Sunday, 17 July 2011

#cpd23, Thing 5: reflective practice

A while ago I overcame my somewhat sneery attitude to 'reflective practice' when I realised that underneath the (to me) management-speak-ish name it really just means 'thinking about what you've done and are doing'. Now, I may have my limitations in many fields but thinking about stuff is something I can definitely do.  Indeed, I can think about things so much that I end up having no idea what I think about them, or how I'd write that down in concise and comprehensible English. So what's my approach to reflective practice?
Photograph of sky reflected in a leaded window
Reflections in Oxford

My reasons for reflective writing are three-fold:
  1. To remember what I've done, and what I thought about it. Having some sort of written record, even if it's not a blow-by-blow account of an event, really helps things to stick in my mind.  It's useful, too, just to have a findable list of what you've been up to.
  2. To sort the wheat from the chaff. Taking some time to reflect and write-up helps to work out what are the important things I should remember/act on/do differently next time.
  3. To build up a body of evidence for my Chartership portfolio.

I find that having a framework to use when reflecting is really useful in the battle against woolly (both unfocussed and tangled) thinking.  The 'what - so what - now what' model mentioned in Emma's post is a good place to start.  For more intractable reflections I make notes under the following headings, which are my adaptation from a Chartership course I went to last summer. If you think they'd be useful for you, then by all means use them!
  • What was the event/visit/other (what were the circumstances, history or overview, facts)
  • My involvement - what did I do (actions taken i.e. what and how)
  • Feelings about my role/about the event or visit or whatever (reactions/emotions)
  • Why is this event important to me?/Why did I go?/Why was it important to those organising it?
  • Were there any significant problems that you/the organisers had to overcome?
  • In what ways have your skills, knowledge and understanding developed as a result?/What did the organisers learn?
  • What might I or the organisers do differently next time
    • How have you applied/will you apply your learning in the workplace?
    • What would I do the same next time?
I particularly like that very last point: what would you keep the same?.  It's important when evaluating things that you've done to recognise, and build on, the good stuff as well as improving what didn't go so well!
'Edward and the Yarn' by vlb1105 on Flickr
Gratuitous dog picture to illustrate woolly thinking

What now?
The one thing that would really improve by professional reflection would be to revisit my thoughts and plans a few months after events take place.  I need to find a way of building that in to what I do.  Maybe quarterly reviews on the blog? That's not such a bad idea, in fact - I'd need to pick a memorable date, though, so that the months don't slip by unanounced too often.  In the spirit of keeping alive old cultural references how about the Quarter Days, so long as no-one minds if the December one is late!


  1. I love the idea of quarterly blog reviews - may have to adopt that one myself! Cheers for the idea :)

  2. You're welcome! I hope it's an idea I remember to implement... *scurries off to add reminder to Google Calendar*