Much scholarly writing, surprisingly, makes use of reflection, story, and personal anecdote in strategic ways. That’s not all there is to the scholarship, not by a long shot, but it’s often an important component.
Accordingly, this task is an opportunity to practice communicating scholarly reflections or stories in a credible and compelling way—and part of doing that is being able to offer reflections in ways that disrupt conventional narratives, expectations, or practices. This disruptive reflection essay, then, is at least implicitly argumentative. It is an argument in the style of a narrative, critical reflection on some specific moment of learning about the subject of writing that you’ve experienced in the course to date: when were your expectations challenged or your assumptions about this altered? how did you negotiate a particular difficulty? how did that experience change you? The moment of learning you explore might occur in the context of the classroom, in the writing center, during a homework assignment, or during group work; it could be in relationship to something interpersonal or something you read in a text (and how what you read is complicated by your experience).
Bottom line: think of this essay as an opportunity to explore a different prose style in service of discovering and beginning to define meaningful topics for further scholarly analysis; just as in more obviously formal academic writing, you’ll want to be on the lookout for ‘interventions’ you can make to challenge conventional wisdom, explore the value of what might appear counterintuitive, or simply improve on accepted ways of doing things.
Some techniques to consider in disruptive reflection essays
What makes your story distinctive and engaging to an outside reader? Think of what you write as not only expressing what happened to you, or how you see an issue, but communicating why that action ought to matter to an outside reader.
A ‘moment’ of learning doesn’t have to be simply an epiphany, something instantaneous, though it could be. What are the dimensions of a ‘moment,’ after all?
An A-range paper will…
Respond appropriately to the prompt’s rhetorical situation.
Make sure the ‘disruption’ is legible—you may have to briefly characterize (if it’s not obvious) the conventional wisdom or prior attitudes that changed for you in the moment of learning you describe.
Assume a general audience and orient where appropriate.
Construct a detailed, organized, and eloquent exploration of your subject (not list-like organization).
Employ a style that is clear, plain-spoken, and personal—take risks! Experiment stylistically and frame your reflection so that it resonates with distinctive feeling, makes meaningful claims, and engages the reader in nuanced, gripping ways.