Writing Reflection Assessments

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Writing Reflection Assessments
Study Guide
What is Reflective Writing?
Reflective writing records your thoughts and feelings about what you’ve learned or experienced. It
allows you to think deeply and develop new insights and perspectives.
Sometimes you will be asked to reflect on an event, your performance, your feelings about a concept or
topic. It may be as simple as reflecting on a particular task; how it progressed; and thoughts for
improvement.
Style and Structure
When writing reflectively, you can write in the first person, using language like “I observed…”, “My
experience…” etc.
The length of the reflection is determined by your lecturer, so ensure you keep within those parameters.
In general, a reflection can be at least 500 words in length.
Reflections can vary between subject areas, so a reflective journal written by a nursing student may be
quite different to a reflective assignment written by a hospitality student, although many of the same
principles apply.
There are several different models that you can use to help you structure your reflective writing. Ask
your lecturer if there is a preferred model or format that they prefer. This guide will present the
Gibbs’
Reflective Cycle
model.
Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle
This model of reflection was developed by Professor Graham Gibbs in 1988 and was published in his
book “Learning by Doing”. This model aims to assist with reflecting on learning experiences.
Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle comprises of 6 stages:
Description- what happened?
Feelings- your reaction & feelings
Evaluation- what was good and bad
Analysis- make sense of the situation
Conclusions- what have you learned?
Action plan- What are you going to do differently?
These stages are expanded below:
Description
Describe what happened, the task etc. Answer these questions (if relevant):
What happened?
When did it occur?
Who was there?
What did you do?
What did others do?
What was the outcome?
In this section it is important to be brief and to the point. Most of the word count related to this
assessment needs to be related to the analysis.

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Feelings
Discuss what you thought and felt during the experience. Answer questions like:
How did you feel at the time?
What did you think at the time?
What was the impact of your personal beliefs, emotions and values?
What do you think others were feeling?
What do you think about the situation now?
How do you think others feel about it now?
Although you are discussing your feelings here, please remember that this is an academic piece of
writing, so please be honest, but respectful in the language you use
Evaluation
In this stage, you need to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work in this situation. Answer questions
like:
What was positive about this experience?
What was negative about this experience?
What went well?
What didn’t go so well?
What did you and others contribute to the situation (positively or negatively)?
Analysis
This stage of the process is to analyse or make sense of what happened. You can focus on the steps
that went well or badly and ask yourself why. This step allows you to link to any of your prior experience
and also academic theories that are relevant.
Some questions to ask could be:
Why did things go well?
Why did things go poorly?
What sense can I make of the situation?
What knowledge (my own, others, academic literature) can help me to understand the situation?
Conclusions
This stage can help you to summarise all that you have learned and identify how you could change your
actions to improve the future outcome. Ask questions like:
What did I learn?
What should I have done differently?
What can I do better for next time?
What skills may I need to improve my handling of the situation in the future?
Action plan
This step helps you to plan for what you will do differently in the future in the same or similar situation.
This plan provides practical steps on how you will make these changes. Some helpful questions to ask
are:
If I was in this situation again, what would I do differently?
How will I develop the skills I need for this situation?
How can I ensure I act differently next time?
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Reflective Writing Example
Below is an example of what a completed Reflective Writing Assessment may look like for reflecting on a
group work assignment. As mentioned previously, please make sure you follow your lecturer’s
guidelines.
This is adapted from: The University of Edinburgh 2020,
Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, viewed 20 September
2021, <https://www.ed.ac.uk/reflection/reflectors-toolkit/reflecting-on-experience/gibbs-reflective-cycle>
For the team-work section of my course, we were required to work in groups of four to complete
a group-work assignment for assessment. My group decided to divide the different sections of
the assignment between us so that we only had to research one element each. We expected
that we could just combine the individual written sections together in the afternoon before the
deadline the next day, so that we didn’t have to schedule time to write the whole assignment
together. However, when we sat down it was clear the sections weren’t written in the same
writing style. We therefore had to rewrite most of the assignment to make it a coherent piece of
work. We realised that we hadn’t allowed ourselves enough time to rewrite the assignment if
something went wrong, and some of us had to cancel our plans for the evening so that we could
meet the deadline.
