Free writing a reflective assignment

Written: 1/10/2019

By: amy bishop

In: News & Views

Published: 01/10/2019

Author: Gillian Ruch and Rachel Williams

In this piece, we explore the benefits of free writing a reflective assignment on the Practice Supervisor Development Programme (or making and digesting an egg sandwich).

Participants who have completed the Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP) have the option of writing an assessed reflective assignment when they have completed the programme. This is an opportunity to reflect back on learning from PSDP and to:

  • Take stock about the impact of the programme on your work as a Practice Supervisor.
  • Review what has changed as a result.
  • Consider how you can be supported to develop further.

You can read more about what the reflective assignment is and how it is assessed on the PSDP website FAQs – ‘Will participation in the PSDP be accredited?’. The assignments are assessed by staff at the University of Sussex, led by Professor Gillian Ruch. The first few reflective assignments were submitted recently.

This blog explores the benefits of reflecting on learning in this way from the perspective of Gillian (who reads the assignments) and Rachel (who has recently submitted an assignment) – with some top tips along the way.


It is always hard to know how to get started when writing an assignment. So here is a suggestion. It’s a creative writing exercise called ‘free writing’ and simply involves you taking a blank page and writing non-stop for anything between three-five minutes (decide before you start how long it will be) about a topic you are wanting to think and write about, without lifting your pen off the page. If you run out of things to write then simply write ‘I don’t know what to write’ and as sure as egg are eggs (and they are!) something further will emerge.

In the case of the PSDP a working title for your free writing exercise could be:

‘What have I learnt from completing the PSDP?’

The exercise is essentially free association in written form. By not stopping writing you allow a stream of consciousness to emerge, which may reveal some surprising ideas you had not expected. Doing this exercise literally frees your mind and could reveal to you what you might want to focus on in your reflective assignment.

The PSDP content and structure have been designed to encourage you throughout the programme to pause and reflect on your learning. For those of you that have completed the programme, if you have used the spaces in the workbooks provided for each day then you will have a rich resource to draw from. If you’re reading this in advance of completing the programme, we’d strongly encourage you to fill in the workbook as it will be an incremental way of developing resources to inform your assignment. So to get you started and inspired, in addition to your free writing revelations, you can refer back to the workbooks, the slide presentations and your notes to see what catches your attention again.

So, you’ve free written, you’ve looked at your workbook and notes from the programme, what next? Well, this makes me recall my mother’s wise words every time I went off to sit a school exam – read the question! In this case, there is no question but simply a task of producing a reflective account of your learning, plus four learning outcomes, which we ask you to take into account when writing the assignment. These might be thought of as the equivalent of ‘the question’ and they are as follows (with cross references to the Knowledge and Skills Statement for Practice Supervisors (KSS)).

Learning outcome one

Have acquired the knowledge, skills, and values required to take up the role of Practice Supervisor, in keeping with the key KSS requirements, and the confidence to deploy a range of theoretically informed approaches to help supervisees with emotionally and professionally complex dilemmas and decision making processes, keeping the needs of vulnerable children and families clearly in mind.

(KSS: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7)

Learning outcome two

Have developed a deeper and wide ranging set of critically self-reflective capacities and skills, enabling them to remain focused, analytical, authoritative, ethical and professional in demanding professional and supervisory circumstances.

(KSS: 2, 4, 7)

Learning outcome three

Have a critical understanding and ability to work constructively and reflectively with the dynamics of power, authority, emotion, difference and diversity in practice situations, and in the supervisory relationship, recognising the role of clear contracting processes with supervisees, the significance of professional anxiety on all involved and the importance of effectively managing its emotional impact.

(KSS: 1, 3, 4, 6, 8)

Learning outcome four

Appreciate and work in a critically constructive manner with the impact of organisational pressures on themselves and their supervisees and how these may at times create tension with professional ethical principles.

(KSS: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8)

With this framework in your head, the next piece of advice would be to focus on just a few aspects of your learning – perhaps three key ideas that you’ve taken on-board, can evidence as having applied in your workplace and which collectively address all four learning outcomes. Once you’ve identified what they are and written about them, it’s helpful to return back to the learning outcomes again to check you have covered each of them to some extent. For those of you who think and learn more visually you could think of this process metaphorically as making an egg sandwich.

The learning outcomes are the slices of bread that sandwich the aspects of your learning that you are reflecting on and showcasing, represented by slices of egg (it’s important to note that this is not a mashed egg sandwich, which would not be a helpful image to make the point…!). In the process of writing you are digesting your learning – or one could say you are eating the egg sandwich – in order to enhance your professional development.

