H808: Advice on what constitutes good reflective writing


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This post is a response to Activity 2.5 which is to write a piece of advice to students on what constitutes good reflective writing.

What is reflective writing?

When we talk about reflecting we usually mean thinking about and analysing an experience or event. Reflective writing means expressing these thoughts and analysis, so that it is of use to both the reader and the writer and helps track and demonstrate development of skills and experience over time.

Reflective writing is different from other forms of ‘academic writing’ such as essay writing; in reflective writing the writer is encouraged to:

1. Use the first person ‘I’.
2. Write about feelings and emotions.
3. Use descriptive language to show the reader what happened.
4. Write about when things went wrong and what you might do differently another time.

How do I do it?

One approach to reflective writing is to use a 4 step approach:

Step one: Describe the event or experience
Step two: Reflect and analyse the experience
Step three: Discuss the important of the experience or place it in context of another experience or relate it to something you already know.
Step four: Write about lessons learned and next steps as a result of this reflection.

Can you show me an example?

Yes! Look at the example below. The topic is ‘My first Skype tutoring session’

First, here is some writing with no reflection

Today I tutored through Skype rather than face to face. I sent the student the lesson overview by email and asked her to print it out. We worked through the lesson and I asked her questions. The skype feed went down a few times and we had to restart. The while lesson took much longer than a face to face but she saved time travelling to see me.

Now, let’s work through the four step reflection

{step one: describe}
Today was my first Skype tutoring session with my student. I was a bit concerned about whether she would think it was a poor substitute to face to face tutoring and whether there would be any drops in internet communication that might scupper the whole thing.

{step two: reflect/analyse the experience}
Overall the session seemed to work reasonably well as she and I went through the lesson plan and had a good discussion. I think I talked a bit too much though and perhaps a bit too quickly as she had to ask me to repeat things. The feed also kept dropping a few times, and we hadn’t established a protocol for who would ring back and how we would communicate when the feed dropped- I need to think about this for another time. The whole session took longer than a face to face session and I was quite tired by the end of it and I think she was glad it ended too. There was quite a lot of repeating information and more questioning which might explain the time overrun, but there were also some interruptions such as a family member coming into the room on her side and her internet feed dropping suddenly, which meant we had to re-start and review sections.

{step three: importance of experience}
Even though we could see each other, Skype tutoring is  different from face to face with some disadvantages (the same lesson takes longer online) although it is more convenient since we don’t need to meet up. I think Skype tutoring is not just moving the tutorials to an online environment but might be an opportunity to be able to do some different things . I have read about ‘flipping the classroom’ so that the student does the theory work and background reading and then the tutor-student interaction time is for working through exercises, and I wonder whether I should consider this for online tutoring.

{step four: next steps}
For the next session, I may ask her to do the reading beforehand to cut out my talking time at the beginning, ask her questions about what she understood, and then just work through the exercises with her. This will free up some time in the session and also it will mean I will do less talking/teaching and we can spend time interacting more.


Remember, you can work through this four step approach as many times as you want for the same experience. For example, if you were to reflect on this two months later, your reflections might be different as you will have new layers of experience to add.



11 thoughts on “H808: Advice on what constitutes good reflective writing

  1. Nice, your blog allows me acquiring some taste of H808.The experience of online tutoring may also be affected by the language proficiency of the participants. I found that was the case in the Elluminate discussions at least.Stefaan

  2. Hi Tony and YvonneThanks for stopping by and for the positive comments :-). Yvonne, yes ‘flipping the classroom’ seems to be a hot topic right now. Thanks for the link.

  3. Hi StefaanYes, thanks for the reminder about language proficiency and online tutoring. What helps both parties in your opinion?

  4. Interesting this as I have had 4 sessions with a student using skype during the last week (audio only though). Admittedly my connection didn’t drop but I did do things like coughing which meant I couldn’t hear. it was very much a speech only session but in many ways I think it worked better than face to face as there was less distraction and more focus.

  5. HI IsabellaI’ve found the eye contact with video to be really useful for icebreakers and general social stuff around the learning. I’ve actually had a few more sessions since this one described above, and it is going much smoother now and actually a bit quicker. I am trying to work out how to share screens now in Skype but I think I need to upgrade my Skype version. Sharing files is good too across Skype.

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