Reflection; an idea whose time is past?
This paper is rather longer and less of a rant than the other pages in this section; it was originally given at a seminar at the University of Lincoln in February 2010 and formed the basis of a round-table session (with Peter Hadfield) at the 2010 ISSoTL Conference in Liverpool in October.
Click here to go to some notes arising from that round-table discussion.
And here for a later version delivered as part of the Open Lecture series at the University of Greenwich (audio with slides)
When I referred to this paper and argument in class it was the first time in my career I got anything I could describe as a cheer from the students (OK, apart from when I attempted to illustrate Benedict's distinction between apollonian and dionysian cultures with notional dance moves. But that was ironic rather than sincere!)
Here's a presentation with the broad outline of the argument—the more detailed discussion can be found down the page.
Google "reflective practice teaching" and you will get 666,000 links (of which, rather ironically in view of what I am about to write, the top one a few minutes ago was to a page of mine).
Reflective practice is a potent shibboleth in teaching, nursing and social work, in particular. I have mused about possible reasons for that in this blog post, but it also has some standing in other more senior professions including medicine and the law. It has even assumed the hegemonic status of an idea which cannot be questioned, like the the terrorist threat or man-made climate change.
The basic argument of this paper is that "reflective practice", in the tradition represented by Schön (1983), Boud (1985), and Moon (1999) is being asked to bear too much weight in professional education and practice, and indeed that to emphasise it at the cost of, for example, other elements of the development of practice—such as sheer repetitious deliberative practice, participation in a community of practice, and the acquisition of tacit knowledge—is to distort what happens in the real world. Indeed, an emphasis on reflection can actually militate against learning to practice well.
I am not going to start off with a list of definitions of reflection, but
..."reflection" is a good intention frequently found to be fallen on hard times. There is nothing to distinguish it from "thinking", which is a quintessential human activity. What is important is the quality of thought. (Harvey and Knight, 1996 p.161, cit. in Brockbank and McGill, 2007)
Any kind of thoughtfulness can count as "reflection", and that is part of the problem—if the term can mean anything then it means nothing.
Its impact on practice is far from clear
And indeed, where is the actual evidence that it does improve practice? So far, I have not come across any studies which show empirically that in any discipline reflective practitioners have better outcomes from their practice than do those who probably think just as much—or indeed as little—as their reflective colleagues but just don't make as big a deal of it. Reflection is on the whole a feature of the process of practice, rather than something which directly affects outcomes; so is it appropriate to make any great claims for it? Perhaps—this was one of the outcomes of the discussion at the seminar where this paper was originally delivered—it is an emergent property of good practice, an (on the whole) desirable epiphenomenon or symptom rather than a component to be cultivated.
What actually delivers the goods in terms of changed practice outcomes is a process of continuous review and development of which reflection may indeed be a part, but only a small part of an iterative action-research cycle.
One of the few studies I have so far found which engages with the issue is an article in a magazine about the "Teach for America" programme. Researchers have examined the data gathered by the programme to see which qualities of applicants best predict which will become good teachers (and the quality is assessed by hard data about the progress made by the teachers' pupils—and yes, I am aware of the limitations of that value-added methodology);
But in 2003, the admissions staff looked at the data and discovered that reflectiveness did not seem to matter either. Or more accurately, trying to predict reflectiveness in the hiring process did not work. (Ripley, 2010).
In a similar vein, this long article (Green, 2010) about evidence-based teacher training in the States extols its virtues and methods without a single mention of "reflection".
Indeed, even that apostle of reflectiveness, Jenny Moon, has doubts about its applicability at the level of actual practice in teaching;
"In education, the main interest in reflective practice has come from teacher education more than those engaged in teaching or who are concerned about learning. One might speculate that the interest has something to do with the work role of teacher educators, perhaps more than about teaching as such. However, while teacher educators promote reflection among teachers, they seem to have less tendency to consider reflection as a method for their own practice..." (Moon, 1999: 57)
Many people can't do it
Tutors on courses which promote and even demand reflective practice of their students, using tools such as reflective journals for assessment purposes, often complain that it is rarely done well. What students (particularly younger students) produce is primarily a narrative of their practice, and although they may get beyond narrative and simple evaluation ("The session went really well") when they are prompted by scaffolding questions ("Which parts of the session were most effective, and why?" "If you were to do the session again tomorrow, what would you do differently?") they rarely generate any analysis spontaneously.
