Friday 30 June 2017

Tools for Reflective Practice

Whether I'm working in my everyday role teaching and training library staff at Cambridge or working with CILIP Professional Registration Candidates as part of my Candidate Support Officer duties, one topic keeps coming up again and again - reflective practice. What is it? How do I do it? Should I even be bothering at all?!

For me the answer to that last question is a resounding yes. I know that it can be hard to make time for yet another thing in a busy day and it's not for everyone but I think it's worth persevering with. I'm a worrier by nature and I can't begin to count the amount of time I've wasted going over and over tiny, insignificant interactions in my head. Working on my reflective skills has really helped me to focus and spend less time worrying about the small things. Obviously for me, channeling my reflections into blog posts is helpful.

I think reflection is important for other reasons as well:

  • It helps to silence that little voice in my head that reminds me of everything I could have done differently. This 'self-talk' can be really damaging if it gets out of hand and having a structure to think back and reflect on experience has really helped my mental balance.
  • Reflection shows you what went right or wrong. I spend a lot of my time developing and delivering courses so it's always good to think through how these can be improved. Not only does reflection help to find areas for improvement but it can highlight the things you're doing right and should keep doing.
  • It stops us from doing the same thing for reasons that made sense twenty years ago. Sometimes there are perfectly valid reasons for doing something a certain way but reflection helps us to be more creative and really look at things in a new light.
  • Reflection also helps to overcome assumptions. It's natural and human to make assumptions about people and their situations but I think it often pays to take a step back and think things through. Personal story: my father was in a wheelchair for the last few years of his life. I had a small car which didn't fit his chair but I still liked to take him out and about. Luckily many places offer wheelchairs which you can borrow and this is what I used to do. With my father in the car I would park in the disabled bay (as he was entitled to do) and then get out to fetch the chair for him. More often than not I would get challenged about my need to park there, sometimes in a very abusive way, as people assumed I was parking illegally. Thinking about this experience makes me give those parking in such spaces today the benefit of the doubt - I don't assume they're abusing the system just because I can't see a disability. Overcoming assumptions is useful when working with lots of different users in the information profession.
However reflection isn't always easy. It takes time and commitment as well as a certain level of self insight which can be uncomfortable. I've made some discoveries about myself and my behavior as a result of reflection that have made me face some harsh truths. However I've learnt from it and now moved on. 

As part of my role at Cambridge I recently delivered a workshop session on reflective practice. The slides and materials from the workshop can be found below (links to other training I've given can be found here). The slides and workbook are both licenced under a Creative Commons CC-BY licence meaning that they are free to reuse, remix and adapt as needed. I hope they're helpful whichever type of reflection you're struggling with!

Download slides here [PDF]
Download workbook here [PDF]

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