A couple of weeks ago, I went on a Reflective Writing course run by CILIP, as part of my chartership preparation. It was a really useful course, and I’d recommend it even if you’re not chartering – reflective practice in general is important for any kind of CPD, and this course was a useful way to get thinking about what reflective practice actually involves and how to incorporate it into your day-to-day work.
Before the course, we’d been asked to complete a questionnaire, aimed at determining our learning styles. The four styles were identified as Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist. I came out as a fairly even split between Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist, with Theorist just slightly higher than the other two. I got quite a low score for Activist, which didn’t really surprise me – I’m always a better thinker than a do-er!
Margaret, the course leader, explained that although most people have one style that is dominant, in order to make the most out of a learning experience you really need to have aspects of all four. Margaret also noted that although she teaches reflective writing, she herself is not a natural Reflector – so you can deliberately change your learning styles, and develop those you are naturally weaker on.
The four styles can be thought of as a cycle: the Activist gets involved in having the experience, the Reflector reviews that experience and considers all options/viewpoints, the Theorist draws conclusions and perhaps undertakes further research to back it up, and the Pragmatist applies the experience, reflections and theories to plan the next steps – which then lead to further experience, where the Activist comes in again.
We then talked about the need for reflection – what it is, and why we do it. Margaret emphasised that reflection is a deliberate process, and although it can be difficult to find time to set aside for reflection, it is vital that we do so. She made the very good point that sometimes we can get “ground down” by just getting on with the job – taking time out to reflect on both good and bad experiences can help you learn from them and thus refresh your professional practice.
We went through some models for reflective practice, of which my favourite is still the “What – So what – Now what” framework. I don’t have much patience for overly complicated models really, so the simplicity of this one appeals to me! Most of the rest of the session was spent doing exercises. We talked in pairs about specific learning experiences, with one person acting as mentor to the other, asking questions and getting the “mentee” to explore the experience in a reflective way. We also worked individually, writing reflective statements and analysing the kind of language used.
As practice, here is my reflective statement for this course:
From this half-day course on reflective writing, I increased my understanding of what is meant by reflective practice, the benefits of this when applied to my working practice, and the difference between reflective writing and simple descriptive writing. I feel more confident in producing reflective writing as evidence for my chartership application. I will apply this by structuring my CPD blog posts in a reflective way, using the “What – So what – Now what” framework where appropriate, so that I will have this evidence to draw on when writing my evaluative statement. I also have a better appreciation for how reflective writing can benefit my working life outside of the chartership framework, so will also use this blog to reflect on learning opportunities that will not necessarily contribute to my chartership portfolio.