Friday, 1 May 2015

The Power Of Reflecting Skills (and why reflecting on it matters!)

I love blogging because it gives me the opportunity to think through issues that matter to me, to reflect on something I have read, or heard or experienced. I would as a matter of fact love to blog even more often...if only I had the time, of course. This makes for an interesting parallel with the topic of my blog today: reflecting on reflection!

I believe that we could all do with reflecting a lot more and yet I know that many of us (me included) spend too little doing so. Why reflection and in particular self-reflection matters is of course because it is through self reflection that we understand, learn and improve. Feedback from others helps with that too, but once again unless we reflect on the feedback and take it on board, it will hardly change anything at all. The thing is, reflecting skills are hardly taught to us: possibly by parents, sometimes by others. It is worth while asking ourselves whether we - as parents, educators, carers, managers, colleagues and friends - take time to encourage and facilitate reflections in others. Ultimately, unless we make reflection a positive and fruitful 'daily' habit we will really miss out on an enormous amount of learning opportunities.

Interestingly, reflecting skills are also 'employability' skills. There is plenty of evidence that reflecting practitioners are highly sought after by employers, because the people who can reflect are also the people that can think through an issue and come back with a solution; they are also more likely to take action and innovate.

But in practice, how and when can we reflect? A reflection needn't be a very lengthy process and if done 'just in time' it can take place just about everywhere, on a train journey to work as much as during a lunch break on a park bench. The important thing in my view is our willingness to do it and our desire to place it in the 'experience library' so that it can be fished out again and used at a suitable, future occasion.

It helps to use a 'reflection' model to structure our thinking, but whilst there are many out there I find that simple ones are often the best. You may want to try this (developed by Rolfe, 2001):

This simply asks the question, what happened?Which situation did I find myself in?Which event am I going to reflect on? What did I read that was meaningful and impactful?

So What?
This is about understanding the consequences. What is the meaning of that event or situation? What value does it actually have? Positive ? Negative? How do I feel about it and why?  

Now What?
This concludes the reflecting cycle by helping us reflect on the impact of the 'experience/event' and its consquences. The steps we are going to take as a result, the things we are going to do differently. This is really where the personal learning takes place, which we can apply to our own specific work and personal context. Hopefully through step 2 we will have identified a number of 'lessons' and so in step 3 we will be able to identify one or more actions that will enable us to address those 'lessons' in a positive way.

This whole reflecting exercise can tale 3, 30 or 300 minutes (possibly) and it will depend on the complexity of the 'what' and on whether one or more of us are involved in the thinking. The point is we can do it on a personal level and we can do it for professional reasons, as long as we do it and we make it a positive and empowering habit to capture and more importantly retain and act upon precious learning.  


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