The venerable work of Perry (1970) and of Belenky et al (1987). may be relevant here. Broadly, Perry suggests that young men continue to develop cognitively in their university years, moving from a static, authority-based, black and white conception of knowledge in their first year to a more nuanced and negotiated view as they approach graduation (this is a gross over-simplification of Perry's research, in which he identifies nine stages). Belenky's work concerns "Women's Ways of Knowing" and is informed by a feminist perspective; she and her collaborators identify five stages of knowing;
- Silence: total dependence on whims of external authority
- Received Knowledge: receive and reproduce knowledge
- Subjective Knowledge: truth and knowledge are conceived of as personal, private, and intuited
- Procedural Knowledge: rely on objective procedures for obtaining and communicating knowledge
- Constructed Knowledge: view all knowledge as contextual; value subjective and objective strategies
(Belenky et al, 1987)
It could cogently be argued that in order to reflect, one would need to be at stage five. (This is not say that the demonstrable ability to reflect—especially "critically"—may not be evidence of being at stage five, but that is not the same thing.)
Similarly, one would have to have a conception of learning at level four or five of Saljo's (1979) categorisation, or the "relational" or indeed "extended abstract" level (also levels four and five) of Biggs and Collis' SOLO Taxonomy (1982)... So is it actually reasonable to expect inexperienced people to be able to do it?
To a certain extent the act of writing, because it externalises the thought processes (and prompts memory) does encourage one to organise one's thoughts, but not necessarily to add depth or complexity to them.Not only do they have to be confident enough of their own knowledge (and practice, of course) to be able to subject it to scrutiny without fear that it will all fall apart, but they are also expected to do this through an internal dialogue. That is almost certainly a step too far, and professional training programmes generally acknowledge this with a system of supervision or mentoring which models the process through dialogue with another person—although that is extremely time-consuming. There are attempts to use e-learning approaches to reproduce such a dialogue, but these have to use standardised questions (unless, of course, the electronic heirs of Eliza can do it...) and are very limited.
Of course they may learn to fake it; but how can the tutors tell? The students pass on their practice wisdom quite reliably. In social work, for example, former students have often said, "We never really got the hang of all this reflective practice stuff, but if we had to write up a case we knew we'd get a decent mark if we threw in something about anti-discriminatory practice, regardless of whether or not it was relevant." ("Former" students; because of course they had the sense to have graduated before uttering anything so heretical!)
A distraction from developing practice
As the Reynolds model (see below) suggests, the initial reaction to attempting to do anything relatively complex for the first time is likely to be a degree of self-consciousness. To concentrate on that self-consciousness may indeed actively hinder getting beyond it. So Fuller's (1969) much-cited model of the development of "teacher concerns" identifies that the first phase of development is characterised by "concerns about self", and it is not until the late phase (level 4 again!) that the concern moves to "pupils learning what is taught". This shift from concern about oneself (am I going to catch this ball?) to looking outwards (keep your eye on the ball, not on your hand!) is the major necessary move for reliable and effective practice.
Not true to the realities of practice
Reflection is individualistic. It can be done in groups, and the potential for team development is high, but so are the costs, in terms of bringing people together and of facilitating the process. So de facto the reflective practitioner does it on her own, or perhaps with a supervisor or mentor. The danger of this of course is that it can become self-obsessed, self-indulgent and even solipsistic. It can be used to amplify petty rivalries and resentments, or beat oneself up for a "failure" no-one but you would ever recognise as such, or blame others for your own real shortcomings, or overvalue a mediocre performance... If the reference points are not clear (see the notes on the knowledge base below) then the process says nothing about the real world, just the world inside your head.
