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How to Ace a Reflective Journal Assignment

Male student writing in a lecture hall

The first time I was faced with a reflective journal as an assessment item, I wasn’t sure what it was or how to approach it. IRAC no longer applies, and for the first time at law school you’re meant to write in first person. Plus it seems like there’s always too much content to cover. If you’ve got a reflective journal assessment this semester, here are some tips for getting started…

The general purpose of reflective journal assignments is to get students engage with the subject material in a way that allows you to track how your understanding of the topic has progressed.

At law school, reflective journals will commonly be used as an assessment in subjects that cover a limited amount of substantive law and instead require consideration of policies or underlying theories or philosophies. Think jurisprudence, international and comparative law subjects, and law reform topics.

While reflective journals can be very broad and come in different forms, it is important to be certain of the structure and the outcomes your marker will be looking for. Sometimes the assessment may pose a question or ask you to look at certain content. Make sure you understand what exactly it is that you are to reflect on, as this will define the scope of your writing.

The best place to start is in your subject outline or guide. As a reflective journal usually needs to demonstrate the progression in your learning through the subject, this guide gives you a road map of topics you should be engaging in and the depth you are expected to explore them in.

If the journal assessment covers your learning throughout the semester, you’ll need to explain the things you’ve learnt/experienced, how it fits in with what you already knew, and how it changed or challenged your thinking on the subject. These sorts of journals will probably be structured around the topics or require you to write an entry each week. Unless you’re explicitly told that it’s not needed, don’t forget to include citations.

Remember that reflective journals aren’t about regurgitating what you were told in class or learnt from your readings. Even if your reflective journal has broad marking criteria, the marker will be looking at how you have engaged with the content and to demonstrate this, you need to show how you have analysed what you have been learning.

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