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Individual Reflective Report Coursework Info

This course was a really new experience for me both from learning point of view and performance wise. The practical part of the course was really helpful where ones get a chance to implement all the knowledge gain during the lectures and through self-studies. I have learnt that innovation requires collaboration, creativity, practical implementation and added value to the product. And this task becomes much easier if you have an interdisciplinary team working for a unified goal. I have truly learned a systemic approach to designing a product, that how to start from scratch and nothing to build a customer oriented or to introduce a new product into the market, how to work in teams for short span of time, how to manage and divide tasks within the group, which project management methodology to apply depending upon the nature of the project, how to filter the needs or requirements of the products, how to look for patents, benchmark for the particular project you are working on to have the basic knowledge of what already is out there available in the market. How to be creative during the synthesis of concepts for your topic or project. In my learning diaries I will be explaining the concepts learnt during the lectures, group works, workshops and mostly through self-studies.

I learnt that most important part of the planning stage is building project team. Generally try to establish your team as soon as possible. Identifying one or two people even during the initial stages is also possible sometimes. Appointing the team early get the most out of their ownership to the project, and maximizes what they can contribute towards the product development. The first step in building an effective project team is to create a resource plan. A resource plan requires you to understand and identify the work to be done and the human skills required to complete it. An initial plan is often a high-level outline and will be refined as you break down into parts the whole of your work.
To develop an effective team, you have to start by choosing the best people for the job. This sounds obvious, but determining the best candidates isn’t always straightforward. Many factors concerning potential members have to be considered, including factors such as: the skills required of them to complete project tasks, their level of influence in the organization, their access to a network of other resources, their capacity to participate effectively, their ability to work well in a team environment.
Sometimes, project managers don’t have the freedom of choosing team members. Members may be assigned to the project team. If this is your situation, it is vital that you take extra care to establish a relationship with your team members before the team begins to meet as a group. Otherwise, they may not feel connected to the rest of the project team or, worse, may feel put upon and lack any commitment to the project.
Communication is an essential part of team work. Without successful communication, it is very difficult to achieve the desired result. When information is shared effectively, the workload is divided between the team members and task at hand becomes easier for all. During our project we used skype, whatsapp and Google drive for the communication purposes within our group. With so many available social apps these days in the market it’s really easier for the teams to get started and have effective communication right way. It is essential that team communication occurs throughout the project in order to minimize confusion and unnecessary delays. Team members more freely share their ideas, thoughts and opinions, thus offering additional opportunities for innovation and creativity. Messages to be communicated become simplified when there is effective communication. Chances for misunderstandings are minimized, if not altogether excluded. Team attention remains on the project, completing tasks and such activities, and whatever energy is necessary in the best interest of the project.
Source: http://www.brighthubpm.com/resource-management/

Figure 1. One out of five projects is unsuccessful due to ineffective communications.
http://www.projecttimes.com/articles/effective-communication-a-challenge-to-project-managers.html
The product development process can be pictured as a funnel with a large number of new product ideas entering the concept stage, narrowing down to a fewer number in subsequent stages. Separating these each stage is a phase review where a decision is made to skip the product, enter into the next stage or redirect back to a previous stage for additional work. The purpose of the concept stage is to quickly assess a new product opportunities. This activity will be performed by a product manager with support from others in the team. The product concept proposal will typically include: description of product concept and unique/new selling proposition, Preliminary market opportunity assessment, economical overview, technical valuation, preliminary financial analysis, planned schedules, recommended core team members. The objective of the system level design is to define the product which has to be developed, and to complete the business strategy for the product. During the next stage the assumptions made during the concept stage are verified through further market research and competitive analysis. Engineering assumptions will be verified in this stage by more detailed design and feasibility tests.

Figure 2 Product development process
Source: https://sbpbusiness2000.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/new-product-development/
Lean Startup product development encourages us to first investigate if there is a need of the product in the market before we worry about the details of the new product. While old-style approaches also recommend carrying out market research and study before we engage in product planning and definition, lean approaches increase the speed at which a startup team will operate. This allows startup teams to fail and learn faster, to adapt their product strategy and tactics rapidly, and to hopefully launch the right product with the right features in the market.