Spinning your wheels in the mud is more likely to lead to entrenched ruts than real progress.
Yes, I know. That is not "good" reflection. But it is the kind of reflection which does take place, as opposed to that which ought to take place (I contend this on the basis of having read—and marked—hundreds of such pieces).
And of course if everyone is doing her or his own thing in terms of reflective learning, then they are going to come to different conclusions. I am indeed concerned about the dead hand of compliance on many forms of professional practice nowadays, but the alternative is not idiosyncratic anarchy. Particularly not self-serving idiosyncratic anarchy.
I used to like the notion of "owning" an idea... but it has suffered the same fate as "reflection". In any case, the appropriate sense of "owning" here is not "it belongs to me" but "I own up to it; I accept responsibility for it."Beyond that, and linking to the next section, how much time and effort is being wasted in encouraging people to use their own reflective practice to re-invent the wheel? OK, if they believe they invented it they "own" it. But that does not mean that the idea is actually any better than others out there, which may well have been much better researched and tested.
The reality of practice in most disciplines nowadays is that it is a team effort. Disasters and failures (and of course glorious successes) are not personal—they are the products of team effort. Gawande (2010) calls his penultimate chapter "The Hero in the Age of Checklists", and concentrates on Chesley Sullenberger and the "Miracle on the Hudson" as well he might. But without detracting in any way from Sullenberger's achievement, he shows how the protocols built into the aircraft, the training, the checklists, the simulations, and the roles of co-pilot and other crew did not only contribute to the fantastic outcome—but had been designed to do so from the start. At the other end of the scale, the death of "Baby P" in 2008 (like every enquiry has found since Maria Colwell, was a systemic rather than individual failure [although of course the hue and cry is always for an individual]).
In such closely-coupled systems, personal reflection is—beyond the recognition of gross personal mistakes—pretty futile.
However, one can understand its appeal. It is part and parcel of the Whig interpretation of history *Sorry. That's them, not me. which emphasises (sorry! "privileges" is the current jargon—or at least it was when I could last be bothered to look) the contribution of great men* to the inexorable progress of the world to its present (however imperfect) peak of civilisation.
Bad knowledge drives out good
Gresham's Law states that "bad money drives out good" (and don't we know it!). Something similar happens when we start to over-value the products of reflection. This follows from the previous section on the individualism of the "reflective paradigm". I thought of this. It comes from reflection on my experience, so it is more authentic and valuable than other ideas.
Not only is that an encouragement not to check the evidence, or test against other models and (even) research, but it also falls foul of confirmation bias—even when that evidence is checked, there is a tendency to dismiss that which fails to conform to our original "reflection".
Yes, this is a naive argument and we can all think of counter-examples. But it is not quite as naive as, pace the post-modernists, believing that any theory is as good as any other.Of course, a further difficulty with that is that reflection is not informed by theory. The only (legitimate) point of theory is its capacity to organise and make sense of perception or raw experimental data (accepting of course that the selection of what counts as "data" is determined by theory... Why did I ever start on this argument? You may have a theory.) But the creation of theory is a largely evolutionary process. Theories which work survive. Those which don't, don't (on the whole, but see here) Theories, even including some populist and/or simply obnoxious and evil ideologies, are communal creations which go beyond mere personal opinion and have to pass stricter tests than, "I like that idea!"
And theories provide a basis on which issues can be argued and refined, and even set up the questions (a.k.a. hypotheses, when formulated as testable statements) to be answered/tested by research, experiment and practice. That extended process does not figure in the reflective paradigm, where all that matters is one's own thoughts, no matter that they have been arrived at in ignorance (even wilful ignorance) of a vast body of tested and verified knowledge "out there". Even Kolb's cycle leads from "reflective observation" to "abstract conceptualisation".
