The reflective letter is one of the most important documents in the portfolio. It is the clearest indication of what students learned, how they developed, and what their knowledge of writing truly is. It’s for that reason that we strongly encourage you to incorporate reflection throughout the course and have conversations with students about their thinking. There are a number of resources below including an overview of reflection and a checklist you can use to give feedback to students on their reflective letters.
We would also encourage you to read about reflection with students. Some of our favorite readings are included here:
“Reflective Writing and the Revisions Process: What Were You Thinking”
Reflection in the Writing Classroom.
Reflection: The most important artifact in the portfolio
Reflective writing helps students develop self-awareness about writing
Reflective writing is the primary technique for developing metacognition; it is essential students produce it throughout the Portfolio process—from reading and annotating the assigned articles to the final piece. Research on student writing suggests that metacognition has a significant effect on both skills development and “transfer,” helping students carry forth an understanding of how writing “works” to new writing challenges and situations.
In the reflection, the student asks, “What evidence can I bring forth to show what I have learned? How can I envision using my new knowledge in subsequent writing?” Reflection, in some ways, is an “argument” about how the contents of the Portfolio reveal mastery of the outcomes of the writing class.
Reflective writing begins when the Portfolio starts
In order for student to write an effective reflection, reflective writing must begin from the very start of the process. Students must be given numerous occasions and opportunities—along with ample time—to step back, carefully reread their work, to think about the processes and choices that produced it, to determine how their changing understanding of critical reading and writing will apply to other writing situations, and, ultimately, to connect to the course’s learning outcomes their new understanding about reading and writing in an academic context. The document titled “WP sequence” offers specific prompts that will help students generate informal material for their reflection. These early, informal ‘snapshots’ that include both comments and specific evidence from the student’s own texts will serve as the foundation for the reflection.