Reflective writing is a practice in which the writer describes a real or imaginary scene, event, interaction, passing thought, memory, form, adding a personal reflection on the meaning of the item or incident, thought, feeling, emotion, or situation in his or her life. Many reflective writers keep in mind questions, such as "What did I notice?" "How has this changed me?" or "What might I have done differently?"
Thus, the focus is on writing that is not merely descriptive. The writer doesn’t just hit the replay button; rather, he or she revisits the scene to note details and emotions, reflect on meaning, examine what went well or revealed a need for additional learning, and relate what transpired to the rest of life.
While anyone can use reflective writing for personal development, the practice is often incorporated into professionalism training for physicians, nurses, teachers, social workers, and others needing to offer more humane and compassionate service to their patients or clients. The underlying assumption is that through the experience of telling and listening to stories, the student becomes more attuned to noticing, listening to, recording, and responding to the stories of patients and colleagues in years to come.
Reflective writing asks the practitioner not only to pull back the lens and observe events, human interactions, and perspectives in the field of study, but also to become more conscious of his/her emotional responses to situations encountered in training and practice, to find metaphors for experiences, and to contextualize observations. When reflective writing is shared in classes and groups, careful listening and provision of responsible, sensitive feedback to fellow students and practitioners is encouraged.
- Creative writing
- Persuasive writing
- Reflective practice
- Writing therapy
- Bolton G. Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development. London: Paul Chapman Publishers; 2001.
- Ellison G. Reflective Writing in Medical Education. www.gailellison.com.
- Roy R. Teaching cultural sensitivity through literature and reflective writing. Virtual Mentor. 2007;9(8):543-546.
- Shapiro J, Kasman D, Shafer A. Words and wards: a model of reflective writing and its uses in medical education. J Med Humanit. 2006;227:231-244.