Reflection is a word we hear often in training; the desirability of being able to reflect being well known (and commended), and an attribute we encourage in trainees and learners across sectors. Reflective practice – the ability to be able to think deeply about, evaluate, and learn from, critical instances and experiences – is a core part of much professional education.
It’s part of the well-established shift from didactic to experiential learning, and associated with leaner individuality (learner centredness). We relate it to admirable qualities such as having insight, showing willingness to explore a scenario from multiple perspectives, thinking at a deep rather than surface level and take it as indicative that an individual can be self-aware of their strengths and developmental needs.
There are numbers of easily accessible reflective tools in the literature and online to inform and support the process. The reflective individual is, in short, professional, mature, analytical and understands what life-long learning is really all about.
So in terms of role modelling we should be rather good at this ourselves, as teachers, right? I was thinking recently (reflecting, even!) on the degree to which I actually do this regularly, and the degree to which it can be easier to encourage others to do than to actually do enough. To some reflective ability may come more ‘naturally’ than to others – I can think of numbers of colleagues who I’d say comfortably surpass me in this particular area – but it is something worth continually striving for whatever the starting point. If, like me, your default position is more excitement about ‘what happens next’ than ‘what happened before’, coupled with the type of impatience and flights of concentration that meant yoga or a meditative approach were always going to be a challenge, reflection may need some self-discipline.
Practicing what we teach may need a re-setting of our own clock, our own mind-set. My first forays into trying to be more reflective caused me to reflect on that I wasn’t good at it. Digging deep and asking myself why (just taking the time for a bit of curiosity) proved a good starting point, and revealing. For what it’s worth the lesson I’d share is factoring in a bit of time for self. It’s easy to not make time – there will always be many things that “need doing”, usually practical tasks, but a little head space needs to go on the list and become as much a priority sometimes as the next more tangible “job”. I’ve still a way to go, but increasingly find that making more protected time to just think not only makes the past and future a bit clearer, but can conversely save time. If you understand what didn’t work as you’d hoped, and why, effort isn’t wasted repeating it.
Call me superficial but I’m thinking the enemy of reflection is the mobile phone. My tip for 2016 is just switch if off for an hour sometimes – not on ‘a day off’ but as part of a typical day. Surprisingly, the world doesn’t end, and the lack of distraction is helpful for both making sense of what’s happened/is happening and strategizing going forward. If you don’t have the will to actually resist the phone there are places without reception. I’d wholeheartedly recommend Shropshire.
Article by Connie Wiskin, Director, Impromptu