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Reflection 2: Find Your Preferred Method of Reflection

Reflection 2: Find Your Preferred Method of Reflection


In our last blog we explored how to find purpose and intent as a way to distil experiences and provide time for reflection. In this blog, we will explore our second aspect of reflection – finding your ‘preferred method’ – what works for you? Just as we have preferred learning styles, we also have preferred ways of engaging in reflection involving varying degrees of structure and interaction with others.


Structured approaches to reflection provide clear stages that can help to support ‘novice’ reflectors and sustain those with more experience. A simple structure can be found in the work of Gibbs and his Reflective Cycle (1998).





This model provides an opportunity to reflect upon and evaluate emotional and cognitive responses to events, culminating in a continuous cycle of action planning and implementation. The value of continuously working through such a cycle comes from the ongoing application of learning and the resultant continuous improvements in actions and behaviours that can result.


Structured approaches may be supported by the use of a logging process in which reflections, critical incidents, challenges, actions taken and evaluations are recorded either manually or electronically. Many educational programs require students to maintain reflective journals, indeed in the coaching programs that we tutor on at the University of Cambridge, we encourage students to maintain such journals as a way of deepening their competence development and students report how useful it is as a learning practice.  http://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/course/undergraduate-diploma-coaching

With different learning styles in mind, visuals may be preferred to words. The use of mindmapping is acknowledged by many, including the Open University, as a useful approach for those who prefer a non-linear way of thinking, helping to identify key elements and connections. (http://www.open.edu/openlearn/ocw/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=51386&section=6.2)


We tend to think of reflection as a personal process, happening in our own space at a time to suit us. However, there can also be value in reflecting with others: through one to one conversation, coaching or mentoring and also through group processes such as action learning. Through his pioneering work on action learning, Reg Revens demonstrated the principle that people ‘learn from each other’s failures and victories rather than from “expert” instruction’. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2003/mar/08/guardianobituaries.simoncaulkin


In some situations, structure can be an inhibitor and a case can be made for free flowing reflection in which the mind is allowed to find its own way. Whilst we might call this ‘daydreaming’, this can be valuable in providing emotional space as an end in itself. Take a moment to reflect on how you like to reflect…..how do you benefit from your current practice? How might you enhance your reflective approach in order to enhance the benefits for you?


In our next blog we will be looking at how we can use formal and informal reflective time and be ‘opportunistic reflectors’.