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Reflective Practice was introduced by Donald Schön in his book ‘The Reflective Practitioner’ in 1983; however, the original idea of reflective practice is much older. John Dewey was one of the first American philosophers /psychologists to write about Reflective Practice, with his exploration of experience, interaction and reflection. Other researchers, such as Kurt Lewin, Jean Piaget, William James and Carl Jung were developing theories of human learning and development. Dewey’s works inspired Donald Schön and David Boud to explore the boundaries of reflective practice. Central to the development of reflective theory was interest in the integration of theory and practice, the cyclic pattern of experience and the conscious application of that learning experience. For years, there has been a growing literature and focus around experiential learning and the development and application of Reflective Practice. Donald Schön’s 1983 book introduces concepts such as ‘reflection on action’ and ‘reflection in-action’ where professionals meet the challenges of their work with a kind of improvisation learned in practice. Reflective Practice has now been widely accepted and used as developmental practices for organizations, networks, and individuals. As Boud et al states: Reflection is an important human activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, mull it over and evaluate it. It is this working with experience that is important in learning. Reflective Practice can be seen and has been recognized in many teaching and learning scenarios, and the emergence in more recent years of blogging has been seen as another form of reflection on experience in a technological age.
Reflective Practice is paying critical attention to the practical values and theories which inform everyday actions, by examining practice reflectively and reflexively. This leads to developmental insight. The importance of reflecting on what you are doing, as part of the learning process, has been emphasised by many investigators. Reflective Observation is the second of the Kolb learning cycle. Reflective practice is an active process of me witnessing my own experience in placement in order to take a closer look the way I progress or where I may be weak at something and to explore it in greater depth. This can be done in the middle of an activity or as an activity in itself. The main thing about reflection is learning how to take a perspective on my own actions and experience. By developing my ability to explore and be curious about my own experiences and actions. Where I can open up the possibilities of purposeful learning. The purpose of reflection is to allow the possibility of learning through experience, whether that is the experience of a meeting, a project, a disaster, a success, a relationship, or any other internal or external event, before, during or after it has happened (Amulya, Joy ‘What is Reflective Practice?’ The Centre for Reflective community Practice). Certain kinds of experiences create particularly different opportunities for learning through reflection. Struggles provide a window onto what is working and what is not working and may often serve as effective tools for analysing the true nature of a challenge that I may face. Some struggles show a problem, which can provide a good source of information about a clash between my values and my approach to getting something done. Reflecting on my experiences of uncertainty helps shed light on areas where an approach to my work is not fully specified. Positive experiences offer good sources of learning. For example, doing and thinking are very helpful in revealing what was learned and how successful it turned out to be. Breakthroughs can also instruct on an emotional level. By locating why and when we have felt excited or fulfilled by an experience, I can gain insight into the conditions that allow my creativity to expand. Now I can become more purposeful not just about my learning but about how to work in more creative and sustaining ways. Reflective practice is simply creating a habit, structure, or routine around studying an experience. A practice for reflection can vary in terms of how often, how much, and why reflection gets done. Reflection can also vary in depth from simply noticing present experience to deep examination of past events. Reflection can be practiced at different frequencies: every day, every week or even months. When on placement I think it would be important for me to have reflection on a weekly basis with my assigned supervisor, as daily would be a lot more repetitive and monthly would be too far apart especially as it my first time in this setting. I can think of many benefits when using reflective practice in my work placement. First, because I’m in the business of protecting young people. I need to be clear that I do protect the young people and myself when I am in my work placement. A bit of thought and planning may now be of huge benefit later. Something that I have found through studying this subject in the last year is that reflection seems to create a certain clarity and sense of safety around this area of work I am going in to. The log I will use is a very safe way of offloading and debriefing I, as well as discussions with colleagues and managers. It enables me to avoid stress and it helps me to move forward from worry and frustration at service users, colleagues and departments. It helps me to understand why I feel this way, why it needs to be this way, and how what I do could potentially change this situation positively. I’d use this to change my negative energy to positive. By doing this I can go a long way toward keeping well at my placement, which can affect the service delivery and ultimately the way in which I do my business with the young people. The constant weight of handling issues and prioritization is a concern as a future youth worker I worry about going in to placement. It is easy to get caught in the overwhelming feeling of loads in paperwork, young people with high needs, and balancing everyday tasks. When I feel this way, I need to down for myself and briefly run through my priorities, I can look at how I can work smarter, maybe delegate tasks to young people or their families, therefore empowering them and including them in planning for the young people. We can look at how we can establish a work-life balance, while still getting through all tasks and complying. A balance is possible with some thought, care and of course the policies in place, which supports work-life balance and understands its importance in terms of overall success and health of its work force and work practices. Instead of finding myself bogged down with constraints, if I’m serious about my role as youth worker, I can truly focus on the young people I will serve and what would be in the best interests for them young, even if what I think would be the best solution is not unlikely. The benefits of reflection in terms of collaborative practice with other agencies and wider communities open many doors to my understanding of roles and responsibilities, and it can be critical in removing boundaries and stopping me from blaming others. It’s my personal responsibility to do my reflection, for speaking up and letting people know what I think and why through this process. Another part of reflection is being able to use the criticism that I may face and utilize it. So I can turn the situation on its head, and learn something positive from it. Instead of being defensive and subjective.
In conclusion, the importance of critical and reflective practice is difficult to measure and often under-estimated, yet it is crucial to our professional and personal development. More important, I feel that reflection helps and prepares me to be accountable and responsible for the very difficult decisions and challenges we often face in child protection and allows us to make good choices and have better outcomes for young people.
Redmond, Bairbre. (2004) Reflection in Action Developing Reflective Practice in Health and Social Services. Aldershot, England: Ashgate
Share, P. & Lalor, K. (2009) Applied Social Care (2nd Ed). Dublin: Gill & Macmillan
Thompson, N. (2009) People Skills. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan
What is Reflective Practice? Joy Amulya, Centre for Reflective Community Practice, Massachusetts Institute of Technology http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/reflecti.htm (3/11/10/) http://www.ukcle.ac.uk/resources/personal-development-planning/introduction (7/11/10)
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