Reflection and Reflexivity in Practice

Johns[1] argue that as we go about our everyday business we take the world for granted and act habitually, meaning is projected into events that enable us to take things into stride and therefore reinforce our sense of self. Because possibility is not explored, knowledge and experience remain defended. Jasper[2] argues that reflective practice is one of the most important ways we learn from our experiences in a professional context, especially as it enables us to make the link between theory and practice. Using the reflective process and thinking about our experiences in a purposeful way, we come to understand our experiences differently. This process enables us to consciously think about things and actively make decisions based on experience instead of habit. Therefore Jasper argues that reflective practice enables practitioners to bridge the gap between theory and practice by providing a strategy that helps us develop our understanding and learning.

Furthermore; Schön[3] called this process ‘reflection in action’ as he found that when practitioners were faced with a problem, the issue was resolved instinctively drawing on previous experience to achieve the best solution possible. Using a mix of knowing and doing to engage in the learning process. An example he uses to describe this action is that of riding a bike; he implied that those who ride the bike know what to do in the situation where they feel they would fall. But often in situations the wrong answer is given when certain questions are asked in a classroom because it is outside of the bike riding situation. In other words it is an illustration that practitioners usually know more than what they say[4].

Several critics have argued that Schön fails to clarify what the reflective process itself entails. Eraut[5] for example argues that he doesn’t have a simple coherent view of reflection, instead he has a set of overlapping attributes of which he selects the best one to fit the situation. Furthermore he argues that there is insufficient amount of discernment between his forms of reflection depicted, leading to over generalisation which causes confusion in his interpretations. Another aspect he argues is Schön’s inability to consider the element of time, an element which is relatable to all practitioners. When time is short decisions are rapidly made and the scope for reflection is limited.

I recognise this in my own situation as a student, in circumstances such as this reflection is a metacognitive process. When completing assignments we are alerted to a problem or question, to which we rapidly read the situation, decide on the best course of action and then continue onto the next focus element. There is limited time for reflection to take place, even when we have longer periods of time to complete said assignment. Nor is it always possible as the delay in reflection affects the potential for knowledge processing to happen. This in essence is linked to the theory of intentionality as suggested by Ekebergh[6]. She argued that reflecting in action is a natural occurrence, however when a person is in action they are intentional to their goals and therefore immersed completely in the activity. This means that it is not possible to distance oneself from the situation to achieve self-reflection that the attitude requires.

Richard Pascal[7] once argued that

It is easier to act your way into a better way of thinking than to think your way into a better way of acting”.

In other words it is easier to change behaviour and therefore change the taken for granted assumptions, than try to change assumptions as a way of changing behaviour. Unlike Narcissus who met his fate through doing nothing other than admiring his own reflection in water and perishing due to self-neglect. When completing the blogs I wanted to challenge the assumptions made in each topic and make it not only relatable to me as the writer but also the audience as well.  Each blog should not only be a reflection of what is evident in practice and literature but also a challenge to the basic assumptions of what HR should or shouldn’t be doing. But like most students we have to educate ourselves around a topic before we fully understand the depth of the knowledge we’re learning. As Schön’s example of riding a bike and being unable to answer questions when appropriate, I felt I was not able to put across the depth of my knowledge to the best of my abilities. This as a consequence led to me experiencing feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, curiosity, disorientation etc.

Generation Y are more susceptible to the use of technology in workplace related activities using it as a tool to facilitate communication and productivity in the workplace. The concept of personal branding has now evolved from beyond product and corporate origins with the increasing importance seen in social advertising. Harris and Rae[8] argue that one in five employers turned to social media to recruit new employees, studies showing that checking of a candidates online behaviour has risen from 11% in 2006 to 22% in recent years. 24% of employers said they were able to find candidates whom they thought would be an asset to the organisation because of their online presence. I believe that building a personal brand online is a great way of differentiating yourself from other potential candidates. Blogging becomes a platform in which individuals can openly challenge the taken for granted assumptions on specialist matters in industry, providing a foundation for continued professional development.

Wopereis, Sloep, and Poortman[9] argues that the awareness of having a large audience reading and commenting on the writer’s reflective thinking can affect reflection both positively and negatively. The large scale interconnectivity can lead to better thought out arguments, however it may deter the expression of personal experiences.

Furthermore Usher, Bryant, and Johnston[10] criticised Schön’s model on its neglection of the practitioner’s experience. My ability to write an informative blog post is dependent on the depth of my knowledge, the range of experience I have and my ability to utilise and implement the correct theory to practice. For example for the topic of emotional intelligence, I was clueless as to what it entailed. This meant that the quality of the blog depended on my ability to research the topic to the best of my abilities to achieve a holistic understanding of what emotional intelligence was.

Whilst reflection in action examines experiences and responses as they occur, reflection on action on the other hand reviews and analyses past practice in hindsight. Reflexive practitioners engage in critical self-reflection, a Meta theorizing process which scrutinises the first reflection more in depth[11]. Dallos and Steadman[12] argued that personal reflexivity is a conscious cognitive process where knowledge and theory are applied to the reflection in action. To ensure there were no weaknesses to my approach to reflexivity, Kolb’s ‘reflection on action’ model had to be used. Although like most students I found reflection in action to be far easier than reflection on action. However Dallos and Steadman[12] further argues that the difficulty in reflection is that in practice the differences aren’t quite as clear cut.

