Monday 11 July 2011

Thing 5 – Reflective Practice

Thing 5 already? Yes indeed! Thing 5 is Reflective Practice. As you’ve been working through ‘the things’ you may have learnt how to use some new tools or had a refresher on the tools that you use already. You may have been encouraged to restart abandoned blogs or join Twitter with a clearer understanding of your online presence and what you want people to know about you. You may have taken steps to get some more current awareness on the go by setting up some RSS feeds. Whatever you have got out of 23 things for professional development so far take a bit of time this week to reflect.

What is reflective practice?
This post is by no means an in depth piece about the definition and theories of reflective practice, but more of an introduction to how to get going with it yourself. If you do want a more in depth look into reflective practice I’ve included some references at the end of post.
I see reflective practice as an important part of not only our professional, but personal development. It provides an opportunity to review the experiences we have, learning from them and applying what we have learnt.

How do I become a reflective practitioner?
Everyone will have their own style and preferred process of reflective practice, this is just one idea for you to consider based on the already existing models out there.
I’m all for simplicity so these models appeal to me most:

Greenaway (1995)

Borton (1970)

You’ll find a model that works for you, it might be that you adapt an already existing one like these examples.

I go through the following three steps when I’m embarking on a bit of reflective writing.

1. Recall it: this could be an event you’ve participated in, a project group you’ve been part of, a workshop you’ve delivered, an enquiry you’ve responded to…

2. Evaluate it: Take some time to consider these questions
What did you learn?
What did you enjoy?
What worked well?
What, if anything, went wrong?
What would you change?
What (potential) impact could this have in your workplace?

3. Apply it: Take some action. What can you practically apply from the experience you’ve had?

Tools for reflective practice
There are a variety of tools available to you for your reflective practice activities. Just as the process of reflective practice may vary from person to person, the tools used may also differ.

As you’re participating in the 23 things, Thing 1, a blog, is a perfect tool for communicating the evaluating part of the reflective practice process. Blogs are a great way to share your thoughts. The reason me and my colleague @sarahjison set up our blog (Librariansontheloose) was to give us a space to reflect on and evaluate our experiences as we work towards CILIP chartership. There are of course more tools including drawing, audio-visual, podcasting.

Are there any difficulties in becoming a reflective practitioner?
Yes! The most common seems to be time. We all have busy lives, so being realistic about what you can reflect on is important. If you are able to factor it into your everyday work activities, great. If not, be selective.

Reflective writing can also be a challenge, but resources to address this are plentiful online. If you’re an information professional based in the UK keep an eye out for reflective writing workshops organised by the Career Development Group, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). If you’re based in another country see if your professional body organises any similar events or put it to your employer as an opportunity for your professional development.

Sometimes the most difficult part of being a successful reflective practitioner is the application of what you’ve learnt.

Why should I bother with reflective practice?
Being a reflective practitioner does have its challenges, but it also has its rewards. Amongst other things being a reflective practitioner can…
  • Help you be more objective about experiences
  • Give you more control over your learning and development
  • Help you demonstrate you are active and responsive
  • Give you a better understanding of your work

So, there we go, a whistlestop introduction to reflective practice. Give it a try. Have a think about your approach to reflective practice. If you’ve any tips or resource to share, please do.

Want to know more? Try these…

Boud D, Keogh R and Walker D (1985) Reflection, Turning Experience into Learning, Routledge.
Schön, D (1983) The Reflective Practitioner, How Professionals Think In Action, Basic Books.
Greenaway, R (1995) Powerful Learning Experiences in Management Learning and Development: A study of the experiences of managers attending residential development training courses at the Brathay Hall Trust (1988-9). The University of Lancaster, Centre for the Study of Management Learning.


