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  • Writer's pictureKathy Miles

Reflective Practices

Reflective Practices

One of the biggest challenges as an Activist/Pragmatist type learner/communicator is that I am naturally a doer not a thinker! This means that if I have a new idea, I see something being done that I like, or I come back from training brimming with ideas, I want to implement them straight away.

Reflecting and researching before acting has never been my strong point. So, like many other Activists, I have implemented actions before thinking through the consequences and have made mistakes. Whilst this is perfectly human (and something that we all do), I have had to learn to become better at reflection.

There are two key types of reflection:

1. Reflection-on-Action:

This is the ability to reflect on your actions after completing them.

This is something that a lot of people do without even realising it, usually after something has gone wrong. We may analyse it, think about the steps that were taken, think about what could or should have been done differently and what you would do next time.

Reflection-on-action is something that should be used not just after something goes wrong, but also after something goes well. It is equally important to be reflecting on what worked well and why it worked well so that you can continue doing these practices.

Examples in Practice:

  1. A facilitator or organisation reviewing the feedback provided by participants after a training program. These comments and feedback can provide vital clues and ideas for improvement for future training programs to ensure that they run smoother and maximise learning potential.

  2. The leaders of an organisation that holds annual fund-raising events getting together to review the event after it takes place. At this time they may review the amount of money raised, the activities that took place to raise the money, the work involved, what went well and what needs to be improved next time in order to raise more money.

Key Questions to Ask when Reflecting-on-Action:

  • What worked well?

  • What needs to be improved?

  • What mistakes could have been avoided?

  • What learnings should I take from this situation?

  • Did this turn out as I expected it to? Why or why not?

  • What would I do differently next time?

2. Reflection-in-Action:

This is the ability to reflect on your actions whilst carrying out those actions.

This is something that everyone should aim to be able to do and it is something that takes practice as we need to consciously think about what we are doing rather than just going through the motions.

The key difference with reflection-in-action is that you still have time to adjust your behaviour and actions if something is not going as it should. You become a real-time problem solver, present in the situation and able to adjust your actions accordingly.

Examples in Practice:

  1. A facilitator adjusting their training program to match the current experience, knowledge and skills of their learners as these things are identified.

  2. The project team reviewing how a project is going on a weekly basis. At the time they may review any potential risks to timelines or outcomes and begin to put into place steps to avoid these risks. This might include adding more resources, time etc. in order to prevent the risk from occurring.

Key Questions to Ask when Reflecting-in-Action:

  • What actions do we want/need to keep doing?

  • What actions do we need to cease?

  • What do we need to change in regards to the way we are doing things?

  • If we keep going in this direction, are these any negative consequences?

  • If we keep going in this direction, will we achieve the best outcome?

  • Are there any potential obstacles/risks foreseeable?

  • How do we avoid these potential obstacles/risks?

Reflection Tips:

Reflection is a critical aspect to ensure that we are always doing the best job possible. Some tips to help with becoming a better reflector include:

  • Allow yourself an adequate amount of time to think about something before committing to acting on it (where relevant).

  • Think through any possible consequences to your actions.

  • Remain present in the moment so that you can reflect-in-action.

  • Ensure you add reflection time into your planning/agenda. Putting it in the agenda for a topic in a team meeting or in the timeframe for the end of a project allows you the time to reflect properly and learn from your actions.

  • Participate in group reflection to hear others thoughts. At the end of a project, completing a group reflection on how things went allows you to potentially look at things from another’s perspective.

  • Set yourself goals around reflection. For example, “at the end of the week I will come up with two things that went well during the week, and two things that I could improve on/do differently to get a better outcome.”

  • When you have a new idea or something you want to implement, speak to someone else about it first and get their thoughts/ideas.

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