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Reflective writing can help you understand concepts and experiences and apply them to the real world.

When you’re completing reflective writing tasks, you will use your own experiences (as well as course content and research) to demonstrate your learning. Here’s an extract from an assessment task and marking rubric that requires reflective writing:

Sample Assessment Task

Using what you have learned in this course and your own experiences, reflect on the importance of supporting the psychological needs of employees at your workplace.

From marking rubric:

Mature and comprehensive reflection on approaches that will support workplace psychological needs.

How to write a reflective response

Whether you’re completing a short written response to a question or writing a report/essay, structuring your ideas in paragraphs will help you present them clearly and convincingly. Check our Writing page for guidance on paragraph writing.

Each paragraph will include one key idea, which you will explain carefully, using evidence to support that idea. 

When you’re completing a reflective writing task, the evidence you choose to support your idea may come from course content, research, or your own life

In the reflective section of your paragraph, you should try to answer the following questions.

  • What happened? This is where you’ll describe a situation or event in your life that relates to the main idea of your paragraph. In the example (in pink) below, the learner describes working in an environment where there was no social interaction within their team.
  • Why is it important? This is where you’ll describe the impact that the situation or event had on you. In the example below, the learner states that psychological wellbeing can be impacted by working in an environment with little social interaction.
  • How will I use this experience in the future? This is where you’ll explain how the situation or event will influence your future decisions. In the example below, the learner states that, thanks to their experience, they will ensure that they provide opportunities for team members to have social interactions in the workplace.

Reflective Paragraph: Example

Firstly, providing employees with opportunities to engage in meaningful social interactions within the world of work fosters a sense of belonging, which is a key psychological need. In 1943, psychologist and philosopher Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs that influence human motivation, with love and belonging identified as key psychological needs. Having the opportunity to engage in positive social interactions leads to feelings of belonging and personal wellbeing (Mental Health Foundation, 2021). I have experienced what it is like to work in an environment where I didn’t have the opportunity to connect with my colleagues. Our work involved transcribing audio into text, and we spent each shift in separate cubicles, wearing headphones. Our breaks were staggered, which meant there was little opportunity to interact with each other through the working day. This made it very difficult to make connections at work, and while I enjoyed the work itself, I felt so lonely that I stopped enjoying my work. This experience made me realise the importance of giving employees the opportunity to connect with others and develop a sense of belonging at work. In order to support my psychological need for human connections, my employer could have implemented a wellbeing buddy system, organised social events, or arranged our breaks so that we did not have to take them alone. This knowledge will influence how I manage teams in the future, as I have come to understand that social interactions should not be an added bonus; they are an essential psychological need.

*Topic sentence introduces the main idea of the paragraph, with keywords from the assessment task.

*Explanation and evidence convinces the reader that your idea is valid. This writer has used a theoretical model (Maslow) and information from the Mental Health Foundation to support their idea.

*Reflection: What happened? Why is it important? How will I use this experience in the future?

Note that the final sentence includes keywords from the assessment task to show the marker that the ideas explored in the paragraph are relevant.

Man holding lightbulb

Top Tip

You can use the personal pronoun ‘I’ in reflective writing. However, you should still avoid using: 

  • Contractions, such as it’s, can’t, or won’t. Instead, write the words out fully as it is, cannot, or will not.
  • Slang or text speak (e.g. lol).
  • Gendered words such as manpower, mankind, or fireman. Instead, try humanity, humankind, and firefighter.
  • The word ‘he’  to refer to an academic or author, unless you’re sure that it’s the correct pronoun.

Additional Resources

The Smarthinking Writer’s Handbook contains detailed information about reflective writing.