn from it.
4. It enables healthcare professionals to become ‘self-conscious’ in a positive way.
5. It enables you to create a record of the connections and meanings you are making from either academic content or practice.
6. It provides an opportunity for a heightened awareness that comes with reflection to generate new understandings or a completely new perspective.
We understand that many of you have not written in a reflective way before, however as you progress through your studies reflection and reflective writing will become a common expectation. Reflective journal writing may be either structured or unstructured. This assessment task is a structured reflection exercise. Structured reflective writing uses question prompts as triggers to assist you in your early days as a reflective writer and reflector. Reflective writing by its very nature requires you to write in the first person. Unlike most of your academic writing which discourages you to use the first person pronoun “I”, effective reflective writing requires you to use the first person. Honesty is also very important for effective reflective writing. You should not be concerned about “getting it right” because there is no “right” response, as such. However, this is an assessed piece of work which therefore requires you to follow the assessment instruction, reference appropriately if using academic sources and use appropriate language for the task. There are many models of reflection but the one you will use for this assessment task is the most easily understood. The reflective frameworks of Borton (1970), Driscoll (2000) and Rolfe (2001) ask three questions: What? So What? and Now What? These question prompt, stimulate and provide a frame for organizing your thinking.
DRISCOLL’S REFLECTIVE FRAMEWORK
Describe objectively what you have read, seen or heard.
How did you respond?
Why did you respond that way?
Did the information challenge your values or thinking, if so why?
How did the information you read, saw or heard make you feel?
What is your interpretation of the information you have read, seen or heard?
Did you make any connections between the new information you have read, seen or heard with your past feelings, learning or experience?
Were you surprised by what you read, saw or heard?
What are the ethical considerations here? What should I be ‘mindful’ of?
What are the conclusions you have made from what you have read, seen or heard? Ask yourself “What might this mean?”
Have you changed your opinion because of the reflections on the new information?
Will any new perspectives change the way you currently practice or practice in the future?
Ask “In what ways might this learning experience serve me in my future?”
REFLECTIVE WRITING FOR ASSESSMENT
One of the challenges when beginning as a reflective writer is to ensure a balance between being descriptive and reflective. Many students tend to be overly descriptive and not sufficiently reflective. Overly descriptive: There will be a tendency to provide a narrative account of what you have read, seen or heard without sufficiently ‘unpacking’ the content. There is no discussion beyond description and no real evidence of reflection. Insufficient Reflection: There has been very little viewing of the issues from a different ‘standpoint’, no new thinking is revealed and/or there is little evidence of how a new perspective will inform thinking and practice for the future. In the past, many students have reported that their opinions “haven’t changed” as a result of reflecting on this new information (or the experience they have had). Saying this is not a good way to demonstrate reflective selfawareness! It is surely possible for all of us to point to information (or a situation) that has challenged the way we think about ourselves and others. This is the sort of thing I would like you to explore as part of this exercise. It is important to point out that you should not simply address each point in Driscoll’s framework without tying the information together (i.e., synthesising the information). Many students tend to write a sentence or two in response to each bullet point without integrating the information together in a coherent whole. Try not to do this! It’s better to leave out some of the bullet points that may not be as relevant to your reflection, and focus on synthesising the information coherently.
The reflective framework should guide your thoughts, but you don’t need to follow it slavishly. You should, however, use the main headings: ‘What?’, ‘So What?’ and ‘Now What?’ to structure your paper. For many of you this assessment task will seem like a challenge, however you should approach this task as both a means of developing a personal tool for learning and professional growth and consolidating the reflection process. Reflective Journal writing is a means of showing what you have learned and how you have learned it.
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