Today’s blog is about that reflection paper you need to write. So, how do you write a reflection paper for a class? Writing the top-notch self-assessment essay is not always easy, but I’ll tell you exactly how to make it really easy. But first, here are some facts – 52% students cannot write a passing reflection paper and here’s how a struggling sophomore went from a C- to a 96% on a self-reflection paper. Yes, he took the help of an essay writing service and got an essay written on critical reflection. But if you want to take a shot and go the independent way, here’s how you can write your own self-assessment essay.
So, what is critical reflection? Reflection is about two big words – “contemplation and deliberation” about your personal experiences and what you learned from these experiences. So, there are two stages to a critical reflection – Relating or narrating your personal experiences, and interpreting the meaning of your personal experiences. While writing a personal reflection, you must narrate the experiences in detail. Remember, this is a subjective piece you’re writing, but if you do provide some objective facts, that should be done at the beginning of the essay when you introduce the topic to the reader.
Pull the Punch – and think / Image Source: 123rf.com
Now, suppose you are asked to write a reflection paper on your experiences as a manager or a nurse. How do you do it? The #1 trick to write a top-notch self-assessment essay is to keep it simple and direct. Relate the essay directly to your experiences and readers must be able to understand your point of view.
Create the outline for your reflective paper. Open the word document file on your computer and create an APA, MLA, Harvard or Turabian paper and use a skeletal formatting structure. For example, if you are writing an APA paper, use a running head, and if it’s MLA style citation you are following, clearly mention your name and coursework and create a skeletal MLA format for your paper. With the skeletal format, you must be ready to move on to the outline of the paper. The outline should include an introduction about you, your place of work, type of work, the specific case you want to narrate about, some points from your specific experiences and your final reflections and conclusion.
The next stage is to elaborate on the outline you have already created. Elaborate on the introduction first. Introduce yourself to the reader. They must know who you are and where you work, why you are unique, why your views are unique and how you relate to your personal experiences. This part has to be clear, brief and precise. Be powerful and direct about yourself and provide an introduction that will capture people’s interest. Creating interest is the first step towards writing a successful reflection paper. Why will people read your reflections and experiences if they are not interested in “you”? Yes, no matter how narcissistic this sounds, a reflective paper must focus on “you”.
Provide a clear introduction to the scenario or the setting you intend to write about. Is this a company or organization or hospital you are working with? Provide the details of the setting, so that readers can get an idea on the background and can relate to the work culture. Creating the setting or the background is necessary to help the reader to envision the situation you are working in, and they will have a better idea on how you think or react and what your circumstances are.If you are a student writing about your experiences at school, describe the school or your specific surroundings.
Elaborate on your job introduction or the circumstances that define your specific reflective scenario. Is the reflection about your work or a specific case study you handled? Define or narrate the circumstances of your work and provide an introduction to the case study and your duties or job. Provide details on what you do and it will be easier for readers to relate to your activities, your thinking and and your experiences. A brief and clear introduction about your job will help you to get the attention of the readers.
Narrate the details of your case. What are you reflecting on? Is this a patient case study you have to write about? Is this a reflection on your managerial duties? Is this about your experiences as a teacher? Whatever your circumstances are, write about your circumstances in detail. If you are a junior manager and want to write about your experiences with seniors, introduce people to the work culture and organizational structure, so that people understand the issues you want to highlight. If you are describing a specific event, be direct, precise and state what went wrong and how you fixed it.
At this point, try to directly answer the question. What is the reflection about? Is this a case study? What are the steps you took? If this is a reflection on how you managed a group discussion as a team manager or how you administered certain medications to patients as a nurse? Write about what you did, so that readers are clear what you were working on. Did you administer a specific type of medication or use a clinical approach that is more effective than others? Write about these stages, what you did, describe each stage and in detail. This part has to be objective as you would provide details on your activity and the real reflection begins in the next step.
Stop – and think / Image Source: YouTube
You will have to discuss the consequences or effects of your actions. What happened after you managed the team or implemented a specific type of clinical practice? What were the results of your actions? Were the results of your actions exactly as you expected or different from your expectations? This is the step where you discuss what happened after you carried out your actions. Write about the results and the changes that happened in the organization, if any, as a result of your actions.
This is the part where you reflect about your experiences and not just narrate these. This is the step when you go beyond the narration and write about your experiences and reflect on the changes you have made or the consequences of your actions. The reflective part will be highly subjective as you have to provide details on your personal experiences and how you specifically handled the situation you describe and most importantly, what you felt and what were your subjective experiences following the events or circumstances you describe in the essay.
This is the step when you summarize your reflections, provide an action plan on what you could have done or should do in the future when you encounter similar events or problems. Provide your recommendations and suggestions on how one should move forward when faced with similar goals, issues, problems or events. You must provide specific and concrete suggestions on how your actions helped overcome a crisis and how you could have taken a different approach to handle the crisis or the problem. Then, try to weigh whether a different approach to the problem would have been better than the approach you adopted.