But there is more to this than simply the pragmatic value of existing theory to rein in the flights of an individual's reflective fantasy. Reflection privileges ("values more" to thee and me) thinking on the hoof—however diligently undertaken—above the accumulated wisdom of the past. That is in some measure understandable. In a rapidly changing world, the knowledge of the past is not necessarily wisdom. All too often it is exposed as fantasy, prejudice and superstition. The fact that it has been around for a while does not necessarily confirm its value. And one of the (vanishingly) few useful contributions of post-modernism to this debate has been to show how former "wisdom" has simply been belief bolstered and tailored to serve the interest of particular sectors of society.
But. Really there is no currency we can use to balance the claimed fragmented and individualised insights of reflection against the received wisdom of the past (theory); but that wisdom often consists as much of questions as of answers. "Asking the right questions" is a critical part of any constructive thinking about practice, and the right questions are not likely to be the ones which simply pop into your head when you engage in what so lightly passes for "reflection". Instead, they are those which are only likely to be arrived at through prolonged and intensive study. They are "tools for thought" (Waddington, 1977). It is necessary for any artisan in whatever discipline both to have access to an appropriate range of tools, and to select the appropriate one for the particular job in hand (and stretching the metaphor just a little, to keep them in good condition, by evaluating their performance and re-honing or replacing where necessary).
In Maslow's words, "I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." Maslow 1966;15) Or if your only tool is a mirror, to see only reflections?
What is the alternative?
Is it to abandon reflection? Yes, in some areas of practice, where "reflection" simply means or masks "dithering". And indeed even in the notoriously dithery occupation of social work, Reynolds (1965) notes that with an appropriate level of expertise, an area of practice may well become "second nature", something you do "without thinking twice" about it. (Not always a good thing, of course...) But she emphasises how much energy is freed by being able to do something "without thinking". Consider how much more tiring driving would be if you had to concentrate as hard on changing gear as you did when you were just learning.
That level of mastery comes from practice, practice, practice. Richard Sennett (2008), in a sprawling and sadly unfocussed but nonetheless fascinating book which attempts to engage with the figure and the skills of the "craftsman" puts the figure of 10,000 hours on the amount of practice required for mastery. In a rather less self-indulgent and highly readable text, Crawford (2010) uses the same figure. They are drawing on the work of Ericsson et al (2007) on "deliberate practice". As he puts it in the context of musical performance;
Ericsson et al (2007) p 4
His work, since the early '90s, has principally been among sports professionals, musicians and chess-players. Contrary to the reflection model his research suggests that expertise remains focused on the area or skill which has been the object of such deliberate practice and does not generalise. (For an accessible account see Syed, 2010)
I still recall a very experienced (and indeed probably burnt-out) counsellor's response to an innocent enquiry about how a client was getting on; "Oh, British Standard Low Self-esteem, about level 3."The effect of such a heritage of practice is of course to render familiar that which was originally bewildering. The novice's panoply of possibilities becomes a more manageable set of variations on a theme. Clearly there are dangers, here, primarily of stereotyping. And of developing a confirmation bias of shoe-horning an anomalous outlier into the pigeon-hole of a standard type... But we have discussed confirmation bias in reflection; neither model has any built-in prophylaxis against that.
It is important to note that practically all those hours will be spent in the context of a community of practice; not necessarily working directly with other people, but with tasks set within that overall framework. Thus the mentoring, the "stretching" (cf. Vygotsky), the dialogue will go without saying.