Figure 3. Lean startup product development method
Source: http://theleanstartup.com/principles
We as a group chose lean and agile method for project management. Agile Software Development methodology is for a project that needs extreme agility in requirements. Agile project management focuses on doing the process piece-by-piece, rather than in one big portion like the traditional approach. Agile methodology handles project change and complexity through communication between project team members and end users. It enables teams to appropriately respond to irregularity through short additional work sections, such as Scrum ‘sprints’. These sprints aim at bringing a well-tested, functional working prototype. Planning and changes in design occur throughout the project based on lessons that are learned along the way. There’s no shame in looking back to refine the outcomes or features of the product at any stage.
The work these days are more and more demanding and companies need to develop products of high quality in a short span of time. The technology is shifting rapidly and the industry is globalizing where with the help of this technology it’s easier for smaller and medium size companies to reach the international market. On the other hand the bigger companies are continuously improving their processes, products and services are likely to survive in the changing market where medium sized and startup companies are booming at a very rapid speed. This is why the industry has started to hire more and more interdisciplinary teams for the product development. An interdisciplinary team consists of specialists of their own fields. A typical interdisciplinary team includes specialists of research and development, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, economics, arts, business, and design. By combining individuals’ strengths in a group will add value to the product and eventually to the company. Usage of interdisciplinary teams has accelerated the product development cycle which will result fast launch of the product into the market, lowered the production costs as those teams will evaluate each and every aspect of the product before sending it to the manufacturing phase, it is usually noticed that time spend in research and development phase before sending the product to manufacturing stage will decrease the cost of the product and avoid unnecessary breaks, and even doubled the estimated sales. The value of interdisciplinary teams is that every member has their own expertise and viewpoint from their own field. The diversity of the group increases access to different types of information. A group with the members all from different backgrounds can sometimes solve the problems which will take months within a week or even the problems which feel impossible to crack. The group members also learn from each other and might get some important contacts from the other fields. The good thing is that every person know their role in the group according to their own skills set so they must contribute their maximum effort. This lets them to focus on the parts they’re really good at and the other members will balance them in the areas where they don’t have the core skills. This will creates a positive atmosphere and that increases productivity. A team with different expertise ensures that all the tasks of a project are completed. Even after this the interdisciplinary teams has to have the talent, knowledge, experience and technical know-how to get the job done. The team needs also a unified goal and a good leader who will lead them to the right way in the process of development. Team work is difficult, especially in a group with different skills and expertise. The group members might have opposing viewpoints which can lead to conflicts, waste of time, and it may cause damage decisions or the team’s relationships. Collaboration is sometimes problematic, because every profession has its own language and it can lead to misunderstandings. Sometimes the group members use stereotypes and do not understand the value of the other ones skills and knowledge. Everyone should be valued and listened to in the team. The situation where a team member does not feel at ease and is scared to share his or her views may cut down the amount of ideas and expertise that can be crucial for the accomplishment of the project. Due to the differences in skills, interests and trainings, the team members are likely to observe the project or problem from different point of views. The group will think outside the box and that will lead to breakthrough innovations.
Source: IPD Handbook ver1.0
