E238 Reflection Essay Assignment Example
This short essay assignment is similar to the text analysis assignment, but differs from it in that there are only four essays throughout the semester (and revisions) and it emphasizes interpretation much more.
Reflection Essay Requirements
ECC238, T. Mitchell, Spring 2009
“To exist is to stand out, away from the background. You aren’t thinking or really existing unless you’re willing to risk even your own sanity in the judgment of your existence.” —Frank Herbert
Over the course of the semester, you’ll be expected to turn in four well-written reflection essays. Each of these essay will account for 15% of your semester grade (all four together determine 60% of your semester grade). The purpose of the reflection essays is to further your exploration of the assigned texts.
Try to show me that you have read the texts critically and thought deeply about what you have read. Focus on interpreting a specific aspect of the text rather than skimming the surface or giving general comments or opinions. A good starting point is to briefly identify how the work impacted you, then move on to a critical approach, theme, or analysis of basic elements (such as looking at how the text’s point of view, setting, voice, or other element influences the way you interpret the text). Develop the heck out of one interesting idea. The best essays are those that strive to discover something significant that the casual reader would not have noticed, and then support and explore effectively with quotes from the text.
1) There will be six opportunities during the semester to write a reflection essay. The only essay I’m requiring everyone to write is the first one on short stories. After that, you’ll get to pick and choose which texts you respond to, as long as you complete four essays on time.
2) Reflection essays are due on or before the due date given on the syllabus. Essays turned in after that due date will not receive full credit. The later they are, the more points they’ll lose.
3) Essays will be graded on a ten point scale (i.e.: 10 = A+, 9 = A-, 8 = B-, etc...). In grading these, I consider “8” to be the grade for doing a good job and fulfilling assignment expectations. In order to earn a grade higher than an “8” you must exceed assignment expectations. A grade lower than an “8” means your reflection essay didn’t fulfill assignment expectations, or it was late. Consider putting more thought and care into your reflection essay, developing your points further, including more textual support, and revising your writing more before turning it in.
Please don’t hesitate to schedule a conference with me, or go to the Writing Center (Eddy 6) if you’re having difficulty writing the reflection essays.
4) You will have the opportunity to rewrite/replace one reflection essay. Rewrites are due two weeks after your reflection essay is handed back to you. I have higher expectations for rewrites. To replace an essay, simply turn in an additional essay on one of the other books (note: this must be submitted on time).
5) The topic and approach of your reflection essay is up to you. You’ll find suggestions and examples of the type of essay I’m expecting you to write on pages 1768-1797 of The Story and Its Writer (I highly recommend reading these examples if you wish to do well on this assignment). Reflection Essays can be explication, analysis, or compare and contrast, as long as they’re interpreting some aspect of theassigned reading that you find interesting and significant. Your essay should shed light on what the story means and support all ideas with quotes from the text. I’ll try to give you ideas of different things you could write about in lecture, and class discussion will be another good source for ideas.
—Essays must be typed. Double-spaced. 12 point font. Around 2 pages (no more than 2.5 pages!) Revise several times to make your essay concise and brilliant.
—The reflection essays must interpret the text, rather than merely summarizing the text or giving unsupported opinions.
—You must support ideas with quotes from the text. Give a close textual analysis of complex quotes to show how you’re interpreting them. A good reflection essay will include at least three quotes (or more, depending upon how you’re using the quotes). Outside research is not required, but you may use it if you wish. I recommend keeping a narrow focus in your essay so you can support things adequately.
—Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, style, clarity, and spelling. Since the essays are short, I expect them to be very well-crafted and well-revised pieces of writing.
“At each moment our risk is our cure. Stop suffering now and sleep.” —Lee Upton
Types of reflective writing assignments
Journal: requires you to write weekly entries throughout a semester. May require you to base your reflection on course content.
Learning diary: similar to a journal, but may require group participation. The diary then becomes a place for you to communicate in writing with other group members.
Log book: often used in disciplines based on experimental work, such as science. You note down or 'log' what you have done. A log gives you an accurate record of a process and helps you reflect on past actions and make better decisions for future actions.
Reflective note: often used in law. A reflective note encourages you to think about your personal reaction to a legal issue raised in a course.
