What does it mean ‘to reflect’?
Officially, it means to explore experiences in order to lead to new understandings and improved practice.
At its simplest it means:
• To think deeply about an experience. To go beyond the simple question, ‘What’s going on here?’ to ask ‘What’s really going on here?’
• To ask yourself what this experience means to you and your practice • To churn ideas, thoughts and experiences around in your head and make connections between what you knew before and what you know now
• To express your feelings or insights based on the knowledge you have/theories you have studied.
• To be critically analytical as part of this process. This doesn’t mean to criticize, but to look at both sides of an event or experience and comment on the pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, good bits and bad bits as part of your new understanding.
Schon (1991) speaks of ‘reflecting in action.’ Those are the moments when you are in the middle of an activity or someone says something and you think to yourself, ‘I didn’t know that. That must be why….’ Sometimes these manifest as ‘aha’ moments of new insight. Other times the wires quietly connect and you just seem to realise something new. Capture those thoughts!
Schon also speaks of ‘reflecting on action.’ Those are the moments after an activity, event or procedure when you think about what occurred, what you experienced or what others experienced. This type of reflection typically occurs immediately after an event or perhaps later when you are driving home, having a cup of coffee or are in the shower. Capture those thoughts, as you will be making some insightful connections that are the stuff of reflection. A Reflective Report is not:
• a description
• a list
• a series of complaints
• a lot of meaningless emotional language
© University of Southampton 2009
A Reflective Report is:
• a considered view, in personal terms, of what an activity or new piece of information means to you or how it affects you. It is acceptable, even necessary, to write about yourself, your realizations, your feelings. Reflective writing requires evidence of what you have learned and what you will take away from the experience. In the report you are required to:
• refer to, or give an example of, the activities or events that took place in the given context without being overly descriptive
• reflect on these facts by stating how they affect you now or how you anticipate they may affect your future inter-professional practice
• where appropriate include theories that support or give structure to your statements and reflections
Here are some examples from previous papers of statements made by students, thinking they were being reflective, compared to some more fully developed reflective comments: Statement:
• I knew I had some pre-conceived ideas about certain professions. Reflective comment:
• I knew I had some pre-conceived ideas about certain professions. However, I was seriously mistaken as these students were team players who did not take control but contributed effectively to the same standards as everyone else. I now see them in a new light, and my new attitude will no doubt affect my professional relationship with them for the better.
• It is vital for health and social care professionals to work together to give the patient a positive experience.
• My main realization about other health and social care professionals was the way in which interaction between us is completely vital in order for patients to have positive health and social care experiences.
• I had no idea prior to IPL week what Social Workers did.
© University of Southampton 2009
• For example, I was completely ignorant of the fact that Social Workers are sometimes involved in rehabilitation and long term care and assessment. I can see now that this could be useful for me in the...