Write the conclusion. For the conclusion, summarize the problems you faced, provide details of the case, what you did, how the events unfolded and what were your solutions? Provide your reflections on whether you changed anything in the practice, was the organization changed in any way? Reflect on your experiences and suggest how things can change in the future.
Things to Keep in Mind
There are a few things to remember while you write your self-assessment essay. Try to be direct, honest, reflective, balance the subjective and objective, be precise, be critical and tell the readers why your experiences are so unique and your self-assessment so accurate. A critical reflection is about being honest to yourself and to the reader and to balance your subjective views with the objective facts to relate the experiences as they affected you. A critical reflection highlights change in the organization as a result of your actions. Try to focus on the change and suggest what you changed, how the change affected the organization you work in? What would you do in similar circumstances in the future? Is there a new approach you would take? What would be the expected solutions or the new solutions that you would consider to handle the same problem?
Assess your actions / Image Source: globaldigitalcitizen.org
A critical reflection has to communicate to the reader and must be articulated in a manner that will create and retain interest of the reader. Write the reflection in a way people can relate to your thoughts and your views. Critical reflection is just another version of critical thinking but the reflection indicates that instead of just thoughts, your essay is about your reflections, so it’s necessary to think about your practice and ideas, accept critical reflection as a challenge and examine your thinking process as you reflect on your experiences and ask questions related to the what, how and why.
What was the problem or the event you want to reflect on? How did you respond to the problem and how did you react or come up with an action plan? Why did you respond in a specific way and why do you think your actions were right or wrong? What are the measures you would adopt in the future? How would you adopt these measures and solve the same problem with possibly a different approach? Why do you need a different approach to the problem you just encountered? Is this new approach a better solution to the problem? Why would it be necessary to adopt this approach? Question, question, question….the primary point of a reflective essay is to ask questions to yourself and find answers to these questions.
Ask questions – as many as you like and see where your questions take you and how you seek answers or respond to these questions. It’s like an adventure down that narrow lane that will ultimately take you through a dark tunnel and clear, bright sunlight. Yes, every enquiry is a journey and your personal critical reflection is also a journey to the unknown, when you try to dig deeper and understand your own circumstances and reactions and try to emerge a better human being through your own reflections.
All reflective exercises are aimed to make you better, to fill a gap in your own knowledge, these are about yourself and so finally, we come back to the same point, the reflection has to be subjective, direct and about “you.”
Reflection is about you / Image Source: MindsInBloom.com
Critical reflections are subjective assessments of your experiences and although primarily subjective, you have to strike that healthy balance of the objective and the subjective to keep the reader hooked to your brilliant musings. There may be several levels of reflection or several issues you must reflect on. For example, if you are a teacher, you may be interested in reflecting on your students’ achievements or your own approach to teaching. You may be interested in reflecting on student assessments, on grading assignments or on the strategies that are used for teaching. So, although it is all too subjective, finally you have to depend on objective issues and facts to write your reflective essay. A critical reflection and self-assessment require that you must be detailed, honest, critical and focused both on the assessment and on the reflection.
There are two things you must remember while writing a reflective paper – first, make it critical and approach the subject from a critical and reflective viewpoint. Secondly, focus on the self assessment and instead of being just critical and reflective about your experiences, use the tools of assessment with the what, how and why questions and develop a comprehensive reflective assessment and essay structure.
Now, let’s go back to the student who wrote a critical reflection paper – or okay, got it written by an essay writing service – how did he get an A+? The essay writer probably got it right. She focused on his experiences, his strengths, weaknesses, problems and solutions. She was direct, honest, critical, reflective…and provided an accurate assessment of the student’s potentialities and experiences. So, did the student’s life change? The student’s understanding definitely changed. He learned better, understood his flaws and knew how to tackle his problems. Critical reflection helps in developing insight into your own personal circumstances and helps you to change through critical assessment of your abilities. Critical reflection and self-assessment papers are aimed to develop your personal insight, identify your flaws, develop your strengths and make you a better and more capable and reflective human being.
When I am writing an essay, I am talking to the reader; I want to reach the reader. I used to ask myself, why would I have to use what someone else is saying to show that my point is right? What I am saying should be enough. This was my attitude about writing ever since I have begun writing essays. I would always hate using quotes because I thought that it was my paper, and my paper should have only one author. This was my constant attitude towards citing sources. Half of it had to do with selfishness and the other half in laziness. When I say selfish I mean that I wanted the reader all to myself. I wanted the reader to recognize how good a writer I am, and not how good a writer someone else was. I always knew that this was going to become a problem for me in college, but I didn't know it was going to become as important as it did.
