Reflective writing is a component of every ECE English course and should be mentioned in the course syllabus. The reflective portion of the course includes any time spent on characterizing, reconsidering, or qualifying one’s work. Often less evaluative than descriptive, reflective writing turns the critical, analytical activity that typifies academic writing back on the writing project itself, addressing questions such as:
- How does this project work?
- What characterizes the approach of this project and the “moves” that it makes?
- What work was entailed in getting to this point?
Reflective writing (and reflective work more generally) happens throughout the term, usually in ways that complement formal writing projects by providing opportunities for a writer to imagine alternatives or trace lines of thought or activity. Indeed, much academic writing includes writing that we might describe as reflective in origin (e.g., “with this example, I intend to show that …”).
Essentially, reflective writing features the metacognitive elements of academic writing, often in genres that facilitate this self-awareness.
Types of Reflective Writing
ECE English recommends two ways of pursuing reflective writing:
- Low-Stakes Self-Reflection (Ungraded)
This is writing about one’s own writing, the process and the product, in precise and local ways. Such writing is best as low-stakes, ungraded writing. One common approach is assigning cover letters for drafts or final projects, either turned in with the assignment, or written upon arrival in class on the day an assignment is due. Other examples include process notes (which might explicitly examine the writer’s process for producing the draft), in-class reflections on (or presentations of) one’s project, other kinds of metatexts, or even a placing of one’s work within the context of others’ work.
- “Textualizing” Student Writing (Graded)
This is using the students’ own writing projects as “texts” in a later writing assignment. This allows students to use a framework or critical vocabulary they have been working with throughout the semester to animate a discussion of their own writing texts. This can only work within some course contexts, such as those that raise issues associated with education, writing, subjectivity, language, etc. For example, if other assignments have been examining education through the lens of Paulo Freire, a reflective assignment might ask students to turn that lens on their own writing, examining it through Freire’s concepts and questions.