Essay diary: can take the form of an annotated bibliography (where you examine sources of evidence you might include in your essay) and a critique (where you reflect on your own writing and research processes).
Peer review: usually involves students showing their work to their peers for feedback.
Self-assessment: requires you to to comment on your own work.
Some examples of reflective writing
Social Science fieldwork report (methods section)
The field notes were written by hand on lined paper. They consisted of jotted notes and mental triggers (personal notes that would remind me of specific things when it came to writing the notes up). I took some direct observational notes recording what I saw where this was relevant to the research questions and, as I was aiming to get a sense of the culture and working environment, I also made researcher inference notes   .
 I found the notetaking process itself helpful, as it ensured that I listened carefully and decoded information. Not all the information I recorded was relevant, but noting what I found informative contributed to my ability to form an overview on re-reading. However, the reliability of jotted notes alone can be questionable. For example, the notes were not a direct transcription of what the subjects said but consisted of pertinent or interesting information.
Rarely did I have time to transcribe a direct quotation, so relied on my own fairly rapid paraphrasing, which risks changing the meaning. Some technical information was difficult to note down accurately  . A tape recorder would have been a better, more accurate method. However, one student brought a tape recorder and was asked to switch it off by a participant who was uneasy about her comments being directly recorded. It seems that subjects feel differently about being recorded or photographed (as opposed to observers taking notes), so specific consent should be sought before using these technologies  .
1. Description/ explanation of method.
2. Includes discipline-specific language
3. Critical evaluation of method
4. Conclusion and recommendation based on the writer's experience
Engineering Design Report
Question: Discuss at least two things you learnt or discovered – for example about design, or working in groups or the physical world – through participating in the Impromptu Design activities.
Firstly, the most obvious thing that I discovered was the advantage of working as part of a group  . I learned that good teamwork is the key to success in design activities when time and resources are limited. As everyone had their own point of view, many different ideas could be produced and I found the energy of group participation made me feel more energetic about contributing something  .
Secondly I discovered that even the simplest things on earth could be turned into something amazing if we put enough creativity and effort into working on them  . With the Impromptu Design activities  we used some simple materials such as straws, string, and balloons, but were still able to create some 'cool stuff'  . I learned that every design has its weaknesses and strengths and working with a group can help discover what they are. We challenged each other's preconceptions about what would and would not work. We could also see the reality of the way changing a design actually affected its performance.
1. Addresses the assignment question
2. Reflects on direct experiences
3. Direct reference to the course activity
4. The style is relatively informal, yet still uses full sentences.
5. Relating what was learnt.
Learning Journal (weekly reflection)
Last week's lecture presented the idea that science is the most powerful form of evidence  . My position as a student studying both physics and law makes this an important issue for me  and one I was thinking about while watching the 'The New Inventors' television program last Tuesday  . The two 'inventors' (an odd name considering that, as Smith (2002) says, nobody thinks of things in a vacuum) were accompanied by their marketing people. The conversations were quite contrived, but also funny and enlightening. I realised that the marketing people used a certain form of evidence to persuade the viewers (us?) of the value of the inventions  . To them, this value was determined solely by whether something could be bought or sold—in other words, whether something was 'marketable'. In contrast, the inventors seemed quite shy and reluctant to use anything more than technical language, almost as if this was the only evidence required – as if no further explanation was needed.
This difference forced me to reflect on the aims of this course—how communication skills are not generic, but differ according to time and place. Like in the 'Research Methodology' textbook discussed in the first lecture, these communication skills are the result of a form of triangulation,  which I have made into the following diagram:
1. Description of topic encountered in the course
2. The author's voice is clear
3. Introduces 'everyday' life experience
4. The style is relatively informal, yet still uses full sentences
5. Makes an explicit link between 'everyday' life and the topic
Brookfield, S 1987, Developing critical thinkers: challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting, Open University Press, Milton Keynes.
Mezirow, J 1990, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: a guide to transformative and emancipatory learning, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
Schön, DA 1987, Educating the reflective practitioner, Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.
The Learning Centre thanks the students who permitted us to feature examples of their writing.
Prepared by The Learning Centre, The University of New South Wales © 2008. This guide may be distributed or adapted for educational purposes. Full and proper acknowledgement is required. Email: email@example.com
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