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It is well supported in the literature that reflective writing is a valuable pedagogy especially when used with experiential learning, cultural immersion, and community or global hands-on experiences. Reflective writing was used to improve cultural awareness among undergraduate nursing students during a service learning study abroad experience. During the 3-week course, students were given the opportunity to provide maternity care to women and families in South Africa. This elective course used reflective writing assignments to improve cultural awareness among nursing students, with the ultimate goal to improve global health. Increasing emphasis on cultural competence and diversity in health care education has provided a theoretical framework for faculty to address students' unconscious biases and value systems, as well as provide guided experiences congruent with the paradigms of social justice and global human rights. Students reflected on their values, experiences, and ideas through journaling. To evaluate the depth of reflective writing, we used a grading rubric. Faculty read the journal entries to provide formative feedback twice during the study abroad experience. The grades reflected the process of integration of feelings and self-awareness. For example, if students provided an inventory of events without a personal reflection into their feelings or linking previous knowledge to attitudes and beliefs, the score will be lower. Strategies for promoting meaningful reflection were identified, including examples of reflective questioning and action plans to initiate rich personal student reflection through robust reflective journaling.


By Michelle O'Connor Kensey, MSN, CNS, CNE, Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing, West Chester University, Exton, PA (