Is reflection even important? Reflecting on…..Reflection.

Rodgers (2002:845) defines reflection as a “complex, rigorous, intellectual and emotional enterprise that takes time to do well.” I never fully realised the importance of reflection as a tool, until I found myself maturing with age and thinking about my younger years. I used to see it as a waste of time, I was already onto the next task, the next emotion, the next challenge; I never stood still for long. Consequently, I made the same mistakes often on repeat and never felt I got the full experience out of an experience. Things sometimes felt rather meaningless.

Now, reflection is the calm in the storm, it is stopping still, regardless of your surroundings and taking in your past route and evaluating it, before looking ahead and considering how to proceed. It is not just a tool, but an essential asset within learning.

I’ve always been a reflective person and have used reflection in my personal life as much as I use it professionally and within business. As I’ve grown with age and acquired and sought out knowledge, I’ve been able to explain the reasoning behind some of the conclusions within reflections and been able to act on my conclusions. I’ve also changed my original view of reflection, which usually took two forms. I either reflected on a situation only negatively, using it as a tool to pick a part what I should have done and not using it as a “transformative” tool. (Ryan 2001). I consequently, found the process as uncomfortable, unproductive and merely, dwelling on the past in a negative way.

My second use of reflection was a method of shifting blame and accountability onto others. It was often quite easy to ignore my own short comings and look at other’s work, considering how they have impacted on my own learning or progression. Especially within team learning situations. I’d reflect on their contributions, with the formulated mind-set that I’d already done the best I could and couldn’t change.

I now perceive reflection as a method to challenge and change. Of course, it involves picking up on the negatives but it also involves increasing my self-awareness (Hills 2002), but also understand why and how I have been successful, which leads on to discovering my strengths; a positive and rewarding experience. Furthermore, understanding why outcomes have happened is crucial to long term business planning. In such a difficult and unpredictable business environment, the one consistency that I hope to hang on to, is knowing how I will react in situations. This enables me to make plans and contingency plans, but most importantly, realistic, actionable plans that aren’t idealised.

Such transformative action (Friere 1972) leads to empowerment to make the change (Giroux 1988). In short, reflection is a central ingredient to empowerment and success. Businesses, changes and successes don’t just happen randomly in life, it is the ability to understand why things have happened and to potentially replicate them that becomes an essential tool. It is also about understanding failure. Understanding my failures and team failures, is no longer a negative experience. It is a diagnostic, journey of discovery, which can uncover a whole host of factors relating to internal and external factors. Moreover, reflection involves an all senses engaged approach. I reflect based on what I see, hear, experience, feel and say and it involves all five senses interacting. It involves being engaged fully in what you’re doing.

Bain et al (2002) suggests an impressive reflective frame work that I will take forward; reporting, responding, relating, reasoning and reconstructing. Why I consider this as a good framework, is because it structures my reflection. As someone who does it as a routine, on almost all situations that occur. Where I feel, I fall down, is in the reconstructing element. Once I’ve identified, considered it, understood and added it to my knowledge bank, I don’t feel I utilise the knowledge effectively and efficiently. Whilst I may consider, what I would do differently, if the situation occurred again, I don’t manage to always relate that to a transformative action; as in “I will do….”. I also, get rather bogged down in the details and the meanings of things, which I do within business and my life in general. I often lose sight of the end goal and lose a sense of purpose. I end up feeling, that I understood the event, but not always how this new understanding may be applied productively. Such a structure, will do exactly what is it literally supposed to do, it will change my reflections from a mesh of ideas, thoughts, theories and concepts, into an organised journey through my thought process, clearly evidencing appropriately my conclusions and comments.

Using the construct, I will use the prompt of “reconstruct” at the end, to put the reflection into some sort of future construct and defining exactly what I have learnt from the experience; an actionable step forward. This final layer of reflection will add to the notion that my reflection has a deeper purpose (Ryan 2011). It will enhance my ability to not only having the ability to deconstruct my ideologies and understanding their foundations, but as an empowered learner, who is not just capable of change but is actively changing and demonstrating how. (Mezirow 2006)


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