Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Thing 5(a): Thinks can only get better

Never wanted many things except the chance to learn from my mistakes / 
Funny how you never learn but know them when they come around again
Echobelly – Great Things

Yes, I know reflective practice is as much about considering your successes and achievements as it is your mistakes, but I thought what this blog really needs to zhuzh it up a little is a lyric from a much missed (by me if nobody else) second-tier Britpop band.

Reflective practice and I have never been formally introduced; however, over the course of my career path we have occasionally bumped into each other, and done that awkward side-to-side shuffle as we try to get out of each other’s way.

My library master’s course included a work placement. As I far as I can recall through the haze of the intervening – my God – ten years, the written element of that module entailed a reflective account of the student’s experience of the placement, although I’m equally dimly aware that it wasn’t billed as “reflective practice” per se.  There was also at least one group assignment where we were required to give a team presentation and analyse the group’s overall success and our individual contribution within it.

The institution where I currently work has a well-developed personal development review scheme: every member of staff has a review at least once a year, where you discuss with your line manager what you’ve done well over the previous year, any difficulties you’ve encountered and what training and development activities you might want to plan as a result over the next 12 months.

So I have been reflective on occasion, but only when forced to. If reflective practice is a cyclical process of:

Greenaway (1995)

then I certainly do a fair bit of planning (as I do like to be as prepared as possible before I undertake any task, mainly to try to eliminate any nasty surprises and so I can factor into my schedule as much time as possible for tea and biscuit breaks). And, much like Betty Boo, I do the “do”. But I don’t think that, truthfully, I do a lot of reviewing: once a task is done, I move on to the next thing.

Why so? Obviously time, and the lack of it, is a consideration. Plus, it’s hard work, man. I’m not a particularly deep thinker: I tend towards the glib and the faintly jokey (regular viewers may have noticed that I can’t resist a good pun – or, for that matter, a terrible one). Examining my feelings, even about work-related matters, and really thinking through the consequences and implications of my actions is not something I care to do if I can help it.

Not being overly familiar with reflective practice, I thought it would be a good idea to go looking for examples. Lots of university websites offer advice on reflective writing, with examples and links to further resources. I found this information from the Learning Centre of the University of New South Wales particularly helpful. The Faculty of Humanities at Manchester University also provides some useful pages on reflective writing and learning. And missrachelsmith’s blog has some excellent examples as she is doing lots of reflective writing as part of her CILIP Chartership.

I can definitely see the value of being a reflective practitioner. I've noted before that I often attend training and then subsequently fail to put into practice or revisit anything I've learnt from it. I would really like to break this habit, because it makes attending even the most interesting and useful training session or conference a complete waste of time. So I will be giving reflective writing a go in the future, and with this blog I have a handy place to record my musings and chart my progress.

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