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3.3 : What Do You Write?

One of the first barriers to reflection is simply starting the reflection.   Where do you begin?  How long should a reflection be?  How often should you write them?  What do you write about?

The answers, like the reflections themselves, are personal.  You can write everyday, or once a week.  You can write a sentence of a paragraph: there is no wrong way.  Being okay with the uncertainty is where you begin, and then you gather more resources to help guide you through the journey.  Even if you are just writing a question or a sentence every once in awhile, that is part of a reflective practice: you are noticing things below the surface, wondering about things.

Let’s start to organize your thinking about this by deepening your understanding of subjectivity and objectivity.  

When I learned about observations as an undergraduate college student, I was taught to be objective: to focus only on the facts, and what I saw.  There is, though, a human element.  The Gallas reading from the first part of this course was a major aspect in my understanding of the role that subjectivity can play in observation and reflection.

  Objective Things  are based on fact, and proven to be true.

Objective Things are based on fact, and proven to be true.

  Subjective Information  is an analysis of the facts.

Subjective Information is an analysis of the facts.


Our opinions and biases can sometimes be buried.  Reflection can help us come to know what is subjective and what is objective, and we need to recognize the subjective if we’re going to make that progress.  We shouldn’t shy away from opinion and personal preference - that helps us fuel reflection.  If our observations are all factual, we have nothing to mull over, nothing to figure out.  


“It seems to be a human universal that we nominate certain forms of interpreted experience as hard-edged, objective realities rather than “things of the mind”.  And it is widely believed, both among laypeople and scientists, that the “nominees” for such objective status reflect certain natural or native predispositions to think and interpret the world in a particular way.”

Bruner, 1996, p. 17

Your next task is to download the PDF using the button below.  In this reading, Anna Jo Perry shares her ideas linked to teachers engaging with reflective writing, tacking the question, What Do You Write in a Reflection?

Perry’s view is helpful because she distinguishes between “reflection-in-action” and “reflection-on-action”.  Do you ever find yourself writing down a question while observing children at play?  That is reflection in action, occurring in the moment to moment interactions with children.  Reflection on action happens when you are reconsidering the events of the day.  In my experience, the reflection-in-action is typically a question, wondering why I had a certain reaction or questioning my thinking.  The end of the day reflection-on-action is when I revisit those reflections, my other observations, and the photographs of the day for more writing and thinking.

When you are in your classroom, taking notes about your observations, consider writing down some questions or statements: some reflection-in-action.  To get even deeper, revisit those reflections again during a time for reflection-on-action.