Analysing Reflective Texts

The Problem

University students, across various disciplines, often don’t have the expressive resources to write cohesive, critical reflections. This is due, in part, to their inexperience in analysing texts that embed reflection.

The Context

Academic reflective writing can be scaffolded through the explicit teaching of the structure and textual features of the genre. Once a shared language and structure is developed, students can use the textual framework as a self-assessment tool for their writing. It is assumed students are already familiar with the 4Rs reflective writing framework of reporting & responding; relating; reasoning; and reconstructing. This pattern might take place over a couple of sessions.

The Pattern

  1. Ask students to write a short reflective piece related to your unit activities (this may have been done previously).
  2. Explain the usefulness of identifying and using appropriate language and textual structures when writing reflection for assessment.
  3. Remind students of the 4Rs reflective writing framework.
  4. Show students a number of exemplars of reflective writing (write short pieces yourself, or use examples you may have collected, see the MAE pattern).
  5. Ask students to identify the purpose of the texts, using the 4Rs model as a prompt (this is important as the structure and textual features depend upon the purpose).
  6. Go through one of the exemplars step-by-step – ask key questions to identify the structure (see Resource 1).
  7. Summarise the overall structure of academic reflection (see Resource 2 – left column). Ask students to identify this structure in another exemplar.
  8. Now go back to one of the exemplars to look at how the language in the text achieves the purpose. Ask key questions to identify language features (see Resource 3) in the text.
  9. As you identify the language features above, annotate the exemplar (highlight, draw arrows etc – see Resource 4 in Common folder) to show students where they appear in the text.
  10. Ask students to identify some language features in another exemplar – always relating back to the purpose using the 4Rs.
  11. Go back to the reflective pieces that students wrote at the beginning or in a previous task – ask them to annotate their own work according to the structure and language features. What can they improve?

Related Patterns

Start Talking Reflection (STR)
Mapping Critical Incidents – Foundation (MCIF)
Making Annotated Exemplars (MAE)



1. Questions to ask when analysing reflective texts

2. Academic reflective writing model: structure and linguistic resources

3. Identifying language features in the text

4. An reflective writing example showing highlighted annotations


Ryan, M.E. (2011). Improving reflective writing in higher education: a social semiotic perspective. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(1), 99 – 111.


This pattern was initiated by Mary Ryan.