The most influential model on reflexivity is Kolb’s cycle of experiential learning, which uses the workplace as a place of education where different methods of learning can be tailored to resonate within a practitioner. The cycle shows the process of learning in 4 stages; Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualisation and Active Experimentation. Woods[13] implied that we feel happier in some parts of the cycle more than others, suggesting that the area we felt the happiest was our preferred learning style. It is suggested that for a complete learning experience students must go through all of the stages in the cycle. However a criticism of the model is that learning doesn’t take place in a chronological order, instead steps may overlap, nor does it take into account the type of learning taking place[14].

Alternatively Gibbs reflective cycle[15] can also be used to provide a deeper analysis of reflection. It is more descriptive than Kolb model in that it also includes the reflectors reaction to each stage. For example reflective observation and abstract conceptualisation are extended in Gibbs model so that reflective observation is split into feelings and evaluation; abstract conceptualisation into analysis and conclusion. Unlike Kolb’s model, this cycle can be readjusted for the purpose of reflection.

Reflection models

Through the process of writing blogs I tried to incorporate in the voice of HR. What are my opinions on the topic and what are the implications for HR managers? For some topics such as engagement and wellbeing; mentoring millennials; emotional intelligence for example I had to overcome the issue of what is it? To what can it do? Like Moon’s[16] observation of the characteristics of deeper critical thinking, when conducting research into each topic I was forced to ask myself if the findings in literature were really true. No topic can be just good there must also be an aspect of bad, this forced me to ask questions of why aren’t these characteristics dealt with? For example in the line manager’s competency and wellbeing post, it became evident that line managers played a vital role in the wellbeing of their staff. And yet nearly half the respondents in research replied that they weren’t a part of tackling issues in dealing with stress. Alternatively if there is a fine line between motivation and manipulation in emotional intelligence.

This process was a way for me to develop myself beyond what I can in the formal classroom type situations. Researching each topic and looking at the arguments on both side enabled me to develop my knowledge of the potential problems faced by HR in practice; assisting me to question my own beliefs of what HR is capable of. Grant and Stanton[17] as cited in Eraut[18] summarised that the key to effectiveness of CPD isn’t to be found in the adopted learning methods themselves, as there is no best learning method and no best approach to learning.

 

References:

[1] Johns, C. (2005). Expanding the gates of perception. In C. Johns, & D. Freshwater, Transforming Nursing Through Reflective Practice (2nd ed., pp. 1 – 12). Oxford: Blackwell.

[2] Jasper, M. (2013). What is reflective practice? In M. Jasper, Beginning reflective practice (2nd ed., pp. 1 – 30). Andover: Cengage Learning.

[3] Schön, D. A. (1983). The Reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. Temple Smith.

[4] Peterbuwert. (2012, December 18). The Reflective Practitioner by Donald Schon. Retrieved from Gray’s Research Reading Group: https://graysreadinggroup.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/the-reflective-practitioner-by-donald-schon/

[5] Eraut, M. (1994). Theories of professional expertise. In M. Eraut, Developing Professional Knowledge And Competence (pp. 123 – 158). London: RoutledgeFalmer.

[6] Ekebergh, M. (2007). Lifeworld‐based reflection and learning: a contribution to the reflective practice in nursing and nursing education. Reflective Practice, 8(3), 331 – 343.

[7] Johnson, G., Whittington, R., & Scholes, K. (2011). Strategy in action. In G. Johnson, R. Whittington, & K. Scholes, Exploring strategy: text and cases (9th ed., pp. 501 – 550). Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

[8] Harris, L., & Rae, A. (2011). Building a personal brand through social networking. Journal of Business Strategy, 32(5), 14 – 21.

[9] Wopereis, I. G., Sloep, P. B., & Poortman, S. H. (2010). Weblogs as Instruments for Reflection on Action in Teacher Education. Interactive Learning Environments, 18(3), 245 – 261.

[10] Usher, R., Bryant, I., & Johnston, R. (1997). Adult Education and the Postmodern Challenge Learning Beyond the Limits. London: Routledge.

[11] Finlay, L. (2008). Reflecting on ‘Reflective practice’. Practice based professional learning centre, 52, 1 – 27.

[12] Dallos, R., & Steadman, J. (2009). Flying over the swampy lowlands: Reflective and reflexive practice. In R. Dallos, & J. Steadman, Reflective practice in psychotherapy and counselling (pp. 1 – 16). New York: Open University Press. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com.lcproxy.shu.ac.uk/doi/pdf/10.1177/1359104515620249

[13] Woods, H. B. (2012). Know your RO from your AE? Learning styles in practice. Health information and libraries journal, 29(2), 172 – 176.

[14] Konak, A., Clark, T. K., & Nasereddin, M. (2014). Using Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle to improve student learning in virtual computer laboratories. Computers & Education, 72, 11- 22.

[15] Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit, Oxford Polytechnic.

[16] Moon, J. A. (1999). Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. London: Kogan Page.

[17] Grant, M. J., & Stanton, F. (1998). The Effectiveness of Continuing Professional Development. A Report for the Chief Medical Officer’s Review of Continuing Professional Development in Practice. London: Joint Centre for Education in Medicine.

[18] Eraut, M. (2001). Do continuing professional development models promote one-dimensional learning? Medical Education, 35(1), 8 – 11.

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