Engaging Reflective Writers

Reflective writing is different to other types of academic writing that students are more commonly required to do in thier studies. Students using technology will often complain about doing it initially, especially if they have been engaged in primarily ‘seek and report’ activities.

Reflective writing challenges students. They may well spend time ‘researching’ aka Googling, but a well constructed ‘reflective writing group’, cannot simply copy and paste ‘content and information’ without having to justify why it applies to the context, situation or problem.

As this is often new to high school students, I have found the following scaffold effective – to get students writing. As they become effective at using this structure, I then add more ‘structures’ – using different questioning strategies to challenge them further. Initially though, I keep it really simple. This allows me to oil-dip some basic literacy and get a sense of the student as a writer.

  • What you were learning about/to do
  • Where you think that learning experience (not just content) puts you in the particular task
  • How does the completion of this task affect your overall goal
  • What are your next steps
  • Do you have any questions

The hallmarks of reflective writing

  • The writing is about you. Your thoughts, your feelings and your learning journey in a course or task
  • The language used in reflective writing includes words like ‘I’; ‘my’; ‘I felt’; ‘I think’.
  • It can start with a description of the learning before moving into reflection of the learning
  • It is less structured than academic writing, but requires a clear articulation of your thoughts.
  • Reflective writing illustrates a ‘continuum of development’. It shows personal growth and development. It shows how you have linked your new experiences to existing knowledge and used this to move forward. It captures the strategies you used to deal with issues in your learning.

Blogs and reflective writing

  • Blogs are like online diaries, each piece of writing is called a ‘post’.
  • The organising structure is the date.
  • Blogs can be interactive and colourfull and besides text can include videos, sound, photographs and links.
  • They provide an archive of posts, all of which can be easily edited whenever you choose.
  • Your teacher can see when you write and can provide you with feedback via comments linked to your post
  • Blogs can be assessed by looking at the quality of reflection the student demonstrates and secondly how the student optimises the functionality of the blogging tool.
  • Allows the teacher and student to engage in meaningful discussion beyond the walled garden of their school or classroom
  • Blogs tell the reader, what you are learning about, where you are in the project (by learning this), where you are going next.

This reflective writing needs an audience – and I’ve previously posted my thoughts on writing communites – but I was asked today to outline a basic framework of what I am teaching in the classroom – that works.

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