Channel Your Thoughts
The educational reformer and philosopher John Dewey once said, “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” If, like me, you agree with him, you may find this post on reflective writing meaningful.
It is important to note that writing reflectively does not have to involve only one area of your life. You should be open to write about anything you want, knowing it is going to be for you and your benefit only. It does not really matter what you write about. The key is reflection to enhance mindfulness.
What Is Reflective Writing?
Reflective writing focusses on your feelings, thoughts, reactions, and questions about your life in general, your teaching and/or learning, an event, or anything else you want. There is no right or wrong topic. You simply write to explore something further and deeper in order to gain new insights and understanding. According to Williams, Woolliams, and Spiro (2012), your reflection should stem from curiosity, introspection, and the desire to approach something to which there is no obvious answer. The authors also underline the importance of remaining honest and open-minded through the whole process.
In writing reflectively, you deliberately think about an event, a learning experience, a text you have read, or even a set of skills you are acquiring for a new hobby. You explore the matter and answer critical thinking questions.
Benefits of Reflective Writing
Reflective writing has many advantages. Whether you decide to try it for yourself, promote it in your classroom, or both, here are some benefits that come with it:
- It helps you to internalize content. For instance, it may help you remember and understand a concept you are trying to learn; in fact, you are forced to think critically about it and break it down. It could also help you process an event in your life by encouraging you to unravel it and look at it from a different perspective.
- It encourages you to deepen your understanding. You analyze, reflect and even hypothesize. You could, for example, come up with an original solution to a problem that has been plaguing you. The trick is to remain open and write about everything that your thinking evokes.
- It prompts you to formulate new questions. It does not matter whether you are writing about a personal problem, a professional strategy, or something you are learning. What matters is that you ask reflective questions. Moon (2005, as cited in Williams, et al., 2012) gives the following simple but effective example: Instead of focussing on what we want to make for dinner, it would be more productive to focus on who we are inviting, what the needs of our guests are, and how we can meet those needs.
Overall, reflective writing helps us to grow in our learning and in mindfulness.
When I share my passion about reflective writing with students and friends, most of them ask one question: “Where do you find the time to write?” I understand we all live very busy lives. My invitation, however, is to make time to be mindful. Make it a habit and set aside some time for your writing. It should not be perceived as a chore, but as a moment you take for yourself. You can decide what works for you and how often you are going to write and for how long. Some of my reflections evolve into blog posts. Others are just for me. The time I devote to reflective writing changes according to my circumstances, but I always find a way to fit it into my schedule (even if it is sometimes only ten minutes per week). Stopping to reflect, to write, to ask, and to analyze is a healthy way of engaging with life, teaching, learning, and much more.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. If you are a reflective writer and can add more to the conversation, I would be delighted to read your comments.
Williams, K. Woolliams, M. Spiro, J. (2012). Reflective writing. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.