Ten thousand hours is an enormously long time, particularly in our world of instant gratification, and of TV shows which purport to show that novices can fake performance as an orchestral conductor, a weaver or a chef within six weeks. It underlines the important of sheer persistence, or in the case of those Teach for America candidates mentioned earlier, what the researchers came to call simply "grit";
What did predict success, interestingly, was a history of perseverance—not just an attitude, but a track record. In the interview process, Teach for America now asks applicants to talk about overcoming challenges in their lives—and ranks their perseverance based on their answers. [...] [Duckworth et al (2009)] evaluated 390 Teach for America instructors before and after a year of teaching. Those who initially scored high for “grit”—defined as perseverance and a passion for long-term goals, and measured using a short multiple-choice test—were 31 percent more likely than their less gritty peers to spur academic growth in their students. Gritty people, the theory goes, work harder and stay committed to their goals longer. (Grit also predicts retention of cadets at West Point, Duckworth has found.) (Ripley 2010)
Frankly, seen within this perspective of gradual development, reflection takes its place as perhaps a necessary component of the learning process, but no big deal and one certainly unworthy of the adulatory attention it often commands. And when it is promoted above its station, it becomes toxic and inhibits learning.
Perhaps it is a symptom of good professional practice rather than a cause? If that is the case, then is not actively to teach it (however badly) to distort the developmental process?
* As of course opposed to "the steep and thorny way to heaven" according to Ophelia, who is admittedly not the most reliable witness, but is sharp on our hypocrisy. On that basis, why do we (tutors on professional courses like I used to be) make such a big deal of it? First, I think, because it seems to offer a primrose path* shortcut to "professionalism". Under pressure from many sources from government up to "turn out" so many thousand more practitioners in this area or that, we want to "deliver", all the while knowing that the expected level of expertise just cannot be delivered by a course. It needs a course and at least three years of mentored experience. But, is it possible to add a magic ingredient which will amplify course learning? Which will not merely be added to it, but will multiply it? If it's really that good it deserves a special status. But it isn't that good.
There is no short-cut.
Second; as noted above in the quote from Jenny Moon, pretending (in whatever sense you prefer) to access to the arcane mysteries of "reflective practice" elevates our status beyond that of merely experienced practitioners (or in my case when I taught social workers, inexperienced non-practitioner con-artist who happen to have a couple of irrelevant degrees) to that of esoteric guides. Given that our status within academe is around the bottom of the pyramid, since we teach largely undergraduate courses, don't do much research published in "serious" journals [apart from four conspicuous exceptions, the "seriousness" of a journal is in inverse proportion to the number of people who actually read it] and rarely bring in any worthwhile funds, we need some distinctive claim to fame.
More realistically, I suggest, reflection and "effectiveness" (excuse the portmanteau term which fudges so many other issues) are independent orthogonal variables;
It is taken for granted that A is good, and D is bad, but is the reflection the (or even a) magical ingredient? Are B and C conceivable?
A: Effective and Reflective practice
The consummation devoutly to be wished; and if you believe the evangelists of reflection, what necessarily follows from espousing it. Of course I would not wish to deny that it exists, but would want to assert that the reflection is not a pre-condition for effectiveness. Indeed, I would be more inclined to argue that even in respect of practitioners who are capable of and perhaps even enjoy being reflective, this is the exceptional case rather than the rule. [back]
B: Effective and/but Unreflective practice
Most of what we all do day to day is routine, what Mezirow (1990) calls "thoughtful action without reflection". Don't knock it. It is what makes the world go round. Many tasks happen too fast for much in the way of reflection-in-action, in any case, and there is no premium on dithering. The existence of this category, not to mention its size as a proportion of professional practice, is testimony to the limitations of the reflective paradigm. This category does not actually preclude learning from repetitive practice, observation and correction of error, feedback mechanisms, or participation in a community of practice; it just does not demand the self-conscious articulation of the process which characterises "reflection". [back]
C: Ineffective and/but Reflective practice
If reflection really contributes to effectiveness, this quadrant too would be anomalous. But it self-evidently exists. It is seen in those who can "talk the talk but not walk the walk" as the cliché puts it. It is seen in those whose reflection provides ex post facto justification for their failings, or who have re-invented the wheel on the basis of their musings, but have not done it very well. [back]
D: Ineffective and Unreflective
It comes almost as a relief to find pure straightforward ignorant incompetence, sometimes! [back]
It is, I suggest, time to ditch privileging reflection in professional education. Its contribution is marginal, ideologically driven, and sometimes deleterious to developing proficiency in performing best practice. It is more suited to the practice of experienced practitioners and even experts, and in their cases it will arrive spontaneously without any need to force it.
