Neil Wolstenholme, Chairman, Kloodle

‘Reflection’, What Exactly Is It?

Whilst I was in the middle of writing this article, I turned on the news to hear the latest Corona-update from Boris and the gang. Professor Chris Whitty waswhitty 100x100 mumbling a response to a typically tricky Peston question: “...learn lessons as we go along….learning lessons after you’ve gone through something is absolutely critical..” Lots of lessons to be learnt then, but what he was actually highlighting was the power of reflective learning; it’s all around us and something I’m going to talk about right now.

finlay.jpg

Most people would be able to have a good go at defining ‘reflection’. I asked family and friends to try and most answers included ‘mirror’, ‘looking at yourself’ etc. Sort of on the right lines. Out of the widely accepted definitions, I like Linda Finlay’s (from Reflecting on Reflective Practice, 2008): “…recapture practical experiences and mull them over critically in order to gain new understandings and so improve future practice.” Success or failure, mull it over….improve…this resonates with me.

Yes, but success is easy to deal with, however, failure, well that’s another matter; it can lead to loss of confidence and negativity. Reflection is a very important skill and can counterbalance failing by jkrowling 2helping you to learn from mistakes, to build up the experience bank and, through this, turn failure into a positive. It’s okay to fail, J.K. Rowlings swears by it; she was rejected twelve times by different publishers and each time she went away to lick her wounds, she took on board the feedback to improve her offering until she was finally accepted by Bloomsbury….the rest is history.

Reflection as a specialised form of thinking

dewey2.jpg

The concept of reflection has been around since time immemorial, but the ideas are articulated through the formal subject of Reflective Practice, which is the theory and application of “how to reflect”.

There has been a lot of research carried out on this subject and its application to professions, notably in nursing, teaching, sport and, as Chris Witty would confirm, science.

The father of RP was John Dewey; he carried out studies in the 1930s and famously said “We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.

Think about it.

Another big player in the development of reflective practices was Donald Schon, who, in 1983, proposed the ideas of:
schon.jpg

Reflection-ON-Action

This is analysing past practice AFTER the event to consider improvements, a cognitive post-mortem so to speak to assess what worked well, and what could have been done better.

Reflection-IN-Action

Thinking about issues DURING the activity, known as thinking on your feetor professional artistry. This is using a combination of knowledge and experience to solve a problem.

Advertisement

     

A solicitor might do the first in the office, whereas a barrister the latter in court. Both require knowledge and experience. In the quote above, Chris Whitty was talking about both of these types of reflecting.

To get meaning from experiences requires reflection and these dual concepts have resulted in the development of the process of analysing the present or past, evaluating and then looking to improve, which has, in turn, led to the reflective cycle models I’m coming on to.

Reflective Models

david kolb.jpg

First Kolb’s Experiential Learning Styles

The earliest Reflective Model was developed by David Kolb, who published his Kolb’s Experiential Learning Styles in 1984.

His theory proposed that effective learning is achieved when a person progresses through a cycle of four stages, the second stage being that of reflective observation. 

David Kolb's learning cycle basically involves four stages:

  1. Concrete learning
  2. Reflective observation
  3. Abstract conceptualization, and
  4. Active experimentation

This means taking time-out from “doing”, stepping back from the task and reviewing what has been done and experienced.

Then Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

Subsequent to Kolb, and inspired by him, the American sociologist and psychologist Graham Gibbs published his Reflective Cycle model in his book ‘Learning by Doing‘ in 1988.

‘It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience, it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning gibbs.jpgpotential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated and it is generalisations that allow new situations to be tackled effectively.’ Learn from experience is Gibbs’ message, which is easier if you’ve been doing ‘it’ for a while.

This model is widely used in practice to help structure or scaffold the reflection process. It encourages systematic thinking about experiences during an activity or situation with the intention of making people more aware and be able to change behaviour.

It is the platform for instilling the habit of Lifelong Learning. There are more sophisticated and complex models which offer more detailed questioning, but this is a good place to start, especially for people with little experience.

gibbs loop.png

Gibbs’ cycle is a loop which consists of six stages which invoke answers to questions:

Description

This stage is about pulling together the facts of the event. No judgements yet. There can be a number of questions to act as prompts, such as: What happened? Where? Who? When? What were people’s reactions?

Feelings

Consider the emotions which were experienced through the event. Before? During? After?

Evaluation

Evaluate the situation to consider what went well, what went worse than expected? Positives and negatives? Here you can add theories.

Analysis

Consideration of what helped or hindered the situation.

Conclusion

Consider what was learned from the situation. What else could you have done? What skills would help next time? How differently would you react?

Action Plan

This area deals with the plan of how to effectively improve the situation next time. Any training, skill, or habit that can equip you with handling the situation better if it occurs again?

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle gives a framework and some prompts, which makes it usable with novices. This is the model we adhere to at Kloodle to help students reflect on projects or work experience.