But who am I to give advice? Far better for you to hear from a PSDP Practice Supervisor who has successfully completed their assignment.


Juggling a family and a career in social work management is a constant time management battle for me, so an assignment that I didn’t ‘have’ to do drifted like a feather to the bottom of the gigantic ‘to do’ pile. And while it sat there, it gathered dust, and the more dust it gathered, the more reluctant I became to pick it up. Because then I would have to dust it off, and I couldn’t actually remember what the feather looked like by then anyway, so I just kept thinking I’m going to leave it right there, under the dust! If I am completely honest, perhaps I was hoping it would remain buried and no-one would ask me about it…

So why did I decide to pick it up, dust it off and spend time evaluating it? I had a few reasons. Firstly, I wanted to know if the time and organisational investment in me had been worthwhile, what had I learnt and how had my practice changed. I went on the course because I genuinely care about my practice and I want to supervise effectively (I think these are characteristics that we all shared), so it made sense to reflect on the learning process and completing the assignment was a method to achieving that. I also thought about how I promote the reflective process as a method of learning with families, supervisees and my peers. I figured I needed some of my own advice! Finally, I thought about the assignment and how I hadn’t actually tried to complete it, so I didn’t know how long it would take, or how difficult (or straightforward) it would be.

Once I had freed myself from excuses and decided I was going to get it done, the process happened quite naturally. I used a free writing method and considered poignant events of the last few weeks (there are many to choose from in our line of work!). Bullet points would be fine as a starting point. Once I had these events, I read the learning outcomes and loosely matched four of them together. It felt a little bit like writing a learning log as a student – free writing, but there are certain elements you have to cover. The learning outcomes are fairly broad and I found that most events would fit into at least one learning outcome. I chose one event for each and then began a kind of cross-examination. I asked myself what I did, why I did it, how I felt about it and how I might have done things differently before I completed the course. I reviewed the course material and linked some of the theory to the actions I had taken. I pulled this together into four paragraphs and the assignment was done!

If you ask me, it is 100% worth the time investment for your own development. I found writing the assignment enabled me to occupy a space that would normally pass me by. The rollercoaster of emotions felt on a daily basis; confusion, frustration, elation – it gave me a chance to unravel it and consider my role, and subsequent learning. It demonstrated how much I had taken on board from the course, and I am sure it will for you as well.

Gillian Ruch and Rachel Williams

Gillian Ruch is a Professor of Social Work at the University of Sussex and PSDP facilitator. Rachel Williams is a Practice Manager in Central Bedfordshire Council and PSDP participant.

The Practice Supervisor Blog

This is part of

News & Views

Take me back

Accept Our Terms And Conditions

Terms and conditions

This page (together with the documents referred to on it) tells you the terms of use on which you may make use of our website (our site), whether as a guest or a registered user.

Please read these terms of use carefully before you start to use the site. By using our site, you indicate that you accept these terms of use and that you agree to abide by them. If you do not agree to these terms of use, please refrain from using our site.

Information about us is a subsidiary site operated by The Dartington Hall Trust (“We”). We are registered in England and Wales as a company (1485560) and charity (279756) and have our registered office at Elmhirst Centre, Dartington Hall, Dartington, Totnes TQ9 6EL. Our VAT number is 402196875.

Accessing our site

Access to our site is permitted on a temporary basis, and we reserve the right to withdraw or amend the service we provide on our site without notice (see below). We will not be liable if for any reason our site is unavailable at any time or for any period.
When using our site, you must comply with the provisions of our “acceptable use policy” (below). You are responsible for making all arrangements necessary for you to have access to our site. You are also responsible for ensuring that all persons who access our site through your internet connection are aware of these terms, and that they comply with them.
Organisations can subscribe to our service and members of the subscribing organisation will be provided with a user login and password.
Some areas of the site are have restricted access for registered users only. If you choose, or you are provided with, a user login, password or any other piece of information as part of our security procedures, you must treat such information as confidential, and you must not disclose it to any third party. We have the right to disable any user login or password, whether chosen by you or allocated by us, at any time, if in our opinion you have failed to comply with any of the provisions of these terms of use.
More information on how we use cookies is available on our Cookies page.