There is a right way and a wrong way to run a brainstorm or ideation meeting. A little preparation is required at the initial stage of the product development. It is very important to separate the two phases. The first part is idea generation when we will use divergent method of thinking. The second part is about idea selection where will use convergent thinking.
The first step of Idea generation using divergent thinking consist of suspend judgment: No one is allowed to criticize or even discuss an idea. As ideas are expressed they are simply recorded. This can be done on post-it, computers, white boards or flip charts but no fault-finding or comments are allowed at this stage to slow down the process of idea flow. Go for quantity instead of quality at this stage: Quantity leads to quality in brainstorms so don’t stop until you have a large number of ideas ‘ usually upto 100 or more. Go beyond reason: Wild ideas are useful because they challenge limits and inflame other fresh ideas. Ride on other people’s Ideas: When one person proposes a inventive concept others should add something on with extensions, alternatives, developments and specific ways to make it occur. Associate with each other’s ideas. Shift people out of routine thinking.
The second phase now is idea selection using convergent thinking method, Set criteria: Make an initial list of the ideas using some broad criteria agreed with the group. For example we want concepts that will satisfy customers, user experience, increase awareness and can be implemented in the next 2 months. Discuss the short list: When you are down to say 5 to 6 good ideas then discuss them productively. Sometimes there is a clear agreement as to which are the best. Sometimes you might want to vote to see which are the most popular. Write the list down to some really good ideas. The brainstorm is worthwhile only if it delivers actions. We should run consistent brainstorm meetings with your team. They should be exciting and motivational for people. They can deliver the concepts and innovations you need to renovate your organization.
Source: http://www.innovationmanagement.se/
How to be more creative and productive in the dreaming and scheming phase?
Be willing to explore and play. If you’re trying to rush through this stage, you’re going to shut down your creativity and end up thinking smaller and creating a plan to create something mediocre. Rather than trying to figure it all out on paper or in your head, get out into the real world and test out your rough ideas. In the world of design and engineering, product requirements (also called ‘constraints’) can often feel like restraints to our creativity and ability to design a great product or solution. We’ve all experienced the feeling of frustration when a constraint has kept us from implementing a good solution, sometimes literally by only tenths of a millimeter. No doubt, constraints in product design can make our lives difficult, and finding a solution that fits them all simultaneously is no easy task. However, respecting the importance that constraints play in driving a great design solution may help you look at them more as your friend rather than your enemy.
Concept selection is the process of evaluating concepts with respect to customer needs and other criteria, comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses of the concepts, and selecting one or more concepts for further investigation or development (SWOT analysis: strength, weakness, opportunities, threats). Decision techniques used for selecting concepts range from intuitive approaches to structured methods. Successful design is facilitated by structured concept selection. It is two stage process: concept screening and concept scoring. Concept screening uses a reference concept to evaluate concept variants against selection criteria. Concept scoring may use different reference points for each criterion. Concept screening uses a coarse comparison system to narrow the range of concepts under consideration. Concept scoring uses weighted selection criteria and a finer rating scale. Concept scoring may be skipped if concept screening produces a dominant concept. Both screening and scoring use a matrix as the basis of a six step process.
The six steps are:
Prepare the selection matrix
Rate the concepts
Rank the concepts
Combine and improve the concepts
Select one or more concepts
Reflect on the results and the process.
One of the reasons for us to select our project was that we wanted to design something based on emotion. Going beyond the basics functionality, consistency, and usability and we wanted to design something for humans, not for machines. We Learn how to express our brand’s personality and delight our audience through emotional design.

