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Reflective writing: employability skills

Reflective writing skills

Being able to write reflectively is a useful and valuable skill. Reflecting on an experience is a way of evaluating your own reactions and capabilities. It can help you to learn from your experiences and improve your approaches in the future. It can also boost your confidence and make you feel good about your achievements! Plus it's a great way to impress employers, as Iain Menneer, Chief Executive Officer of Animalcare Group PLC tells us, "Employers are looking for something quite special in a graduate, someone who has gone beyond their studies, is very proactive and can reflect on their experiences."

What is reflective writing?


We're used to writing descriptively about what we did and how we did it. But it's also useful to reflect on what we've done. Consider the difference between a diary entry that's just a list of places and names, and an intimate journal outlining your feelings, regrets, and other thoughts about those encounters. We can use these same approaches in an academic or professional setting, to reflect on the work we've done and what we may have learnt from that experience.

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York Award Gold

York Award logo

These resources are aimed at everyone, but reflective writing skills will be particularly useful for second year students applying for York Award Gold.

The Reflective Cycle

It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated. And it is generalisations that allow new situations to be tackled effectively.

(Gibbs, 1988)

It can be difficult to start writing reflectively after a lifetime spent writing descriptively. One approach that can help you structure a reflection is the Gibbs model below:


Description

What happened?

Action Plan

If it rose again, what would you do?

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

Feelings

What were you thinking and feeling?

Conclusion

What else could you have done?

Evaluation

What was good and bad about the experience?

Analysis

What else can you make of the situation?



Values

Your values reflect what is most important to you, in the way you live and work. Identifying and understanding your values can help you determine your priorities in life. Acknowledging your values when exploring opportunities or making plans and decisions can make both your professional and personal life happier and more fulfilling.

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Resources and links

Useful reflective writing resources from other universities

Reflective writing exercises

Improve your reflective writing skills by having a go at the two exercises below - click on a blue box to start an exercise:
Description
or
reflection?
Look back
to
move forward