"Reflective practice is learning and developing through examining what we think happened on any occasion, and how we think others perceived the event and us, opening our practice to scrutiny by others . . ." G Bolton, Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development p 7
Looking at a dictionary, reflection might be defined as: To mirror -T o look back - To cast a light on - To meditate
John Dewey (How We Think, p 78) stated that:
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.
Reflective Practice asks us to to suspend our habitual thoughts and assumptions and to examine experience in an open way.
Reflection invites us to become more honest with ourselves about our behaviour. It requires an openness, a willingness to notice our ways of thinking and seeing, to become aware of these and then to re-examine experience in light of this new awareness.
As we practice reflection we often develop the capacity to see ourselves in the act or moment, to become aware of our actions in a given situation.
Reflection lets us examine our actions, see ourselves in new ways and learn from this. This might create a change in behaviour, practice or our thinking.
Another definition of reflection captures these aspects:
"The process of creating and clarifying the meaning of experience (past and present) in terms of self (self in relation to self and self in relation to the world). The outcome of the process is changed conceptual perspective" E M Boyd & A A Fales, (1983) 'Reflective Learning: key to learning from experience' Jnl Humanistic Psychology Vol 23 No 2, pp 99 - 117
Reflective Practice is offered as an approach which helps us to learn continuously and develop our own approaches.
As we work and learn we can become stuck in our approaches and even defensive. Ultimately this is not helpful or effective.
Learning how to reason differently and to see our work in a new way is therefore critical. For more on this see:
Chris Argyris Teaching Smart People How To Learn Harvard Business Review Vol 69, Issue 3, pp99-109.
Reflective practice is a way of overcoming our defences and fears about our practice and of asking questions about the broader political context of our work (See G Bolton, Reflective Practice)
Reflection is something we have to learn and practice. It will take time.
It helps to:
Set aside time daily for reflection
Carry a notebook so that you can record any insights you have anytime
Every so often read over your existing reflections. Maybe there is a pattern you can see over time
Use people you trust as a support. Ask them what they see in anything you choose to share with them
Focus your reflective work (journal for example) on learning (use some of the questions here or others given by your lecturer)
Try using Drawings, Collages and Storyboards as tools for reflection.
If you read the literature on reflection one of the paradoxes you will come across is that reflection can only be experienced, it is unique. Reading about it is not enough. This can be difficult because so much other learning is based on reading and thinking about what you've read. Reflection on the other hand asks us to look to ourselves and find our own authority.
Reflection is not easy and as it involves looking at ourselves it is not uncommon for it to generate a level of discomfort.
There may be a sense of:
- something not fitting right
- unfinished business
- a nagging feeling
It may not be very clear what is the issue.
It is unique to you and only you can reflect on your experience.
As we work on reflection we may become aware of a new capacity to be open to experience, to suspend judgement, to see things anew.
Reflection also involves a realisation stage - an 'aha' moment when we see and experience a change in ourselves.