Figure 4. Design for Emotion

Most researchers within the field of product development agree on the importance of understanding customer needs when developing products. For example, Matzler, K. (1996) mentions: ‘A high level of customer satisfaction is one of the most powerful indicators for the future of a business. Satisfied customers are loyal customers and ensure a lasting cash-flow for the business in the future.’ As Ulrich, K. and Eppinger, T. (2008) puts it; ‘Developing great products is hard. Few companies are highly successful more than half the time. These odds present significant challenges for a product development team’. Similarly, Lager, T. (2005) mentions that ‘Nor is it enough anymore to develop a product that pleases the customer; it must also be better than competing products in the global arena.’ A company’s economic success depends on their ability to identify customer needs and quickly create products that meet the needs at a low cost (Ulrich, K. and Eppinger, T. 2012). In order to stay competitive on the market. Accordingly, to deliver an attractive end-product, it is important to keep customer focus in all stages of the product development process for all involved departments.

Figure 5. Customer oriented product development

During the workshops I have learnt the importance of converting your ideas into a tangible or CAD simulation prototype. In the earlier stages of product development once the team has selected the concept and wanted to pursue with their that idea, it is really important to make sketches and do some rough, quick and dirty prototyping as this will reveal number of issues related to design, feasibility and questions related to user experience. Right after the rapid prototype workshop I enrolled for a special course designed for 3D printing enthusiast. To learn how to use and print your own model with complex lattice structures. To meet the rigorous demands of product designers and development engineers, prototyping materials are the critical link to product design validation and product development process efficiency. Successful OEMs and product developers understand the value of time. Time-to-market can be dramatically reduced if prototype-to-production bridge materials mirror production material specifications. Most often it is not practical to produce hard tools to make a few parts. Hard tools are costly and time consuming. Design iterations and engineering revisions could quickly absorb budget, time and patience to complete a project.
The basic procedure for all rapid prototyping techniques can be summarized as follows:
1. A CAD model is built, then converted to STL format. The resolution can be set to minimize stair stepping.
2. The Rapid Prototype machine processes the .STL file by creating sliced layers of the model.
3. The first layer of the physical model is created. The model is then lowered by the thickness of the next layer, and the process is repeated until completion of the model.
4. The model with any unnecessary supports are removed from the final product. The surface of the model is then manually finished and cleaned.
Source: http://www.efunda.com/processes/rapid_prototyping/intro.cfm
Figure 6. 3D printing selfie: An inspiration
Writing my last lecture diary today for this course I will conclude it on summarizing the main concepts which were discussed during the interdisciplinary product development course. The interdisciplinary teams going to play an important role in future products development. Now the trend is shifting towards more and more user and costumer oriented designing. Companies and startups are more focusing on the customer demands, what they need, what problems they are facing, these been possible because of including interdisciplinary team member in decision making and product development stages. So now they can bring up the issues on to the table long before launching any product or service. Having a R&D person, marketing and manufacturing person sitting on the same table and brain storming for a unified goal or product will close the communication gap which uses to exist before when every team members used to work individually on their tasks without hearing the input from the person of different skill expertise. The design problems needed to be approach in a systemic ways, ones cannot tackle the problems or can came up with best possible solution if the project is not started in a systemic way. For designing a new product there is a systemic approach in which you start with choosing a team, choosing a project management method, development process, knowing the main problem of your project which you have to solve, from those problems you have to extract the requirement, needs or constraints depending upon the external governing factors. Lean startup product development combine with agile has to be adopted for startup companies. Once you know the domain of your problem and constraints then you start looking for benchmark, patents so you can create the concepts and once you have selected enough concepts within your team then you need to evaluate them using the previous available information. Even for concept synthesis there is a systematic approach which led you to the best optimal solution for the later stages of prototyping. And technologies now a days such as rapid prototyping has changed the way developers work these days. It has shorten the time to launch the product to the market with low cost and high quality.

“Tasked with the overwhelming burden of writing my first ever reflective essay, I sat as still as a mouse as my fingers shakily hovered over the lifeless buttons of my laptop keyboard. Where would I begin? Where would I end? Thoughts frantically spasmed their way through my mind as I envisaged the treacherous journey on which I was about to embark.”

Reflective essays are those sorts of essays that seem oh so easy, and yet oh so hard to write, all at the same time. To put it simply, reflective essays constitute a critical examination of a life experience and with the right guidance, they aren’t very difficult to put together. A reflective essay is akin to a diary entry, except that others will be reading it so it needs to have a great deal of coherence and a good structure. In that regard, a reflective essay is much like any other essay out there.

In this guide, we explore in detail how to write a great reflective essay, including what makes a good structure and some advice on the writing process. We’ve even thrown in an example reflective essay to inspire you too, making this the ultimate guide for anyone needing reflective essay help.

The format

In a reflective essay, a writer primarily examines his or her life experiences, hence the term ‘reflective’. The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to provide a platform for the author to not only recount a particular life experience, but to also explore how he or she has changed or learned from those experiences. Reflective writing can be presented in various formats, but you’ll most often see it in a learning log format or diary entry. Diary entries in particular are used to convey how the author’s thoughts have developed and evolved over the course of a particular period.

The format of a reflective essay may change depending on the target audience. Reflective essays can be academic, or may feature more broadly as a part of a general piece of writing for a magazine, for instance. For class assignments, while the presentation format can vary, the purpose generally remains the same: tutors aim to inspire students to think deeply and critically about a particular learning experience or set of experiences. Here are some typical examples of reflective essay formats that you may have to write:

A focus on personal growth:
A type of reflective essay often used by tutors as a strategy for helping students to learn how to analyse their personal life experiences to promote emotional growth and development. The essay gives the student a better understanding of both themselves and their behaviours.

A focus on the literature:
This kind of essay requires students to provide a summary of the literature, after which it is applied to the student’s own life experiences.