Belenky M F, Clinchy B M, Goldberger N R and Tarule J M (1987) Women's Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice and Mind. (10th anniversary edn., 1997) New York; Basic Books
Boud D, Keogh R and Walker D (1985) Reflection: turning experience into learning London: Croom Helm
Biggs J and Collis K (1982) Evaluating the Quality of Learning: the SOLO taxonomy New York: Academic Press
Brockbank A and McGill I (2007) Facilitating Reflective Learning in Higher Education Abingdon; Open University Press
Crawford M (2010) The Case for Working with Your Hands; or why office work is bad for us and fixing things feels good London; Penguin/Viking, (US edition titled Shop Class as Soulcraft; an inquiry into the value of work, 2009)
Ericsson A K, Prietula M J and Cokely E T (2007). "The Making of an Expert" Harvard Business Review (July–August 2007). http://www.coachingmanagement.nl/The%20Making%20of%20an%20Expert.pdf. (accessed 1 June 2010)
Fuller F (1969) "Concerns of Teachers: A developmental conceptualization" American Educational Research Journal 6; 207-226.
Gawande A (2010) The Checklist Manifesto London; Profile Books
Green E, (2010) "Building a Better Teacher" New York Times Magazine March 2, 2010 (accessed 14 March 2010)
Harvey L and Knight P (1996) Transforming Higher Education Buckingham, Open University Press and Society for Research into Higher Education
Maslow A (1966) The Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance, New York: Harper & Row, 1966; (complete version available on-line here) (accessed 14 March 2010)
Mezirow J and Associates (1990) Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Moon J (1999) Reflection in Learning & Professional Development: theory & practice London; Routledge
Perry W G (1999). Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years. San Francisco; Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Reynolds B (1965) Learning and Teaching in the Practice of Social Work New York; Ruseell & Russell
Ripley A (2010) "What Makes a Great Teacher?" Atlantic Magazine Jan/Feb 2010 (accessed 14 March 2010)
Säljö R (1979) "Learning in the Learner's Perspective: 1: some commonplace misconceptions" Reports from the Institute of Education, University of Gothenburg, 76.
Satterfield B (2010) 'What is the Good of the “Examined Life”? Some Thoughts on the Apology and Liberal Education.' Expositions, 3(2). Retrieved 12 March, 2010, from http://equinoxjournals.com/ojs/index.php/Expo/article/view/8087/5478 (accessed 14 March 2010)
Schön D (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. How professionals think in action London; Temple Smith.
Sennett R (2008) The Craftsman London; Allen Lane
Syed M (2010) Bounce; the myth of talent and the power of practice London; Fourth Estate
Waddington C H (1977) Tools for Thought London; Paladin
Thanks to readers who have taken the trouble to comment.
Notes from the discussion on 21 October 2010
(James Atherton and Peter Hadfield)
Isn't it always the way? Having prepared all the previous stuff, a couple of hours before the session James found the following on a conference bookstall:
Bradbury H, Frost N, Kilminster S and Zukas M (eds) (2010) Beyond Reflective Practice; new approaches to professional lifelong learning Abingdon; Routledge
Here is the mind-map we used to introduce the themes:
The group had thirteen people in it, from a range of disciplines including teacher education, women's health studies, communications, dentistry, physics, and French, which ensured a wide range of perspectives...
We opened with the question at the top right—"Are 'reflective practitioners' any better at their jobs than their non-reflective counterparts?" Needless to say it wasn't answered, but it was addressed, in the sense of an incredulous "How could they not be?". This led on to a slightly faltering discussion of some of the objections to Reflection rehearsed above, which took off when members began to tell some of their own experiences in teaching and in practice. They testified both to the necessity of Reflection and to its difficulty, particularly for younger students. Among the fruitful points made were;The points in italics were some of the "take-away" items which group members mentioned in the conclusion.
