Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Reflective Practice

At the CDG New Professional’s Conference in Manchester earlier this year I was introduced to 23 things for professional development. The theme of the conference was ‘Professionalism and Activism in a Time of Downturn’. CPD23 fits into this theme as it offers you the chance to work on your professional development at a pace that suits you at crucially no charge to you or your library.

There is a large focus on developing web 2.0 skills, as well as a mix of practical tasks and ideas to try out in the future. For example one week looks at the different benefits of various online networks and another week looks at advocacy and the benefits of getting published. I think what is great about CPD23 is that it isn’t exclusively for qualified librarians or aimed at a particular sector. Everyone is welcome to participate. Participants create a blog where they write reflectively about what they have learnt and their thoughts on the Thing for that week.

This brings me on to the topic of this blog post - Reflective practice. One thing that CPD23 can be used for is an opportunity to collect evidence of your personal and professional development for your Chartership portfolio. You are even awarded a certificate for participating in the 23 Things. Having recently started Chartership I have been thinking about how I plan to collate my reflections. My mentor mentioned how some people like to keep Chartership blogs whilst others can prefer quickly jotted down notes (computer or paper) or how some people have specifically designed tables with questions to help them reflect.

So what is reflective practice? I first started writing reflectively during my MA at the University of Sheffield. As part of the Management module we had to keep a reflective diary that counted towards our final mark! At first this was daunting but I soon came round to appreciating the value of reflective writing. Reflecting on our experiences, both personal and professional helps us to learn from them and apply these lessons to future practice. Whilst this may sound obvious I tend to find that structured writing can be a great way to order your thoughts. It can also be beneficial to have a chronology of reflections from which you can chart your development.

Dewey (1933) identified the three characteristics or attitudes of people who are reflective as; open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness. Greenaway’s (1995) 'Do – Plan – Review’ model is quite straightforward. The three simple steps are seen as a reflective cycle.

1. DO - have an experience
2. REVIEW - review what happened and what can be learned
3. PLAN - plan a way to approach the next round of experience

Schon's (1995) model identifies two kinds of reflection which are Reflection-in-action and Reflection-on-action.

1. Reflection-in-action - This involves immediate reflections during an event where you assess how well something is going and divert the course of your actions accordingly. Reflection-in-action more refers to someone being a reflective practitioner all of the time. Perhaps this is the end result of getting into the habits of reflective writing!

2. Reflection-on-action This is retrospective like many of the other models where you reflect on events that have already occured and address what you have learnt and how you would endeavour to do things differently.

My personal favourite is Kolb (1984) which is seen as being one of the more structured models of reflective practice:

Do you find reflective practice a helpful tool in the workplace? How do you tend to record your reflections and is there a particular model of reflective practice that you follow?


Greenaway, R. (1995) Powerful Learning Experiences in Management Learning and Development
Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential Learning, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall.
Schon, D. 1995. The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action. 3rd ed. Hants: Arena.
CPD23 Thing 5 Reflective Practice http://cpd23.blogspot.com/2011/07/thing-5-reflective-practice.html [Accessed 30/08/2011]