Reflective Assessments

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What is Reflective Writing?

What is the Purpose of a Reflective Assessment

Reflective Writing Style in an Assessment

Structure of a Reflective Assessment

Subsequent Drafts & Submission

What is Reflective Writing?

At NTI, you are encouraged to keep a reflective diary to deepen your learning.

Writing reflectively in your diary involves documenting, expressing and questioning your critical and emotional response to an experience or the material encountered as part of a subject. It gives you the opportunity to examine your thoughts so that you are able to comprehensively explore, evaluate and process information for the purpose of developing informed and nuanced judgement.

Keeping a reflective diary will enable you to:

  • Pause and revisit experiences or material to process emotions
  • Connect an experience or material with other experiences and material, incorporating new ideas into your own perspectives
  • Examine your own beliefs and assumptions, and how they have shaped your feelings
  • Identify and question patterns
  • Examine what you have learnt from the experience, and how you may grow from this knowledge, or put this lesson into practice

A Very Personal Practice

Keeping a reflective diary is something that you do for yourself as part of your own contemplative practice. It will also enable you to develop raw material for your reflective assessments. Be aware that this raw material will ALWAYS need to be re-interpreted, developed and shaped before it becomes a piece of writing that you can submit as an assessment. 

Reflective writing should not simply describe or summarise what you experienced/felt/read/watched. It is a tool to think critically about your reaction to something, analyse it and learn from it. Keeping a reflective diary is thus key to developing (self-)awareness.

Be Mindful 

When writing reflectively, you need to be mindful of your emotional state and of your emotional reaction to what you are writing. Sometimes, the insights gained are so powerful that they are painful or scary. Please do not push yourself further than you are able to go. Remember to be kind to yourself, always.

If you need counselling support, please reach out. As an NTI student, you have access to six confidential counselling sessions from LifeWorks. You can get in touch with Student Services (enquiry@nantien.edu.au) to organise these sessions. Lifeline and Beyond Blue are two other resources that you might want to use. 

What is the Purpose of a Reflective Assessment?

At NTI, you may be asked to complete reflective assessments to demonstrate how you have put what you learnt into practice.

Unlike other pieces of academic writing, such as essays, reflective assessments do not merely convey information or build an argument. Instead, they ask you to demonstrate your ability to unearth the thinking patterns and emotions that give meaning, purpose and direction to actions.

Among other things, a reflective assessment allows you to:

  • Demonstrate your ability to express and process feelings
  • Consider an experience from other perspectives, and the context in which your own perspective was shaped
  • Re-enforce what you have learnt by drawing connections between material you have covered in your subject and your experiences
  • Develop your writing and communication skills

Contemplative Online Learning Model

Keeping a reflective diary will enable you to process what you are learning as well as how you are learning. It is at the core of the pedagogical model that we use at NTI. This model is designed to enable you to develop an embodied understanding of what you are learning, thus giving you the skills and tools to translate knowledge into practice. Learn more about the Contemplative Online Learning Model under Contemplative Resources (NTI login required).

Reflective Writing Style in an Assessment

Personal tone

Reflective writing and by extension reflective assessments draw on personal experiences and are thereby personal: use first person singular (I, my) when writing about them.

Academic standards

Although reflective assessments are personal, you are still required to follow academic conventions like citing sources and justifying your conclusions with evidence.

As usual when working on an assessment, you need to ensure that you address the assessment requirements: be selective and do not overshare. Read the assessment details and marking criteria very carefully to determine:

  • what you should include, and
  • how much you should expand on each point that you decide to include.

Structure of a Reflective Assessment

Many models are available to structure reflective assessments. At NTI, we tend to use Borton’s Model. This model requires you to answer three questions, generally in relation to a text (reading or source material) or a situation.


What? Reflection in action
  • Describe the situation or text. This is your chance to set the scene: who, what, why, when, where, how. Make sure that you also describe the way the situation/text made you feel.
So What? Reflection on action
  • Make sense of the situation or text (that is, contextualise it). This is where you discuss what you have learnt from the situation/text and address your biases. You might want to ask yourself:
    • Why have I acted/reacted the way I did?
    • What new insights have I gained?
    • How does the situation/text connect with my knowledge and/or other situations/texts?
Now What? Reflection for action
  • Discuss where your reflection has taken you. This is your opportunity to design an ethical action plan explaining what is next, that is, how will you apply the insights that you have gained from reflecting on the situation/text? You might want to ask yourself:
    • How will I continue learning from the situation/text?
    • What remains to be done so that I can improve/develop? Is there anything that I should explore further (a feeling or a concept), and if so, how?
    • What will I do differently next time? Why?

Subsequent Drafts and Submission

For advice on refining your draft and preparing for submission, visit our guide on Essay writing.

For further guidance on the structure of academic writing, visit our guides on Essay Structure and Paragraph Structure.


Academic Support run workshops designed to help you develop your writing skills.

Learn up about upcoming workshops here!

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