Posts Tagged ‘reflective practice’

Skills for Growth

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

I got on the train at Harrogate. I sat behind a man who got up soon after we had pulled out of the station – he went to the toilet. The train pulled into the next station which is only about a mile from Harrogate Station, and he suddenly left the toilet and got off the train. He hadn’t left himself much time, I thought. Then he looked back into the train from the platform – he seemed to be looking at his seat. Why did he go to the toilet directly before the station he was getting off at? Why was he rushing? Why did he look back at his seat? I had so many questions.

Some of us sit happily in the ‘Reviewing the Experience’ stage of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC) or are shown to be strong Reflectors having undertaken Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles questionnaire. For others, this reviewing or reflecting is not a strength, not something that comes easily or naturally. As you can probably tell from the first paragraph, it sits very comfortably with me … or should that be too comfortably?

What is this process? Rowntree (1988) says reflection is, “… studying one’s own study methods as seriously as one studies the subject and thinking about a learning task after you have done it”. Unless you do this, he says, the task – as a learning experience – will almost certainly be wasted. In any learning situation, he adds, you should prepare for it beforehand, participate actively during it, and reflect on it afterwards.

Donald Schon (1983) suggested that to reflect “on action” so as to engage in a process of continuous learning is one of the defining characteristics of professional practice. He argued that the model of professional training which loads students up with knowledge in training schools so that they can then discharge it when they enter the world of practice has never been a particularly good description of how professionals “think in action”, and is quite inappropriate to practice in a fast-changing world.

The cultivation of the capacity to reflect “on action” (after you have done it, retrospective thinking) and “in action” (while doing something, thinking on your feet) has rightly become an important feature of professional training programmes in many disciplines. It can also be argued that effective reflective practice needs another person such as a mentor or coach, who can ask appropriate questions to ensure that the reflection goes somewhere, and does not get bogged down in self-justification, self-indulgence or self-pity.

If the student can be coached to identify the feelings they have experienced and the thought processes they have used – to reflect on his/her own learning – then learning will continue at a much swifter pace and ultimately with less support from the coach or mentor.

As the makers of the man’s iPhone say, “Think Different”.

Enabling a person to initially reflect ‘on action’, and subsequently reflect ‘in action’ is the key to sustainable self-development. Due to its importance, trainers, coaches and facilitators have a responsibility to ensure that this is a golden thread throughout all their contact time.

Returning to the man on the train … I got to ask him all the questions I listed above. That’s because having seen him looking back into the train, I had a look around his seat – and I found his iPhone.

When I returned it to him a couple of days later he explained that he had fallen asleep. When he awoke he needed the toilet, but didn’t realise how close to his station he was.

If he had reflected in action – as opposed to on action – he may well have not gone to the toilet, and thus not lost his phone – a significant potential return on investment! And whilst I accept that most of us are not at our most effective when we wake from a sleep, the more practiced and engrained reflection is, the more likely it is to become the default position, and so just happen.

It all made me reflect on how my son had left his iPhone on a bus a year or so ago – he also spoke to the person who found it, but they didn’t return it. Not all reflection is helpful …


50 Not Out

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Well, this is my fiftieth post on my blog (I haven’t been counting, honestly, there is a counter that tells me!)  As one of the key skills I seek to help others develop is that of accurate and objective self-reflection, I thought I should reflect on my blogging experience thus far.

How many blogs in the world are there? Having been to various events over the past 12 months and heard numerous figures quoted with apparent authority (but little real evidence), I’m not sure that anyone knows. Somewhere between 100 and 150 million appears to be as accurate as it is possible to make it. I have also heard that 100,000 new ones start every day, and also that two are created every second (which equates to 172,800 each day).

I have also been told that over 50% of those created ‘die’ within the first 3 months of existence and that over 75% ‘die within their first 6 months. I have no idea how many make it to 50 posts, but it would perhaps be a little meaningless (if in fact the other statistics have any meaning) as a post can be anything from a few words to several pages.

My blog has, however, been developing and growing for well over 6 months now, so I should congratulate myself for that achievement. I have also enjoyed it immensely – which I didn’t expect to.