A wonderful blog post from a 23 things participant, Elaine Andrew, about attending a reflective writing workshop. 
Random musings of a librarian, almost
Reflective writing workshop

Another fantastic blog post giving an insight into the difficulties of reflective practice from another 23 things participant!
Nataliafay. Librarian. Human.
Getting out of the reflective practice rut
This is from a teaching/education perspective, but still relevant to us as information professionals
Thoughts on learning processes and other musings
Understanding Reflective Practice 

A lovely introduction to reflective practice from Toby Adams
The Purpose of Reflective Practice
Another good introduction to reflective practice from Sarah Stewart
Journaling as a tool for reflective practice

*Images of reflective practice models
Greenaway (1995)
[Accessed 01/07/2011]
Borton (1970)
[Accessed 01/07/2011]

The images in the post are available for use from Flickr under the Creative Commons Licence
Paperchain in hand


  1. Hi - under the heading 'why should i bother with reflectie practice?' something seems to have gone wrong with the font??


  2. Thanks Lisa, I've played with the formatting a bit on Emma's behalf, so hopefully it's better now.

  3. Hi Lisa,

    There were a few formatting issues across the board with the post. Thanks for pointing that out. It should look better now - please say if not!


  4. Great one. If life's plan is also done in this strategy then there will be full fledged perfection in life.

  5. SOme of the blogs I've visited have mentioned a video of 7 1/2 habits of lifelong learners. I've managed to find and view this video however, I can't download the learning contract. Can anyone help.

  6. I blogged about my lack of reflection a wee while ago: Am still struggling with it :(

  7. Reflection is one of the most difficult things in the world for me to do. The models helped a bit. It brings me back to the days when I wrote more poetry. I think that's why I slipped back into the free verse mode. It allowed for a good degree of stream of conscientiousness.

    I find reflection to be difficult in blogging and social media in general to be very difficult. Reflection by its nature is a private matter, but reflection within the social networking context is nearly impossible. I find myself constantly editing myself, because social networking by its nature tends to try to force oneself into the mold of the group. This is the line to my post I have tried to be as honestly reflective as possible.

  8. Lel, having read your post I can completely relate to what you're saying!The other problem I have with reflection is time. I too only feel like I scratch the surface with some stuff as I don't have/make the time to properly reflect on an experience I've had. I've an endless list of things that I'd like to blog about which I know will just continue to grow. As soon as one thing has happened the next one is right there! It is very difficult and I'm no master at it, but like you I'm trying :-)

  9. Dan, first off at least you've written a post reflecting on your experience of 23things so far. That's bloody brilliant! I'm afraid I am somewhat behind with my own blogging and like I said in the previous comment having/making the time to reflect is the challenge for me, particularly if the experience I've had or been a part of has been a bit of a challenge.
    If it's been like that I just want to get it done and not have to think about it again, but then what do I learn from that? Do I take these lessons into the next project I'm involved with? Probably a bit, but no where near as much as if I had a proper think about what happened and why.

    In terms of being reflective in a blog I can see how that is tricky. I started off blogging away not really thinking about the effect it would have on anyone else, like I said in the post, the purpose of us starting Librarians on the Loose was to have a reflective space for our chartership adventures.

    I've had some insightful conversations based on what I've blogged about, some that I don't think would have happened without that blog post being there.

    With regard to the 'social networking by nature tends to try to force oneself into the mold of the group'. I've learnt that I am defo not part of a group, that while I share common interests with people that I follow on Twitter or the blogs that I follow I am my own person. I've never been good at fitting into or molding with a group regardless of the setting and social media is no exception. We are all each our own person with different experiences and perspectives. I intend to try and be more reflective about the experiences I have. Enjoy the rest of the 23 things :-)

  10. Great blog post, thank you! Always had the idea that reflective practice was complicated and mysterious, but turns out I was doing it in an unstructured way all along. Now just need to read up a bit more and apply it more formally

  11. Glad it's been useful. It's always good to find out you're doing something all along even if it is unstructured, at least you're on the right lines :-)

  12. Reflective writing is helpful to me because as I'm typing about an experience, new thoughts come to me that wouldn't have otherwise. I experience this with writing, too, but don't write very much. At first I thought RW was rather narcissistic, but I really enjoyed it. I would write, go back and read my writing, and I would learn things.

    I like many, have abandoned my blog for the most part. Busy life, things to do. By the time I made time, I want to shut my eyes for the day. Also, I didn't allow that it was really valuable, so it's easier to let RW fall by the wayside.

    Doing it in a more formal way, considering I need to take my own time to do it, probably will not happen. When I do blog, I'll do it my way.

  13. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn't show up. Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!


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