Reflective Essays

Learning Objectives

  • Develop the ability to critically reflect on and assess both experiential and academic learning
  • Make connections between experience and theory
  • Solidify key course concepts learned in readings, lectures and activities through a personal reflection process
  • Improve written communication skills

Critical Reflection Guidelines

Reflective writing is not simply documenting your feelings or describing an activity that occurred in the past. It is a systematic process that allows the writer to derive significant meaning from important activities. The knowledge and wisdom that you personally hold, which creates your understanding of the world you live in, is not based on experiences alone. Rather, it is your internal dialogue between experience and reflection, comparing previous experiences to new ones, that brings into existence your ever-changing worldview. Critical reflection occurs when we analyze and challenge the validity of our presuppositions and assess the appropriateness of our knowledge, understanding and beliefs given our present contexts.

Reflective writing is not easy. Critical reflection involves three phases:

  • Identifying the assumptions (those taken-for-granted ideas, commonsense beliefs, and self-evident rules of thumb that underlie our thoughts and actions;
  • Assessing and scrutinizing the validity of these assumptions in terms of how they relate to our ‘real-life’ experiences and our present context(s);
  • Transforming these assumptions to become more inclusive and integrative, and using this newly formed knowledge to more appropriately inform our future actions and practices.

The three-part format below is intended to help guide you through the reflective process in an efficient manner. These guidelines will initially feel artificial or forced, but after a few entries, the organization of this style of writing will feel more natural. Your entries must follow the three-part structure below, dedicating a separate paragraph to each section.

1. What did I learn?

  • This paragraph can begin with a statement like “From these readings / experiences, I learned / realized that…”

2. Why does this learning matter, or why is it significant?

  • This paragraph can begin with a statement like “This learning / insight matters because…”

3. In what ways will I use this learning; how has this learning changed my perspective; or what goals shall I set in accordance with what I have learned in order to improve myself, the quality of my learning, or the quality of my future experiences?

  • This paragraph can begin with a statement like “In light of this learning / realization / insight,…”

An excellent reflective essay will meet the following criteria

  • Describes learning that is relevant to reflection category (i.e. what, how, why, in what ways) and keeps the discussion specific to the learning being articulated.
  • Makes statements of fact that are accurate, supported with evidence and properly referenced.
  • Consistently expands on, expresses ideas in another way, provides examples/illustrations.
  • Addresses the complexity of the problem; answers important question(s) that are raised; avoids over-simplifying when making connections.
  • Gives meaningful consideration to alternative points of view, interpretations.
  • Demonstrates a line of reasoning that is logical, with conclusions or goals that follow clearly from it.
  • Draws conclusions, sets goals that address a (the) major issue(s) raised by the experience.
  • Consistently avoids typographical, spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Uses APA style for in-text citations and reference section

Critical Reflection Writing Resources

  • These guides provide supplementary guidance and tips for writing academic critical reflections and it is highly recommended that they be reviewed prior to writing your journal entry

Essay Topics

Each journal is to be 500 - 600 words in length, double spaced and submitted as a word document.

Entry 1
With reference to one or more components of the UBC Farm field trip, reflect on the significance of the UBC Farm's motto: No one thing does just one thing.

Entry 2
Rarely do we have the opportunity to explore a topic from so many perspectives. Has analyzing the BC Dairy System impacted your personal consumption of dairy products? Why or why not?

  • **If you do not consume milk because you are vegan, lactose intolerant, or for any other reason, please indicate in your essay, and discuss how analyzing the dairy system from so many perspectives has impacted your understanding of the role of dairy in the provincial food system.

Entry 3

Reflect on your own level of food literacy knowledge and skills. How do they influence your individual food choices or how you perceive the modern food system?