- That reflection in isolation is not much use; reference was made to the Kolb cycle, and the significance of completing that cycle through to Active Experimentation. What do you do with reflection?
- That reflective work produced by many students was indeed largely descriptive, and may well need to be carefully scaffolded. A critical question to structure reflection may be "What have you learned? How has you thinking/feeling changed?"
- That it is often difficult to tell what is genuine reflection and what is produced to meet tutor expectations; and of course the issue of assessment is fraught.
- Whether it applies across all disciplines—there does not seem to be much room for it in hard sciences, such as physics. And there are occasions and areas of practice where there is no premium on dithering, where reflection has to be separated from action—the military and firefighting were cited as examples.
- Such cases pose the question whether there are areas of practice where the 10,000 hours notion, and "deliberate practice" (Ericsson et al., 2007) are more significant than reflection. Are there different forms for different disciplines? And can it be taught?
- How undertaking it in isolation (both from practice and the community of practice) can lose touch with reality; reflection then becomes a reflection of oneself rather than on practice.
- Feedback on practice is critical, providing material on which to reflect...
- ...so reflecting in dialogue with a mentor or critical friend is very valuable. And group or team reflection introduces a whole new level.
- Working with others in particular calls for the creation of an environment in which there is time and space to reflect.
- The process of writing is another way of externalising ideas, and it transforms them.
- Does reflection look different and need to be practised differently at different stages of one's career? At the beginning—when first introduced in training—students may not have a stock of experience with which to work. Later, moving through the stages of competence to proficiency and even expertise (Benner, 1984; Dreyfus and Dreyfus, 1986; Fuller, 1969; Eraut, 1994...) it may be the engine which drives learning from experience—and then fade into the background as (in a stable environment) even the most complex judgements become routinised.
- Picking up from Jude Carroll's plenary, that the lens needs to be turned on the practitioner's values and assumptions, as much as on those brought by students, clients or patients.
- The distinction between critical thinking, which we are also concerned to encourage in students, and reflection, has something to do with the emotional component of the reflective process. That can either enhance or inhibit (even destroy) reflection. As one member recounted about a family member who was encouraged to reflect on her actions, she tried it and found it uncomfortable and didn't like it, so she resolved never to do it again!
Three final take-away points to provide further food for thought;
- If we couldn't use the "R" word, what would we say? Sometimes it may be necessary to explain and teach without using the word itself, which has become devalued and diluted.
- "I now understand how it can be done badly."
- And sometimes it can be boring—particularly for students.
Very many thanks to all who contributed; as you can see, I have tidied up and re-arranged the discussion somewhat, and I was not taking any more than very cryptic notes, so if I have misrepresented anyone or any position, please get in touch and I'll correct it.
Postscript (July 2011)
As an alternative perspective to set alongside reflection, see this very accessible Edge piece by Gary Klein, also on video on the same page.
Here is a slightly up-dated version of the material as delivered as part of the Open Lecture series organised by the Educational Development Unit at the University of Greenwich (21 March 2012: 54 mins)
Additional references from the version above:Billett S and Newton J (2010) "A learning practice: conceptualising professional lifelong learning for the health care sector" in Bradbury et al (eds)(2010) below
Boud D (2010) "Relocating Reflection in the Context of Practice" in Bradbury et al (eds)(2010) below
Bradbury H, Frost N, Kilminster S and Zukas M (eds) (2010) Beyond Reflective Practice; new approaches to professional lifelong learning Abingdon; Routledge
Hargreaves J (2010) "Voices from the past: professional discourse and reflective practice" in Bradbury et al (eds)(2010) above
Kahneman D (2011) Thinking, fast and slow London; Allen Lane
Kay J (2011) Obliquity: Why our goals are best achieved indirectly London; Profile Books
Moliere (Poquelin, J-B) (1670) Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (play)
West L (2010) "Really Reflexive Practice: auto/biographical research and struggles for a critical reflexivity" in Bradbury et al (eds)(2010) above