Please explain Bolton's model of reflection with a rationale from literature. 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bolton's statement of "writing reflectively in order to think reflectively" is another way of saying that reflective thinking (thinking about an experience in order to learn from it) may be executed on paper. Therefore, while reflection is certainly the "bread and butter of social work training," it is also helpful in understanding a literary text. For, with such writing a person engages in a conversation of sorts with a literary text.

Reflective writing allows the reader of literature to access his thoughts and feelings in reaction to what he has read. There are no critics or parameters to this type of writing; it is reflecting on personal experience of a text and a means of trying to find meaning and connections in the narrative, thus increasing the reader's understanding of the literary work. It is true, as Bolton observes, that writing is "solidly a better way to start a critical reflection" because, as he adds, "natural thinking" is generated by writing.

Certainly, by writing reflectively a reader can gain insight into a character of a literary work. For example, after reading Susan Glaspell's play, Trifles, the reader can write reflectively "in order to think reflectively" about the absent character of Mrs. Wright around whom the drama is centered. For, after having learned that the former Minnie Foster, who, as a young woman was outgoing and loves music, having once sung in the church choir, has lived in an isolated farmhouse for years, and is now sitting in jail under suspicion of having killed her husband, who has probably killed her canary.

Employing reflective writing, a student can establish some empathy for this poor woman whose husband and son are gone in the fields from morning until night, and who sits alone day after day in 1915 with no entertainment, no telephone with which to talk to another woman, no companionship other than a small songbird.

MRS. HALE. ...Maybe because it's down in a hollow and you don't see the road. I dunno what it is, but it's a lonesome place and always was. I wish I had come over to see Minnie Foster sometimes. I can see now---

Reflectively writing about the play, especially the discovery that Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale make, lends understanding and a greater awareness of what a woman suffers when all beauty and shared joy is taken from her. Through the writing process and connections in feelings and thought, the reader understands that when this songbird is killed, it is as though something in Mrs. Wright herself has finally been assaulted. And, after having written reflectively, the reader gains the benefit of being able to share in this emotional experience and learn from it.

The word ‘reflect’ comes from the Latin word ‘reflectere' which means ‘to bend back’. The Collins English Dictionary (3rd Edition, 2001) defines the adjective ‘reflective’ as:
   1. characterised by quiet thought or contemplation
   2. capable of reflecting: a reflective surface
   3. produced by reflection
(Ursula Hurley and Elizabeth Gayton, "How to Write Reflectively")

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Perhaps "literature" was meant in the broad sense as "the literature of a profession"? Sorry about the misunderstanding of the question as it was written.


Bolton's model of reflection

Described as a "through-the-mirror" of one's own thoughts, reflective writing is designed to illuminate and explore, rather than to create a result. It is an exercise that provides the health care worker an opportunity to discover who and what she really is in action. This act of reflection also allows the worker to assume responsibility for actions and to understand why she has acted as she has in a particular circumstance. The ultimate goal, then, is responsibility, especially in contemporary times with, among other things, "the need for critical monitoring of bias" in one's judgments or actions (Clark/Keefe 2007).

Reflexive writing aids the worker in distinguishing between power and authority, issues of uncertainty, and methods that may be incompatible or contradictory. However, the writer must be frank with herself and not try to self-protect:

The route is through spirited enquiry leading to constructive developmental change and personal and professional integrity based on deep understandings. It is creative, illuminative, dynamic, self-affirming.

"Reflective practice" as Bolton terms it, is situated withing the social and political setting of its time, and must reflect the social and political ethics both. With the increased pressure upon practitioners to be "strong and stable," reflective writing allows the workers to express their human frailty in a professional manner, but not on a professional document. In other words, reflective writing is a "free-write," a rough draft of the worker's feelings, reactions, thoughts, assessments, and perspective of a particular incident. As Bolton calls it, this mirror-writing is a "supported process" which provides the writer the opportunity to write about uncertainties, view them, and then move in a positive manner toward the objective report.

Somewhat paradoxically, this process which makes room for uncertainties and other feelings, actually provides the workers with the opportunity to strengthen their assessments as they write and place doubts down in a visible form. Without doubt, it allows for worthwhile professional development as a life story, a form of literature that later can be edited and objectified into a professional report.

rookie126 | Student


Thanks for the feedback. Could you please expand more on Bolton's stages of reflection please. I felt slightly lost with the use of Susan's play as an example. I am an Allied health care practitioner therefore I find it difficult to relating reflection to the play example.

Your assistance with this will be much appreciated.