Reflective Statement: Viewing Your Past Through a Different Lens

spanishreflexiveverbsWhether it be in the academic setting or workplace environment, individuals are often asked to reflect on past successes and mistakes in order to determine which course of action seemed to work the best. Viewing an experience from hindsight often puts an interesting spin on the event and assists in the discovery of unique and innovative solutions that an individual had not previously arrived upon. In the sections to follow, we will discuss reflective statements and the various factors that go along with them.

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What is a Reflective Statement?

The term “reflective statement” refers to the method of writing that revolves around hindsight and is typically assigned to students in academic settings in order to assist in their discovery of the ways in which education has helped them grow. Often it assesses the benefits a certain choice has had on the student’s life or something of the same nature. However, reflective statements can also be present outside of the academic setting when any individual looks back on prior decisions and takes a moment to consider the outcome if the choice had been made differently. For example, an instructor may use a reflective statement to assess that students may be doing poorly in his or her class because the course work is too difficult rather than because they are simply not putting in enough effort.

What Makes a Good Reflective Statement?

The main factor that contributes to an efficient and satisfactory reflective statement is the amount of effort put in. While it may be considerably easy for a student to claim he or she has learned a lot from his or her high school experience, the resulting reflective statement is likely to lack depth and fall flat in the eyes of instructors or a college admissions board. In order for a reflective statement to stand out among a pile of others, the student must put a great deal of forethought and planning into it before even putting the pen to the paper.

Here’s a checklist for your reflective statement:

  • Written as a clear and concise narrative that is understandable to all audiences.
  • Includes at least one of the four approaches to reflective statement writing (included below in the types of reflective statements section).
  • Appropriately addresses an experience that it suitable for the topic that is to be explored.
  • Filled with factual knowledge as well as personal opinions.
  • Lacks bias.
  • Contains unique and innovative insights on the topic discussed.
  • Reveals the decision making process used by the individual in most difficult situations.

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Before You Begin

Like any important school assignment or college admissions essay, a reflective statement demands thought prior to completion. However, since this specific type of essay focuses on hindsight, reflective statements require more forethought than usual. Before beginning, sit down in a quiet setting and write down all of your ideas for the statement on a blank sheet of paper. Once this step is complete, read over the list of ideas and underline or circle those that are likely to elicit the most thorough response. In other words, choose the ideas or concepts that spark your interest or those you feel most comfortable writing about. After those ideas have been selected, choose one and spend a few minutes reflecting on it before writing a shortened sample essay on the topic. Continue this process until you’ve discovered the topic that works the best, and then devise an outline for the statement revolving around your selected topic. Once the outline is complete, you may begin working on the essay.

Types of Reflective Statements

  • Description

Descriptions represent the most simplistic form of reflective statements, demanding that the writer or speaker analyze their recent experiences at face value alone. The student may be asked to recall as many details as possible about a recent event, such as an examination, and include such factors as anxiety level before and after the exam, amount of studying put in prior to the date, stress level while the exam was being taken, as well as any other relevant details. Recalling such occasions as they occurred allows individuals to interpret what they could have done differently, predict the outcome of those choices, and compare and contrast reality from the fantasy. By participating in this activity, individuals may be more adept to exhibit wiser decisions when the situation occurs again.

  • Analysis

An analysis based reflective statement digs deeper than the description, demanding considerably more thought and effort. Like the description, an analysis involves recalling a past event, but, unlike its descriptive cousin, this form of writing involves the assessment of how that experience shaped the present and the benefits it has bestowed upon the individual’s life. Another method of crafting a reflective statement through the use of analysis is through the interpretation of the most important factors that contribute to an experience. For example, if a professor were writing a reflective statement on the trials and tribulations that come with teaching, he or she may use the analysis approach to determine what characteristics and mannerisms play an important role in the creation of an efficient lesson plan, as well as engaging and informative lectures.

  • Synthesis/Judgment

The synthesis or judgment approach revolves around reflection on what a certain experience has taught an individual, as well as the meaning of that event. This involves assessing the event itself, as well as its various outcomes, and determining the ripple effect that one prevalent choice had. For example, a student could choose the choice to attend university as their event and judge all of the good that has come from that one decision. Instead of just focusing on academics, students may also explain how the choice brought new friends into their lives, taught them how to become independent, and transformed their parent-child relationship from authoritative to more friendly in form. An alternative method for this approach is the assessment of areas of improvement in relation to the event.

  • Goal Setting

Goal setting reflective statements, as the name implies, involves the analysis of previously discovered talents and strengths in order to construct appropriate aims for the future. This particular type is often worked into the judgment approach when individuals begin to discuss the improvements that could be made in order to bring about the most beneficial outcome. The most important factor when using this approach is choosing goals that are actually attainable instead of unrealistic fantasies. Of course, setting the bar too low will also be detrimental for the well-being of the individual since it does not provide an efficient amount of challenge, but raising the bar out of reach is simply setting the individual up for failure. Also, it is advised that those including goal setting in reflective statements provide long-term goals as well as short-term goals in order to create a more rounded feel and display to the reader that both the near future and the distant future have been considered.

While any of these four methods can be considered and used when creating a reflective statement, an additional approach includes incorporating bits and pieces of each in order to create a more all-encompassing essay. To learn more about the various methods and processes that go into creating and succeeding in checking off goals from your long term and short term lists, take a look at this course on goal setting.

Reflective Statement Questions

Description:

  • What events led to this experience?
  • Describe the event in detail.
  • Which individuals were involved?
  • What role did they plan in the outcome?
  • What happened while the event was occurring?

Analysis:

  • What factors shaped this experience?
  • What factors shaped its outcome?
  • How has this experience impacted your life?
  • How has this experienced changed you as an individual?
  • What factors could have changed the outcome of this experience?

Synthesis/Judgment:

  • What lessons were learned from this experience?
  • Why was it important that you experience this?
  • In what ways have you grown since this experience occurred?
  • How might your life be different had this experience not occurred?
  • What decisions could be made differently next time?

Goal Setting:

  • What are your short-term academic goals?
  • What are your long-term academic goals?
  • What will you do to achieve these goals?
  • Are your goals set at a reasonable height?
  • Are your goals too simplistic or unrealistic?

For more information about the methods recommended by instructors to make a reflective statement sparkle, check out this course on quality paragraph and essay writing. Also, if you’ve been staring at the blank screen of your computer for the past half an hour trying to determine the best way to start your reflective statement, take a look at this blog post on writer’s block.