Mirror mirror on the wall: exploring reflective practice (Thing 5)

Reflections in a sculpture at Chatsworth House

After pondering on the nature of the wonky reflections pictured above, I created a little diagram  which I think demonstrates how NOT to be a good reflective practitioner, or indeed, any kind of practitioner.  It stemmed from considering the art of reflective practice, and the bad habits that form from not reflecting enough, over-reflecting to the point of inactivity and reflecting in the wrong kind of way.   Although everything on the chart is exaggerated for effect (honestly), they are all tendencies I sometimes find myself veering towards when faced with a challenging task.

Bad habits caused by too little / too much reflection.

For me, becoming a good reflective practitioner would mean avoiding falling into that cycle as much as possible.  From reading the links that the cpd23 blog helpfully provided, the actual theory seems fairly simple:

Greenaway 1995

Reflective Practice and Me

Ideally, I should be reflecting on things I do, identifying what went well, and what didn’t go so well, and working out ways I could do better next time, and then using this new understanding to prepare for my next task.  Simple!  And hopefully an excellent way of not falling into the traps pictured above.

I have not carried out much formal reflective practice in the past – the closest I’ve come to it is filling in my annual review at the Law Library, which was useful in that it helped me to reflect on what I had achieved in my trainee year, and how I felt about it.  However, this involved a bit of mental gymnastics, as I had to dredge through my mind to review a whole year’s worth of work.  Some of the best advice about reflective practice seems to be to get your thoughts down in writing quickly so that you can remember clearly what happened and what your gut reaction to the event was.  Forcing myself to do this will be useful, as I often plan to write a diary entry or a blog post about something – a conference that I’ve attended, a talk that I’ve seen or a book that I’ve read – and never get round to it until a few months later, when my initial memories have faded and I don’t remember exactly how I felt at the time.

More good advice is that you should act on what you’ve reflected about.  Although running over events in your head or on a blog may be beneficial to you, it’s no good if you don’t try and apply what you’ve learnt next time you do a similar task.  I think that must be one of the hardest parts of reflective practice – I find it easy to waffle on about my thoughts, but changing my behaviour is another matter!

Reflective Practice at the University of Sheffield

Next year I am going to be studying for my MA Librarianship at the University of Sheffield.  From what I’ve heard, Sheffield is very hot on reflective practice, which scares me a little, as I’m not sure it should be something that ought to be given a grade, but other Sheffield students have said that they found it quite useful.  Here is a blog post by a tutor at Sheffield, all about teaching reflective practice.

Problems

The main problem I can see with reflective practice is quite simply lack of time.  When I write, I tend to write a lot – new ideas always occur to me half way through – and reflecting in writing on everything that I do at work would take up a great deal of time.  Although I’m only a trainee, I’ve heard a lot about CILIP Chartership, and one of the main difficulties seems to be fitting writing up reflective practice evidence into already busy work and home lives.  I suppose it’s probably best to be selective, and choose the things you think you can learn the most from.

Another problem would be that I wouldn’t want to reflect publicly on this blog about my paid work – it’s not particularly secret but it just seems quite unprofessional.  I would prefer to keep a private reflective practice diary for that, and use the blog to reflect on the wider profession.

Reflecting on CPD23 so far

Taking a few moments to think back over the last few weeks, I would say that I have got a lot out of the CPD23 course already.  I am already falling behind by a week, but I feel that as long as I keep myself to within a couple of weeks of where we’re up to I’m not in danger of giving up completely.  However, if I get too far behind I think I might lose motivation.  I am pleased with my blog as a personal record of my thoughts – with the added bonus of other people reading and commenting, and have enjoyed reading and commenting on other people’s blogs.  It has made me realise that there is always room for professional development, no matter what stage of your career you’re at, and has given me a valuable insight into what career options there are out there.  More practically, it has introduced me to useful web tools such as Storify, Scoop.it and Google Reader – and even little, simple things such as how to add a picture to a WordPress blog.  This week’s topic has encouraged me to write down some of the tasks I’m undertaking at work and as part of the graduate trainee scheme, both so I can reflect on them and to provide evidence for when I am writing job applications in future.

In terms of acting on my reflections, I will try and catch up with everyone else this week, and I will make the effort to comment on a few more posts (it’s always rewarding to get a comment).  I will continue to investigate the new online tools I’ve discovered, and I will start a private reflective journal to note down some of my feelings about the work I do at the Bodleian.  I’d also like to use this blog as a way of reflecting on any good training sessions/ events/ conferences that I am lucky enough to be able to go on.  Although I might not have time to reflect on absolutely everything, I hope that the attempt will be of some use.

Finally 

In the interests of fiddling around with my newly-discovered web tools, I have created a Scoop.it page full of useful articles about reflective practice.  Some are very education based – teachers seem to have to do a lot of compulsory reflection – but are still interesting and relevant to librarianship.  Enjoy reflecting everybody!

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