The Reflective Essay – Your Opportunity to Respond
The reflective essay is in a class all of its own, because the writer is asked to think about his or her emotional and intellectual responses to an experience, an event, the writing of another, etc., and to analyze the impact of this thing on his or her own thinking, future, or basic principles. As such, the reflective essay is intimate and personal.
There are several times at which a student may be asked for a reflexive essay. The writings of an important person may have been read, and one is asked to reflect on the impact of these writings on his or her own life, beliefs, etc. A movie may be viewed, and a student may be asked to reflect upon the themes that directly relate to his or her life in some way. A field experience may have been completed, and the student is asked to reflect upon the importance of that experience to his or her future career plans or upon his or her performance. Thus, an education major, who has completed his or her student teaching practicum, will be asked to reflect upon the success of specific lesson plans as they were implemented in the classroom or the degree to which he or she was able to establish rapport with the students taught.
A Reflective Essay is Personal!
While other essays may require objective data and objective approaches to topics and issues, the reflective essay is wholly personal. Your subjective viewpoint and your emotions are critical facets of this type of writing, and you must be certain that you do not “divorce” yourself from the experience. The reader wants to be given insight into you - your reactions, your thoughts, and your emotions.
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Organization of the Reflective Essay
The structure of a reflective essay is not different from that of all essays. You will need a compelling and creative introduction, in order to motivate your reader. Your body paragraphs should be divided into definite segments, each perhaps focusing on one emotional response, or one difference the experience has made on your beliefs or principles, or who the experience will inform you future behavior. A conclusion, of course, should summarize the entire experience and focus on the major impact upon you. How you organize for the actual writing is flexible and depends upon your own personal preference. Some students simply make a listing; some outline; some use visual mapping. You should use the model that suits you best.
Generally, a reflective essay will not require outside research, other than perhaps references to material you have read and to which you now refer.
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