Bolton with Delderfield: Reflective Practice

Here you can find a wide range of downloadable resources to extend you reflective writing. Click on the topic below to reveal more the relevant resources.

What is reflective practice writing?

Reflective practice is critical enquiry into any aspect of our practice, deepening and clarifying understanding of it and our relationship with it.  It involves reflection, an important aspect of which is reflexivity.

Reflection is a process of focussed thinking – about anything. We focus upon specific situations or relationships. This can help, for example, develop our perception of others (such as clients or colleagues), perhaps by comprehending their point-of-view better. Reflection can enable finding routes through difficulties, dilemmas, and decision making. It can celebrate and endorse success, giving strategies for working out how we made things go right, so we can do it again.

Reflexivity is self-critical reflection. It focusses upon one’s actions, thoughts, hopes, fears, role, values and assumptions with the aim of gaining insight into them.  Reflexivity can, for example, enable us to perceive that we do not every day practice according to the values we state as being significant to us in our practice (i.e. our values-in-practice prove to be at variance with our espoused values). This illuminative self-questioning, is inevitably also a process of uncertainty and self-doubt: the reflexive practitioner has no idea what it will lead them to question.

Reflective practice concerns our work, and areas of our experience which impinge upon it. Reflection involving reflexivity is critical questioning which can be initiated and supported by creative reflective processes. These can help us to observe ourselves and our practice from points of view outside of ourselves.  Gaining some distance from our habitual certainty about what we do, think, and believe, and beginning to perceive a different focus upon it, can open up seemingly immutable areas to critical enquiry.

Reflective practice writing, involving explorative and expressive use of narrative, metaphor, and so on, has the creative power to give different perspectives on our relationships, actions and assumptions.  Such writings, when reread, reflected upon, and discussed with confidential trusting respectful peers, can develop their full potential to give insight and pathways for development.

I realise now how varied the literature on reflective practice is in quality, scope and depth. On one level some people talk about reflective practice as if it was just a chat about an incident over a cup of coffee.
(Ann, Master in Medical Science student)

Reflective practice involves writing and discussion, which, when undertaken in depth, is enjoyable because it is creative and full of the delight of discovery.  It yet also has the potential to deeply disturb the most significant and seemingly stable aspects of our lives.  This can seem uncomfortable to begin with, but such is the nature of the dynamic change potentially wrought by reflective practice writing.

Reflective writing for assignments involves reflective practice writing as a stimulus and starting point for meaningful and thorough reflection, ready for use in assessed coursework. It then takes a critical approach to understanding practice by merging reflection with underpinning theory and evidence from research. Assumptions are often challenged, cases may be evaluated, our own practice and the professional setting are analysed, so too are authoritative sources. These are brought together to address a brief or answer a question.

It can be useful to be methodical when tackling such assignments. Our 8-stage process for reflective assignments (see link further down this page) can help with this.

Video interviews with reflective practitioners

Watch Gillie Bolton in conversation with three leading authorities on their experiences of using reflective practice in their working lives.

Video 1: Gillie Bolton in conversation with Angela Mohtashemi, People and Change Director in a leading management consultancy firm

Gillie and Angela discuss using reflective writing as a way of developing a team bond in a coaching setting; in particular reflecting on the difficulties of introducing writing to a corporate environment, and the ways of overcoming these difficulties.

Video 2: Gillie Bolton in conversation with Joan Williams, Senior Lecturer and Assistant Programme Leader MA Education at the University of Brighton

Gillie and Joan discuss the challenges of using reflective writing in an MA Education setting, where the students are unfamiliar with creative writing, and how many students come to see this experience as an aid to their academic writing, and as something which can fit into their daily routine.

Video 3: Gillie Bolton in conversation with Julie Hughes, Principle Lecturer PCE at the University of Wolverhampton

Gillie and Julie discuss using reflective writing in teacher education to facilitate professional development, and especially the advantages that technologies such as blogs and e-portfolios can bring to help establish a dialogue with oneself or with other students.

Reflective writing experiences

Download a selection of shared reflective writing experiences from a range of professionals working in healthcare and education:

Ann Rowe - Reflective Writing in Nursing  

Jim Cheek - Reflective Writing Experience 

Jonathan Knight - Reflective Writing as a GP 

Xanthe Cross - Reflective Writing as a GP

Joan Williams - Reflective Writing as an Education academic and teacher 

Listen to Joan’s song, “My Hand Writes a Song”:

What do I record in my e-portfolio?

E-portfolios can be assessed or unassessed. They often have the capacity to take any number of professional development documents.

Most e-portfolios allow you a significant level of control about what you add, collect and link together. An e-portfolio will accumulate records, along with critical reflections and evaluations of practice. It may be indexed to a set of standards upheld by a professional body. Certain entries may include sensitive information and require appropriate anonymization. Be sure to adhere to any course or service policies on this.

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of what you might be adding and maintaining:

  • Summaries of qualifications undertaken and the grade/outcome attained.
  • Summaries of professional experience
  • Logs of formal training attended
  • Reflections on impact of training on your development
  • Logs of specialist conference or seminar attendance
  • Reflections of conference/seminar attendance on your development
  • (Critical) incidents within practice that are subject to reflection
  • Reflective journal entries
  • Reflective model templates
  • Completed reflected models 
  • Evidence of continuing professional development
  • Self-evaluations of skills (e.g. surveys, questionnaires or audits)
  • Evidence of personal qualities and attributes
  • Practice case studies
  • Critical reviews of pertinent research literature
  • Critical reviews of information for practitioners (e.g. leaflets or handbooks)
  • Policies
  • International, national or local protocols or procedures
  • Service or business reports
  • Risk assessments
  • Course assignment self-evaluations and feedback
  • Action plans
  • Presentations you have delivered
  • Performance appraisal documentation
  • Positive feedback from colleagues, trainers, tutors or service users/patients
  • Developmental feedback from colleagues, trainers, tutors or service users/patients
  • Six-minute writings
  • Reflective essays or assignments
  • Your CV