Many of you will likely have come across the phrase “reflective writing”, probably in connection to continuous professional development (CPD) or improving professional practice. So what exactly is it, and why might it be useful to us when we think of our jobs and careers?
‘It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn.
Without reflecting upon this experience it may quickly be forgotten,
or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging
from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated.
And it is generalisations that allow new situations to be tackled effectively.’
To put in another way, many of our everyday work situations could be learning experiences but unless we put a bit of effort into reflecting on these experiences, the chance to gain wisdom from them may be lost. Writing is a more effective way to do this than simply thinking about them, because it makes us think more deeply, logically and analytically about what happened and what we might take away from the experience to use in future.
How might you do this?
What happened? Start with writing a first person narrative of the event or idea that you are reflecting on, focussing on description.
What did you feel? Think about your thoughts, feelings and reactions – what was good and bad.
Analysis? Now it is time to take a step back from the events and feelings you have described and think about them more deeply. Can you make more sense of what happened based on your other knowledge or experience now that you have had the time to do so? Does your idea of what happened or why you behaved in a certain way change from doing this?
Conclusions? What conclusions can you draw based on your reflections and analysis of the event or idea? Do you think your response to it at the time was good or had room for improvement? What does this tell you about your way of working? What does it tell you about your own skills or knowledge that you may wish to improve upon? What new knowledge could you take forward from this event to use in future?
Action Plan? What are you going to do differently next time a situation like this arises? Is there anything else you need to do on the basis of this?
Reflective writing takes practice if you want to do it well. Why not start a journal and start reflecting on your work on a regular basis? No one needs to read it but you, and you might surprise yourself about what you learn about your work and you undertake it.