Before we came together to combine our individual pieces of work, I was quite happy and
thought we had been smart when we divided the task between us. I then felt frustration when I
realised our plan hadn’t worked, and initially lacked motivation for the re-write. Due to the guilt I
felt at some group members having to cancel their plans for the evening, I decided to work
harder and just get the work done. Once the task was completed, I felt a sense of relief that we
had finished, and I think this feeling was shared amongst my group members.
What worked well for this assignment was the fact that each group member produced good
quality work for the agreed deadline. Moreover, the fact that two people from the group
cancelled plans motivated us to work harder in the evening. That contributed positively to the
group’s work ethic. The thing that clearly didn’t work was that we assumed we wrote in the same
way, and therefore the overall time plan of the group failed.
I think the reason that our initial division of work went well was because each person had decided
what part of the assignment they wanted to work on, and we divided according to people’s selfidentified strengths. I have experienced working this way before and discovered when I’m working
by myself, I enjoy working in areas that match my strengths. It seems natural to me that this is also
the case in groups.
I think we thought that this approach would save us time when piecing together the sections, but
we hadn’t thought about contingencies. In reality, it ended up costing us far more time than
expected and also a lot of stress in rushing the rewrite. I think the fact we hadn’t planned how
we were writing and structuring the sections led us to this situation.
I searched through some literature on group work and found two things that help me understand
the situation. Belbin’s (2010) team roles suggests that each person has certain strengths and
weaknesses they bring to a group. While we didn’t think about our team members in the same
way Belbin does, effective teamwork and work delegation seems to come from using people’s
different strengths, which we did.
Another theory that might help explain why we didn’t predict how our plan would fail is the
concept of ‘Groupthink’ (Janis 1991). Groupthink is where people in a group won’t raise different
opinions to a dominant opinion, because they don’t want to seem like an outsider. I think if we
had challenged our assumptions about our plan – by being critical, we would probably have
foreseen that it wouldn’t work. Some characteristics of Groupthink that were in our group were:
‘collective rationalisation’ – we kept telling each other that it would work; and probably ‘illusion of
invulnerability’ – we are all good students, so of course we couldn’t do anything wrong.
I think being aware of Groupthink in the future will be helpful in group work, when trying to make
decisions.
ANALYSIS EVALUATION FEELINGS DESCRIPTION
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I learned that when a group wants to divide work, we must plan how we want each section to
look and feel – having done this would likely have made it possible to put the sections together
and submit without much or any rewriting. Moreover, I will continue to have people self-identify
their strengths and possibly even suggest using the ‘Belbin team roles’ framework (Belbin 2010)
with longer projects. Lastly, I learned that we sometimes have to challenge the decisions we
seem to agree on in the group to ensure that we are not agreeing just because of Groupthink.
When I’m working with a group in the future, I will talk to them about what strengths they have.
Next, if we decide to divide the tasks, I will insist that we plan out what we expect from it
beforehand. I would suggest writing the introduction together to start with, so that we have a
reference for when we are writing our own parts. I’m confident this current experience will be
enough to remind me to suggest this if anyone says we should divide up the work in the future.
Lastly, I will ask if we can challenge our initial decisions so that we are confident we are making
informed decisions to avoid Groupthink. If I have any concerns, I will tell the group. I think by
remembering I want the best result possible will make me be able to disagree even when it feels
uncomfortable.
Reference list
If you referred to any theories from academic literature in your reflection piece, you will need to add a
reference list at the end of the document.
Further resources
If you require more assistance with reflective writing, please talk to your lecturer. They can explain their
expectations and requirements, and you can match your reflection to these.
There are also some helpful websites that may assist further with writing reflectively:
The University of Edinburgh 2020, Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, viewed 20 September 2021,
<https://www.ed.ac.uk/reflection/reflectors-toolkit/reflecting-on-experience/gibbs-reflective-cycle>
The University of Melbourne n.d., Reflective writing, viewed 20 September 2021,
<https://students.unimelb.edu.au/academic-skills/explore-our-resources/developing-anacademic-writing-style/reflective-writing> – this website explains the DIEP Model
UNSW Sydney 2019, How do I write reflectively?, viewed 20 September 2021,
<https://student.unsw.edu.au/how-do-i-write-reflectively>
ACTION PLAN CONCLUSIONS