When I first started the blog, I expected it to be a bit of a chore.  I didn’t expect it to help my creativity of thought in the ways it has. When I have quiet moments, or sometimes as my head hits the pillow at night, I start thinking about what has happened over the past day or so that I could blog about. What has happened that links into both business improvement and learning and development? What will people be interested in reading about? I find this whole process very positive.

I have a number of favourites from my ’50 not out’.

I was very pleased with my second post (Great Railway Stations of the World – 02.06.10) as I think it accurately describes what I was, and still am, attempting to achieve.

The blog that took me longest to write was “Ofsted – head in the sandpit?” (07.11.10). This was because I was very passionate about the subject but wanted to make very sure everything I said was accurate. It took me the best part of 3 hours but I was pleased with the end result.

Story of a Life” (18.09.10) was enjoyable to write as it involved the great Harry Chapin. What made it particularly enjoyable was that it started in New York and ended in New York – which wasn’t planned when I started writing it, but fitted with the post’s title (and the title of one of his greatest stories). Perfect!

I also wrote two about the Affective Domain (To the Affective and beyond – 22.07.10 & Playing with feeling and playing to learn – 26.07.10). I was particularly pleased with these as they are about an aspect of training delivery that I am passionate about, and because I got feedback from several people as to how helpful they were.

Which am I most disappointed with? If I was that disappointed with any I wouldn’t have published them, or would have removed them! Having said that, if I had to pick one it would be “Your national embarrassment” (26.08.10) as it felt a little forced when I wrote it and I’m not sure it really went anywhere. But does a post always have to go somewhere?

Accurate and objective self-assessment also requires feedback from others – so I’d be interested to know if there have been any posts of particular note for you?


Deletions, Distortions and Generalisations from my schooldays

Sunday, August 8th, 2010
Father and Son - can you see them?

Father and Son - can you see them?

I went to a very enjoyable Reunion on Friday night for people who went to Northgate Grammar School, Ipswich and who celebrated their fiftieth birthdays this School year. I left the School in the long hot summer of 1976 having taken my ‘O’ levels, due to my parents moving north, and completed the remainder of my education in Yorkshire.

That was 34 years ago. And I had not had any contact with any of my ex-classmates since 1976, other than communication with 3 or 4 people via Friends Reunited and a few emails during the organisation of the event.

It felt very strange prior to the event. I could remember so little about my time there or the people I was with, I felt like I was researching another person’s history rather than retracing my own steps. I didn’t recognise anyone at the event, although I did recognise names. The only person I was sure I knew – and was very enthusiastic in explaining to him how I remembered him – I didn’t actually know. I had got the wrong person!

It all fitted with aspects of some training I had been delivering within the NHS on the previous day. We were discussing motivating staff and dealing with people who may appear difficult. Specifically we were looking at the NLP work of Shelle Rose Charvet, and my experiences at the Reunion fitted very well with a foundation stone of NLP and Shelle Rose Charvet’s work – how we use our own personal filters to create our own reality of the world, unlike anyone else’s reality, through the Deletion, Distortion and Generalisation of information.

We delete things as we can only remember a certain number of pieces of information at any one time – best estimates suggest that it is around 7 pieces if information from an interaction or discussion.

We distort things – possibly why we have a Lock Ness Monster and large black panthers roaming the country. Closer to home, it explains how we suddenly see something possibly scary, and then realise it’s not quite what we thought it was.

And we generalise. People create a view of groups of people, or a personal norm (such as all car sales people are this, or all politicians are that), based on a few interactions or what they have heard from others.

And the whole of the Reunion evening – certainly for me – was based on Deletions, Distortions and Generalisations. When I left the Reunion, I think my one regret was that I didn’t have any notes or recollections that might have given me a fighting chance of having a personal reality reasonably close to someone else’s personal reality.

It emphasised to me the benefits of Reflective Practice and diary keeping. We forget far more than we ever learn, and in order to increase our potential to learn we can spend more time recording what we have achieved and how we have achieved it, and what we have not done well and why it didn’t go well.