While the format of a reflective piece of writing may change, there is one element that will mostly remain the same, and that is the structure. You may be relieved to know that, much like any essay, a reflective essay is typically comprised of an introduction, body and conclusion.

What do I write about?

As you go about deciding on the content of your essay, you need to keep in mind that a reflective essay is highly personal and aimed at engaging the reader or target audience. And there’s much more to a reflective essay than just recounting a story. You need to be able to reflect (more on this later) on your experience by showing how it influenced your subsequent behaviours and how your life has been particularly changed as a result.

As a starting point, you might want to think about some important experiences in your life that have really impacted you, either positively, negatively, or both. Some typical reflection essay topics include: a real-life experience, an imagined experience, a special object or place, a person who had an influence on you, or something you have watched or read. If you are writing a reflective essay as part of an academic exercise, chances are your tutor will ask you to focus on a particular episode – such as a time when you had to make an important decision – and reflect on what the outcomes were. Note also, that the aftermath of the experience is especially important in a reflective essay; miss this out and you will simply be storytelling.

Reflection

It sounds obvious, but the reflective process forms the core of writing this type of essay, so it’s important you get it right from the outset. You need to really think about how the personal experience you have chosen to focus on impacted or changed you. Use your memories and feelings of the experience to determine the implications for you on a personal level.

Once you’ve chosen the topic of your essay, it’s really important you study it thoroughly and spend a lot of time trying to think about it vividly. Write down everything you can remember about it, describing it as clearly and fully as you can. Keep your five senses in mind as you do this, and be sure to use adjectives to describe your experience. At this stage, you can simply make notes using short phrases, but you need to ensure that you’re recording your responses, perceptions, and your experience of the event(s).

Once you’ve successfully emptied the contents of your memory, you need to start reflecting. A great way to do this is to pick out some reflection questions which will help you think deeper about the impact and lasting effects of your experience. Here are some useful questions that you can consider:

– What have you learned about yourself as a result of the experience?

– Have you developed because of it? How?

– Did it have any positive or negative bearing on your life?

– Looking back, what would you have done differently?

– Why do you think you made the particular choices that you did? Do you think these were the right choices?

– What are your thoughts on the experience in general? Was it a useful learning experience? What specific skills or perspectives did you acquire as a result?

These signpost questions should help kick-start your reflective process. Remember, asking yourself lots of questions is key to ensuring that you think deeply and critically about your experiences – a skill that is at the heart of writing a great reflective essay.

Consider using models of reflection before, during, and after the learning process to ensure that you maintain a high standard of analysis. For example, before you really get stuck into the process, consider questions such as: what might happen (regarding the experience)? Are there any possible challenges to keep in mind? What knowledge is needed to be best prepared to approach the experience? Then, as you’re planning and writing, these questions may be useful: what is happening within the learning process? Is the process working out as expected? Am I dealing with the accompanying challenges successfully? Is there anything that needs to be done additionally to ensure that the learning process is successful? What am I learning from this? By adopting such a framework, you’ll be ensuring that you are keeping tabs on the reflective process that should underpin your work.

The plan

Here’s a very useful tip: although you may feel well prepared with all that time spent reflecting in your arsenal, do not, do NOT start writing your essay until you have worked out a comprehensive, well-rounded plan! Your writing will be so much more coherent, your ideas conveyed with structure and clarity, and your essay will likely achieve higher marks. This is an especially important step when you’re tackling a reflective essay – there can be a tendency for people to get a little ‘lost’ or disorganised as they recount their life experiences in an erratic and often unsystematic manner. But if you develop a thorough outline (this is the same as a ‘plan’) and ensure you stick to it like Christopher Columbus to a map, you should do just fine as you embark on the ultimate step of writing your essay. If you need further convincing on how important planning is, we’ve summarised the key benefits of creating a detailed essay outline below:

  • An outline allows you to establish the basic details that you plan to incorporate into your paper – this is great for helping you pick out any superfluous information, which can be removed entirely to make your essay succinct and to the point.

  • Think of the outline as a map – you plan in advance the points you wish to navigate through and discuss in your writing. Your work will more likely have a clear through line of thought, making it easier for the reader to understand. It’ll also help you avoid missing out any key information, and having to go back at the end and try to fit it in.

