By Kati Lewis
Reflection is a major element of creative nonfiction (memoirs, profiles, etc.), critical thinking, the scientific method, research, and really any kind of writing/creating process. This—reflection—is the element in your thinking and writing that encourages you (and your readers) to really, really make connections and meaning among the past and present, as well as to speculate on where and how you might use your learning experiences in the future.
Given all of those spaces where reflection takes place, it’s important for us to take seriously the reflective component of a project/assignment. A reflection should offer as much meaning- and connection-making as an instructor would expect in any of your pieces for the class. In fact, you’ve been prompted to participate in intentional reflection throughout the class on your semester issues, research, and writing notebook activities, lab sessions, revisions, and in your Goals & Choices statements.
As you begin rethinking and connecting your experiences in this class, it is crucial for you to consider what reflective writing entails.
- Making a series of points about what you learned or what you did without backing those points up with explorations on how specific experiences with readings, writer’s notebook activities, genres, revision, discussion, etc. help you arrive at that learning/understanding about yourself as thinker, writer, doer.
- Talking about a course (this course) in a way that explains nothing about with what YOU are learning and doing in the course.
- For example, talking about revision without explaining what you learned, how you revised some pieces/parts, why you revised those pieces/parts, etc.
- Simply talking about how you feel. Reflection is about investigating your learning and making connections among your learning experiences. Talking about how you feel is only meaningful to your audience if you connect those feelings to specific learning experiences.
- Telling your audience what you are learning without showing them. Remember the “show more than you tell” mantra for creative writing? It applies to reflection, too.
- The expression of ongoing, developing, emerging wisdom you’re gaining from your experiences:
- Why did you select the piece for revision? For adapting into another medium?
- What are you learning about yourself as a researcher and writer?
- What have you learned? What are you learning? Why? How?
- Looking, really looking …
- BACK on the past: What works well in your writing? Why? What needs work? Why?
- at NOW―in the moment of a learning experience: What revision & expansion choices are you making? Why?
- FORWARD toward future experiences: How might your experiences with revision and adaptation help you take up other writing opportunities?
- Explain your writing processes, the effect of workshops on your writing, and how the study of the craft and technique affect your writing.
- How did your view on any genre and/or medium change? Why?
- How does this view make you think about/rethink your approach to writing? Why?
- Investigating yourself as a learner and writer by examining your learning and writing processes:
- How far have you come? What readings, research, discussions, revisions, etc. got you to this point? Why? How?
- Where do you hope to take all this learning in the future? How? Why?
Finally, it’s helpful to think about reflective writing for this class as a mash-up of genres:
- Reflection can be a memoir about your research, writing, and rewriting experiences in this class. Put another way, you’re offering your audiences the story of your learning experiences.
- Reflection can be an argument you’re making about your research, writing, and rewriting experiences in this class. Put another way, you’re offering a judgment based on evidence and criteria of how far you’ve come as a researcher and writer, as well as how far you might go in the future because of these experiences.
Often meaningful reflection, like meaningful nonfiction, offers an argument contained within the story.