Intellectual property rights

As a guest of the site you may print off one copy, and may download extracts, of any page(s) from our site for your personal reference and you may draw the attention of others within your organisation to material posted on our site.
As a registered user, you may print off multiple copies and may download multiple documents. These documents must only be used internally within the subscribing organisation to support your work. You must not pass on any part of the materials on our site to third parties and you must not use any part of the materials on our site for commercial purposes without obtaining a licence to do so from us or our licensors.
Either as a guest or a registered user, you must not modify the paper or digital copies of any materials you have printed off or downloaded in any way, and you must not use any illustrations, photographs, video or audio sequences or any graphics separately from any accompanying text. Our status (and that of any identified contributors) as the authors of material on our site must always be acknowledged.
If you print off, copy or download any part of our site in breach of these terms of use, your right to use our site will cease immediately and you must, at our option, return or destroy any copies of the materials you have made.
All Research in Practice (RiP) trademarks, service marks, trade names, logos, domain names, and any other features of the RiP brand are the sole property of RiP. We are the owner or the licensee of all intellectual property rights in our site, and in the material published on it. Those works are protected by copyright laws and treaties around the world. All such rights are reserved.
Our site changes regularly
We aim to update our site regularly, and may change the content at any time. If the need arises, we may suspend access to our site, or close it indefinitely. Any of the material on our site may be out of date at any given time, and we are under no obligation to update such material.
Our liability
The material displayed on our site is provided without any guarantees, conditions or warranties as to its accuracy. To the extent permitted by law, we, other members of our group of companies and third parties connected to us hereby expressly exclude:

  • All conditions, warranties and other terms which might otherwise be implied by statute, common law or the law of equity.
  • Any liability for any direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage incurred by any user in connection with our site or in connection with the use, inability to use, or results of the use of our site, any websites linked to it and any materials posted on it, including:
    • loss of income or revenue;
    • loss of business;
    • loss of profits or contracts;
    • loss of anticipated savings;
    • loss of data;
    • loss of goodwill;
  • wasted management or office time; and whether caused by tort (including negligence), breach of contract or otherwise, even if foreseeable, provided that this condition shall not prevent claims for loss of or damage to your tangible property or any other claims for direct financial loss that are not excluded by any of the categories set out above.

This does not affect our liability for death or personal injury arising from our negligence, nor our liability for fraudulent misrepresentation or misrepresentation as to a fundamental matter, nor any other liability which cannot be excluded or limited under applicable law.

Information about you and your visits to our site

We process information about you in accordance with our “privacy policy” (below). By using our site, you consent to such processing and you warrant that all data provided by you is accurate.

Transactions concluded through our site

Contracts for the supply of goods, services or information formed through our site or as a result of visits made by you are governed by our “terms and conditions of supply” (below).
Uploading material to our site
Whenever you make use of a feature on our site that allows you to upload material to our site, or to make contact with other users of our site, you must comply with the content standards set out in our “acceptable use policy” (below). You warrant that any such contribution does comply with those standards, and you indemnify us for any breach of that warranty.
Any material you upload to our site will be considered non-confidential and non-proprietary, and we have the right to use, copy, distribute and disclose to third parties any such material for any purpose.
We will not be responsible, or liable to any third party, for the content or accuracy of any materials posted by you or any other user of our site.
We have the right to remove any material or posting you make on our site if, in our opinion, such material does not comply with the content standards set out in our acceptable use policy (below).
Viruses, hacking and other offences
You must not misuse our site by knowingly introducing viruses, trojans, worms, logic bombs or other material which is malicious or technologically harmful. You must not attempt to gain unauthorised access to our site, the server on which our site is stored or any server, computer or database connected to our site. You must not attack our site via a denial-of-service attack or a distributed denial-of service attack.
By breaching this provision, you would commit a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. We will report any such breach to the relevant law enforcement authorities and we will co-operate with those authorities by disclosing your identity to them. In the event of such a breach, your right to use our site will cease immediately.
We will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by a distributed denial-of-service attack, viruses or other technologically harmful material that may infect your computer equipment, computer programs, data or other proprietary material due to your use of our site or to your downloading of any material posted on it, or on any website linked to it.
Linking to our site
You may link to our home page, provided you do so in a way that is fair and legal and does not damage our reputation or take advantage of it, but you must not establish a link in such a way as to suggest any form of association, approval or endorsement on our part where none exists.
You must not establish a link from any website that is not owned by you.
Our site must not be framed on any other site, nor may you create a link to any part of our site other than the home page. We reserve the right to withdraw linking permission without notice. The website from which you are linking must comply in all respects with the content standards set out in our acceptable use policy (below).
If you wish to make any use of material on our site other than that set out above, please address your request to
Links from our site
Where our site contains links to other sites and resources provided by third parties, these links are provided for your information only. We have no control over the contents of those sites or resources, and accept no responsibility for them or for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of them.
Jurisdiction and applicable law
The English courts will have non-exclusive jurisdiction over any claim arising from, or related to, a visit to our site although we retain the right to bring proceedings against you for breach of these conditions in your country of residence or any other relevant country.
These terms of use and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with them or their subject matter or formation (including non-contractual disputes or claims) shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the law of England and Wales.
Trade marks
RESEARCH IN PRACTICE, RESEARCH IN PRACTICE FOR ADULTS and REASON are registered trade marks of The Dartington Hall Trust.
Acceptable use
Prohibited uses:
You may use our site only for lawful purposes. You may not use our site:

  • In any way that breaches any applicable local, national or international law or regulation.
  • In any way that is unlawful or fraudulent, or has any unlawful or fraudulent purpose or effect.
  • For the purpose of harming or attempting to harm minors in any way.
  • To send, knowingly receive, upload, download, use or re-use any material which does not comply with our content standards (below).
  • To transmit, or procure the sending of, any unsolicited or unauthorised advertising or promotional material or any other form of similar solicitation (spam).
  • To knowingly transmit any data, send or upload any material that contains viruses, Trojan horses, worms, time-bombs, keystroke loggers, spyware, adware or any other harmful programs or similar computer code designed to adversely affect the operation of any computer software or hardware.

You also agree:

  • Not to reproduce, duplicate, copy or re-sell any part of our site in contravention of the provisions of our terms of website use (above).
  • Not to access without authority, interfere with, damage or disrupt:
    • any part of our site;
    • any equipment or network on which our site is stored;
    • any software used in the provision of our site; or
    • any equipment or network or software owned or used by any third party.

Interactive services
We may from time to time provide interactive services on our site, including, without limitation:

  • Comment forms.
  • Message boards.

Where we do provide any interactive service, we will provide clear information to you about the kind of service offered, if it is moderated and what form of moderation is used (including whether it is human or technical).
We will do our best to assess any possible risks for users (and in particular, for children) from third parties when they use any interactive service provided on our site, and we will decide in each case whether it is appropriate to use moderation of the relevant service (including what kind of moderation to use) in the light of those risks. However, we are under no obligation to oversee, monitor or moderate any interactive service we provide on our site, and we expressly exclude our liability for any loss or damage arising from the use of any interactive service by a user in contravention of our content standards, whether the service is moderated or not.
The use of any of our interactive services by a minor is subject to the consent of their parent or guardian. We advise parents who permit their children to use an interactive service that it is important that they communicate with their children about their safety online, as moderation is not foolproof. Minors who are using any interactive service should be made aware of the potential risks to them.
Where we do moderate an interactive service, we will normally provide you with a means of contacting the moderator, should a concern or difficulty arise.
Content standards
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (Contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
Contributions must:

  • Be accurate (where they state facts).
  • Be genuinely held (where they state opinions).
  • Comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

  • Contain any material which is defamatory of any person.
  • Contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory.
  • Promote sexually explicit material.
  • Promote violence.
  • Promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age.
  • Infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person.
  • Be likely to deceive any person.
  • Be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence.
  • Promote any illegal activity.
  • Be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety.
  • Be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person.
  • Be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person.
  • Give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case.
  • Advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Suspension and termination
We will determine, in our discretion, whether there has been a breach of this acceptable use policy through your use of our site. When a breach of this policy has occurred, we may take such action as we deem appropriate.
Failure to comply with this acceptable use policy constitutes a material breach of the terms of use upon which you are permitted to use our site, and may result in our taking all or any of the following actions:

  • Immediate, temporary or permanent withdrawal of your right to use our site.
  • Immediate, temporary or permanent removal of any posting or material uploaded by you to our site.
  • Issue of a warning to you.
  • Legal proceedings against you for reimbursement of all costs on an indemnity basis (including, but not limited to, reasonable administrative and legal costs) resulting from the breach.
  • Further legal action against you.
  • Disclosure of such information to law enforcement authorities as we reasonably feel is necessary.

We exclude liability for actions taken in response to breaches of this acceptable use policy. The responses described in this policy are not limited, and we may take any other action we reasonably deem appropriate.
Changes to the acceptable use policy
We may revise this acceptable use policy at any time by amending this page. You are expected to check this page from time to time to take notice of any changes we make, as they are legally binding on you. Some of the provisions contained in this acceptable use policy may also be superseded by provisions or notices published elsewhere on our site.
Your concerns
If you have any concerns about material which appears on our site, please contact
Thank you for visiting our site.