  • It’s a real time-saver! Because the outline essentially serves as the essay’s ‘skeleton’, you’ll save a tremendous amount of time when writing as you’ll be really familiar with what you want to say. As such, you’ll be able to allocate more time to editing the paper and ensuring it’s of a high standard.

Now you’re familiar with the benefits of using an outline for your reflective essay, it is essential that you know how to craft one. It can be considerably different from other typical essay outlines, mostly because of the varying subjects. But what remains the same, is that you need to start your outline by drafting the introduction, body and conclusion. More on this below.

Introduction
As is the case with all essays, your reflective essay must begin within an introduction that contains both a hook and a thesis statement. The point of having a ‘hook’ is to grab the attention of your audience or reader from the very beginning. You must portray the exciting aspects of your story in the initial paragraph so that you stand the best chances of holding your reader’s interest. Refer back to the opening quote of this article – did it grab your attention and encourage you to read more? The thesis statement is a brief summary of the focus of the essay, which in this case is a particular experience that influenced you significantly. Remember to give a quick overview of your experience – don’t give too much information away or you risk your reader becoming disinterested.

Body
Next up is planning the body of your essay. This can be the hardest part of the entire paper; it’s easy to waffle and repeat yourself both in the plan, and in the actual writing. Have you ever tried recounting a story to a friend only for them to tell you to ‘cut the long story short’? They key here is to put plenty of time and effort into planning the body, and you can draw on the following tips to help you do this well:

Try adopting a chronological approach. This means working through everything you want to touch upon as it happened in time. This kind of approach will ensure that your work is systematic and coherent. Keep in mind that a reflective essay doesn’t necessarily have to be linear, but working chronologically will prevent you from providing a haphazard recollection of your experience. Lay out the important elements of your experience in a timeline – this will then help you clearly see how to piece your narrative together.

Ensure the body of your reflective essay is well focused, and contains appropriate critique and reflection. The body should not only summarise your experience, it should explore the impact that the experience has had on your life, as well as the lessons that you have learned as a result. The emphasis should generally be on reflection as opposed to summation. A reflective posture will not only provide readers with insight on your experience, it’ll highlight your personality and your ability to deal with or adapt to particular situations.

Conclusion
In the conclusion of your reflective essay, you should focus on bringing your piece together by providing a summary of both the points made throughout, and what you have learned as a result. Try to include a few points on why and how your attitudes and behaviours have been changed. Consider also how your character and skills have been affected, for example: what conclusions can be drawn about your problem-solving skills? What can be concluded about your approach to specific situations? What might you do differently in similar situations in the future? What steps have you taken to consolidate everything that you have learned from your experience? Keep in mind that your tutor will be looking out for evidence of reflection at a very high standard.

Congratulations – you now have the tools to create a thorough and accurate plan which should put you in good stead for the ultimate phase indeed of any essay, the writing process.

Writing your essay

As with all written assignments, sitting down to put pen to paper (or more likely fingers to keyboard) can be daunting. But if you have put in the time and effort fleshing out a thorough plan, you should be well prepared, which will make the writing process as smooth as possible. The following points should also help ease the writing process:

– To get a feel for the tone and format in which your writing should be, read other typically reflective pieces in magazines and newspapers, for instance.

– Don’t think too much about how to start your first sentence or paragraph; just start writing and you can always come back later to edit anything you’re not keen on. Your first draft won’t necessarily be your best work but it’s important to remember that the earlier you start writing, the more time you will have to keep reworking your paper until it’s perfect. Don’t shy away from using a free-flow method, writing and recording your thoughts and feelings on your experiences as and when they come to mind. But make sure you stick to your plan. Your plan is your roadmap which will ensure your writing doesn’t meander too far off course.

– For every point you make about an experience or event, support it by describing how you were directly impacted, using specific as opposed to vague words to convey exactly how you felt.

– Write using the first-person narrative, ensuring that the tone of your essay is very personal and reflective of your character.

– If you need to, refer back to our notes earlier on creating an outline. As you work through your essay, present your thoughts systematically, remembering to focus on your key learning outcomes.

– Consider starting your introduction with a short anecdote or quote to grasp your readers’ attention, or other engaging techniques such as flashbacks.

