Reflection

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What is reflection?

Reflection is the examination of personal thoughts and actions. For practitioners this means focusing on how they interact with their colleagues and with the environment to obtain a clearer picture of their own behaviour.

It is therefore a process by which practitioners can better understand themselves in order to be able to build on existing strengths and take appropriate future action. And the word ‘action’ is vital. Reflection is not ‘navel-gazing’. Its aim is to develop professional actions that are aligned with personal beliefs and values.

There are two fundamental forms of reflection: reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action. Understanding the differences between these forms of reflection is important. It will assist practitioners in discovering a range of techniques they can use to develop their personal and professional competences.

Reflection-on-action

Reflection-on-action is perhaps the most common form of reflection. It involves carefully re-running in your mind events that have occurred in the past. The aim is to value your strengths and to develop different, more effective ways of acting in the future.

In some of the literature on reflection (Grant and Greene 2001; Revans 1998), there is a focus on identifying negative aspects of personal behaviour with a view to improving professional competence. This would involve making such observations as: ‘I could have been more effective if I had acted differently’ or ‘I realise that I acted in such a way that there was a conflict between my actions and my values’.

While this is an extremely valuable way of approaching professional development, it does, however, ignore the many positive facets of our actions. We argue that people should spend more time celebrating their valuable contributions to the workplace and that they should work towards developing these strengths to become even better professionals. We are not advocating, of course, that they should neglect...
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