“Creating a forced reflective practice assignment that evokes genuine and uninhibited response …. is nearly impossible” (Hobbs, 2007)
“Professional reflection”, often results in eye rolls and sighs, feelings of stress or frustration, wondering “who has time for that”. I will admit, there have been times I saw or heard the word reflection and thought, “time to write some B.S paper now”. I have always understood the potential value of reflection however often felt it was “forced” rather then genuine. I will admit that it took me some time to learn (and ill forever be continuing to learn) how to automatically embed reflection of various varieties into the many fluctuating professional experiences I was involved in, in a way that is meaningful and beneficial to me. Throughout this post I wont be telling you what you “SHOULD” be doing or that your relationship with reflection, specifically professional reflection, will necessary be only filled with “beautiful moments”. BUT I am hoping that you’ll find entertainment in reading about what professional reflection means to me, what my journey has looked like thus far and why reflection may be important or may add value to your career, passions and life! BONUS: stay tuned for the release of PART 2 which will discuss reflection related specifically to competency/ license renewal (I actually started writing part 2 before part 1), specifically RD and CDE for myself however could transfer across disciplines! It will discuss how I transformed competency renewal from a chore to check ✅ off my list into, at least a bit more, of an enjoyable experience and one that was a whole lot more beneficial!
What does Professional Reflective Practice mean anyway?
” Reflective Practice: the development of insight and practice through critical attention to practical values, theories, principles, assumptions and the relationship between theory and practice which inform everyday actions.” Bolton, 2014
The definition of Professional Reflective Practice, varies depending on where you look, which article or book you refer to. To be honest all of the definitions I’ve read seem a tad vague and don’t have much meaning to me… so I’ll tell you what my definition of reflective practice is and perhaps it’ll help you discover one that is more meaningful to you, unless you’ve already found one that’s meaningful to you, and in that case, please share, I would love to hear (or read) about it!
What Professional Reflective Practice means to me and the long- short story of how I got there:
“Ah ha” moments
*I started with a quick summary/ point form list because I know everyone is busy and rightfully like to skim through to pick up key points so I pulled them out for you already, and I’ll delve a little more into what that means for me below.
In retrospect, subconsciously, I have been reflecting (in a way) my entire life, I’m an extremely curious person and looking back at my childhood I saw and continue to see a lot of value in being curious and exploring experiences, people, feelings and the unknown. Even at a young age a situation would occur and I would stop to “think about it” and ask “why? Why? Why?” (my poor parents haha). Another characteristic I began to develop throughout my teen life was efficiency. Because I was curious and wanted to try, experience and do a plethora of different activities, I recognized and began to discover the power of efficiency and improvement. The more I experienced and learned the more I realized I had so much more to learn and experience. My curiosity merged with my wonder and excitement surrounding efficiency and potential for growth and knowledge. This combination planted the seed for why professional reflection and reflective practice would eventually “take hold” in such a meaningful way for me, I just didn’t know it yet!
Fast forward to university, the place where it felt like we were constantly taught the importance of reflection (in our professional and personal lives) and were asked to write reflections, complete reflection projects, get into groups to discuss and reflect. We were told “not to treat it like a “tick box exercise”, we all nodding in agreement and carried on to the library where we all discussed the assignment as “to get it done”, as though it was a “tick box exercise” (🙋🏻♀️ yes I was there).
“If there is no meaning or clear why, the conversations stay the same and we may never be able to move onto the “how”. If we treat activities the same, without exploring the”how” the outcomes won’t change, regardless of how many times we introduce or revisit a concept” – A Health Care professional (someone said this during a conversation we were having at a conference and I jotted it down in my phone and I’m unsure of their name ..)
A some point during my 2nd year (my first year was filled with a whole different bucket of challenges) of university I found myself feeling frustrated. I was writing another Reflection paper, feeling like it was “disingenuous”, I wasn’t getting out of it what I felt I could. At the time, I didn’t feel I had the time to “waste” on another reflection when I had so many statistics, diagrams (Krebs anyone?) and scientific studies I should be reading. And then one day it “clicked” with prompted guidance, and the flexible structure I needed to pull it all together. I felt throughout a lot of my life I never really understood “how” to reflect and the uncertainty left me feeling lost. Having reflection presented to me in a way that watered my previously “planted seed” (curiosity, knowledge, growth and efficiency) resulted in an “Ah-Ha” moment, at least for me.
I continue to be lucky to have mentors who value professional reflection and lead by example which helps me to further develop and see value in these skills.
I already “reflected” throughout many situations in life and executing Professional reflection in a more “structured”, spontaneous way further supported my curiosity and ended in increased efficiency and growth. To expand on “structured spontaneity”, I simply mean reflecting utilizing a structured framework that was meaningful to me but spontaneously when various experiences that evoked positive, negative or significant emotions occurred. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time, I previously didn’t see value in utilizing my time for “Professional” (student) reflection. Especially in student life. In addition, confusion left me feeling frustrated rather instead of empowered. Expectations: My expectations regarding reflection are now in check, thanks to guidance. I was no longer expecting an instantaneous, transformative, intellectual experience when participating in reflection activities or cycles but rather am trusting the processes and following it through.
Professional Reflective practice: “The process of being curious and exploring, emotions, thoughts, behaviours and experiences that are significant to me, to aid with learning, knowledge development and growth.”- Taylor Hanna
How does reflection benefit me?
Making sense of situations.
Improved quality of care (for the individuals I work with and for my personal relationships)
Improved work satisfaction!
Nurturing my need for curiosity.
Where to start?
Perhaps try exploring the following..
What does professional reflection mean to you if anything at all? If it doesn’t have meaning, would you like it to?
How or why might it be helpful for you? If you don’t see it as helpful why not?
What do you already feel you’re doing well in relation to professional reflection?
Areas you feel you could you use additional support or what are your barriers?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Send them privately, comment or shoot me an email!
Looking for more structure? Stay tuned for my next post which explores how I implement and embedded some of this into everyday, the cycles I use, the questions I ask and carrying it into your professional competency renewal!
UPDATE: as a goal for this year I will be working to better embed reflection into my day to day work! Who is interested in learning about all of my professional and personal goals for the year? I don’t mind being transparent 🙂