MThe result of this was a decrease in my grade. My essay "Paradise" was a very good essay, but it hardly used any quotes and for that reason I did not receive the grade I was aiming for. I knew that it was a good essay, but I was a bit upset at the fact that the essay didn't get a grade for what it really was. I felt that the essay was powerful and it didn't matter if I hadn't used any quotes. I felt that I didn't need any quotes because the essay was an essay about the images of beaches and the effect that they have had in my life. There was no need for me to bring another persons opinion when I am talking about my life. But the fact was that my grade was on the line, and I was not going to jeopardize that for anything
This is an excerpt from my third essay called "Gangsters and Thugs" about the way that gangsters and thugs say and do everything we want to but can not, and the effect of the gangster being from another country.
Warshaw explains that "the gangster speaks for us, expressing that part of the American psyche which rejects the qualities and demands of modern life or 'Americanism itself'" (344). The gangster expresses what we can not express in our everyday lives because we would be considered somewhat crazy by American society.
I was just beginning to learn how to incorporate another person's quote into my essay. This quote was one that I would have been completely against before because it is one of those I would have felt stole the reader from me. This quote seemed to fit in perfectly with what I was trying to say in my essay. In the end I realized that the gangster topic was one that required a lot of quotations because there are so many perspectives and opinions that my paper would not be complete without them. I also realized that topics that have more perspectives and opinions make the best essays because they arouse conflict.
After the midterm portfolio I promised myself that I would always use a quote from someone else. And ever since then I can not imagine a paper without a quote. When I look back and compare my essay "Paradise" with my essay "Gangsters and Thugs" it seems as if two completely different persons wrote them. While working on "Gangsters and Thugs" I started to begin to explore with the citing technique and I actually found out that I could be very useful. Citing sources has become such an important factor in all of my essays after the Mid-Term portfolio that I can even remember how was it possible that I wrote a whole paper without challenging or agreeing with someone else's idea. The essay right after the Midterm portfolio included quotes, and the goes to show that I was willing to try this new technique immediately, and I worked pretty well. When I compare essay 2 to 3, I feel as if different people wrote the essays. Then after I began to use quotes I began to play with it a little bit and see how I could challenge what someone else was saying like in essay 4.
This essay was on the whole concept of branding and the effects that it has on society today. This quote was about The Economist newspaper and their opinion on consumers being hard to reach with advertising.
"The Economist also argues "Consumers are also harder to reach. They are busier; more distracted and have more media to choose from". One can see the truth in this statement considering all the ads, billboards, commercials and even internet Pop-Ups. But the fact is that our space is almost always being taken over by the same images, and they are usually the wealthiest companies who can afford this space"
I disagreed with the economist in a respectful way and carefully stated how I didn't necessarily disagree, but mentioned factors that play a big part in proving what he said not so accurate. This shows that I have a fair minded ethos. Showing that I have a fair minded ethos will actually allow the reader to realize that I am a fair minded writer, and that will actually gain me a type of respect from the reader that will allow him/her to feel that they aren't reading a bias essay. I also learned how I can agree with my opinion without having to put someone else's opinion down. I have realized that by disagreeing with someone else's opinion you can actually make yourself a better writer, and the readers will notice it. I realized that when I use quotes, I am not lending the paper to another author, I am just showing another persons perspective and what I think about it. By then adding on and saying what I think about the other person's perspective, I am keeping the focus of the essay on my opinion. I take the reader back from the author whose work I cited, and the paper remains "mine". I found that not only learning to use quotes, but using quotes that are relevant to the topic can be a deciding factor between an A paper and a C paper. I feel that this has been a very important step in English for me because now it seems to me as if I can not write a paper without using any quotes; it has completely changed my writing style. The irony of the story is that now I have found myself addicted to bringing in other peoples opinions to give my paper some other perspectives, when in the beginning all I wanted was to keep the focus on myself and my own opinions.
When I really come to think of it, I believe that the writer I used to be was a selfish and lazy writer. I say selfish because I would not allow my essays to include anyone else's words. I felt that if the reader has chosen to read my essay, they should get my essay and my opinions only. I also believe that I did not use quotes because of laziness. I did not want to go through the whole process of looking for a quote, adding the quote and then citing my quote at the end of my paper. In the end I found out that the laziness and selfishness were indeed like writing sins. The greed and sloth were keeping me from getting the types of grades that I deserved, it is a good thing that I realized the terrible mistake I was committing in time to be able to show my professor what I am capable of doing. I also learned that one can not say he/she likes or dislikes something without trying it first.
Introduction sets the reader up for a story of discovery (not the only way to begin).
Notice the reflection on the problem of using sources
Notice that in order to make a point about his use of sources, he cites his own writing and explains its significance.
Here the writer makes a claim about his growth in dealing with sources.
Here he provides evidence for his claim.
Here the writer discusses the meaning of the evidence that he has presented.
Notice that the conclusion is an elaboration on the material in the introduction. There’s a clear focus on a thesis.
Self-assessment would have stronger if he’d dealt with more of the Outcomes Statements.