– Choose your vocabulary carefully to properly convey your feelings and emotions. Remember that reflective writing has a descriptive component and so must have a wide range of adjectives to draw from. Avoid vague adjectives such as ‘okay’ or ‘nice’ as they don’t really offer much insight into your feelings and personality. Be more specific – this will make your writing more engaging.

– Be honest with your feelings and opinions. Remember that this is a reflective task, and is the one place you can freely admit – without any repercussions – that you failed at a particular task. When assessing your essay, your tutor will expect a deep level of reflection, not a simple review of your experiences and emotion. Showing deep reflection requires you to move beyond the descriptive. Be extremely critical about your experience and your response to it. In your evaluation and analysis, ensure that you make value judgements, incorporating ideas from outside the experience you had to guide your analysis. Remember that you can be honest about your feelings without writing in a direct way. Use words that work for you and are aligned with your personality.

– Once you’ve finished learning about and reflecting on your experience, consider asking yourself these questions: what did I particularly value from the experience and why? Looking back, how successful has the process been? Think about your opinions immediately after the experience and how they differ now, so that you can evaluate the difference between your immediate and current perceptions. Asking yourself such questions will help you achieve reflective writing effectively and efficiently.

– Don’t shy away from using a variety of punctuation. It helps keeps your writing dynamic! Doesn’t it?

– If you really want to awaken your reader’s imagination, you can use imagery to create a vivid picture of your experiences.

– Ensure that you highlight your turning point, or what we like to call your “Aha!” moment. Without this moment, your resulting feelings and thoughts aren’t as valid and your argument not as strong.

– Don’t forget to keep reiterating the lessons you have learned from your experience.

A further tip – using wider sources

Although a reflective piece of writing is focused on personal experience, it’s important you draw on other sources to demonstrate your understanding of your experience from a theoretical perspective. It’ll show a level of analysis – and a standard of reliability in what you’re claiming – if you’re also able to validate your work against other perspectives that you find. Think about possible sources, like newspapers, surveys, books and even journal articles. Generally, the additional sources you decide to include in your work are highly dependent on your field of study. Analysing a wide range of sources, will show that you have read widely on your subject area, that you have nuanced insight into the available literature on the subject of your essay, and that you have considered the broader implications of the literature for your essay. The incorporation of other sources into your essay also helps to show that you are aware of the multi-dimensional nature of both the learning and problem-solving process.

Example reflective essay

If you want some inspiration for writing, take a look at our example of a short reflective essay, which can serve as a useful starting point for you when you set out to write your own.

Some final notes to remember

To recap, the key to writing a reflective essay is demonstrating what lessons you have taken away from your experiences, and why and how you have been shaped by these lessons.

The reflective thinking process begins with you – you must consciously make an effort to identify and examine your own thoughts in relation to a particular experience. Don’t hesitate to explore any prior knowledge or experience of the topic, which will help you identify why you have formed certain opinions on the subject. Remember that central to reflective essay writing is the examination of your attitudes, assumptions and values, so be upfront about how you feel. Reflective writing can be quite therapeutic, helping you identify and clarify your strengths and weaknesses, particularly in terms of any knowledge gaps that you may have. It’s a pretty good way of improving your critical thinking skills, too. It enables you to adopt an introspective posture in analysing your experiences and how you learn/make sense of them.

If you are still having difficulties with starting the writing process, why not try mind-mapping which will help you to structure your thinking and ideas, enabling you to produce a coherent piece. Creating a mind map will ensure that your argument is written in a very systematic way that will be easy for your tutor to follow. Here’s a recap of the contents of this article, which also serves as a way to create a mind map:

1. Identify the topic you will be writing on.

2. Note down any ideas that are related to the topic and if you want to, try drawing a diagram to link together any topics, theories, and ideas.

3. Allow your ideas to flow freely, knowing that you will always have time to edit your work.

4. Consider how your ideas are connected to each other, then begin the writing process.

And finally, keep in mind that although there are descriptive elements in a reflective essay, we can’t emphasise enough how crucial it is that your work is critical, analytical, and adopts a reflective posture in terms of your experience and the lessons you have learned from it.

Good luck!

Struggling to write your reflective essay?


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