Chronicles Through History

History is packed full of many diverse examples of committed individuals using jack charlton.jpgjournals. From Claudius, whose diaries preserve the day-to-day minutiae to help us piece together the political strands of Roman life, to Jackie Charlton, the legendary England centre-half from ’66, who kept a ‘little black book’ containing the details of which centre-forwards he had to exact revenge on.

zuck.jpg

One more recent and topical chronicling example is Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. The tech genius used to sketch out his hand-written ideas and mission, supported by diagrams and flowcharts, on unlined pages in notebooks. 

These musings were the seedlings of his business plans over the next decade. Visitors to his minimalist apartment in Palo Alto remarked that the pile of journals in his living room stood out as the focal point and this signified the importance.

Over the years he would revisit the ideas to check his rationale and what had changed.

It wasn’t all plain sailing; as Zuckerberg said: “We have certainly made a bunch of mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not living up to your potential, right? That’s how you grow.” And that’s what they did. Steven Levy has written a book about the remaining notebooks in ‘The Inside Story’.

Getting Into The Habit When You’re Young

Reflection is not a natural skill for young people. At school there is very little time built into the curriculum for this reflection stuff, so young people tend to find it unnatural. It is not something they are taught to do from an early age.

Instead, the focus in education is on being consumers rather than producers of knowledge; passive listening to the teacher, rote learning to ‘fill in the blanks’, give the answer the examiner wants or just answer C to multiple choice questions. This becomes routine.

However, a process of being able to construct meaning from information and then apply the knowledge is very good preparation for further education and the world of work. It is important to think and learn independently, not just doing it for the sake of pleasing the teacher.

pisano.jpg

To make crucial decisions, you need a cognitive process to turn feelings and thoughts into clear actions. You must be encouraged to have a go, change things, to get things wrong and then do something about it.

A recent working paper by Gino and Pisano of Harvard Business School provides clear evidence that reflecting on what you’ve done teaches you to do it better next time. Common sense, right?

Novices, in particular, need time to step back and think through a situation, otherwise they become “trapped in unexamined judgements” (Finlay).

Challenging the status quo, the current methodology, leads to critical analysis and on to the development of new perspectives. This might be uncomfortable, especially if it contradicts what the teacher has told you to do!

How To Do It In Practice

Ideally, reflection shouldn’t be prescriptive, a mechanical tick-box exercise, because the purpose is to challenge concepts and ideas. Having said that, according to Finlay: “The problem with reflective practice is that it is hard to do and equally hard to teach. It is even harder to do and teach effectively.

There are many different ways to reflect and much of it is subjective. It is important that students see that in real-life there is uncertainty and no clear-cut answers, which is at odds with the traditional fact-based class approach.

So, it is important to give students some structure to develop their own style of effective reflection.

journal.jpg

Research shows that for reflective practice to be successful it should be continuous, so it becomes a habit, not just for a one-off project. It needs to link course content and the work experience explicitly, and, also, it should be challenging, forcing students to confront their own assumptions and tackle hard questions. One of the most powerful activities of reflection to deepen understanding is the use of learning logs and diaries.

The reflective diary is a key tool to facilitate reflective learning. Writing journals requires students to reflect on the teaching and learning activities and provides an opportunity to search for and express their learning in a personal way, to relate and apply their learning to their own assessment circumstance.

Reflection In Sport And Education

HUDL

hudl.png

Reflective practice is common practice in many disciplines where failure is likely and learning from failure is important to rectify. Two which spring to mind are sport and education. In sport, one example is England Hockey who use a system called Hudl.

The players will be located all around the country but can access the system remotely. The coach uploads clips from matches and training and asks the squad members to analyse and comment privately or in plenum.

This works well at junior level where an immediate post-mortem of a defeat may hammer home the negativity and fear of failure can inhibit performance. Whereas a discussion few weeks on can result in better acceptance and preparation.

EPQ

epq.jpg

A great example of the use of reflection in education is the EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) at AS level.

Both of my kids have done it and it’s grown up stuff. The student presents a topic for investigation and devises an appropriate research question, usually answered by an extended essay of around 5,000 words, which is supported by a presentation. This requires a high degree of planning with self-motivated, autonomous work.

A growing number of universities value this type of research-based qualification where students demonstrate many skills which will be useful at university and on to the workplace. The project must be ‘reflective’ and in fact it was introduced to bridge the gap between the rote learning for formal exams and uni.

One of the key aspects of the EPQ is that candidates have to provide evidence that they have spent time reflecting on their work and the way they do this is by using a log-book; making changes to the original plans, or not, dependent on those reflections.

Candidates are encouraged to go down the wrong route, rip up and start again; a bit like real life! Also, to reinforce this, final marks are actually allocated to reflection. This type of process does not come naturally to young people who have never been taught how to do it. Some learners instinctively create highly-reflective journals, but many struggle and find it a hassle.

The teacher is a key ingredient in making this activity a success; they act as a mentor and push students to think clearly about what they are doing by asking questions, helping them make connections and providing feedback.

Concluding Reflections

In summary, being able to reflect effectively is a major component of emotional intelligence ei.jpgand a very important skill for university, work and life.

It can be a habit which is a major pillar of lifelong learning and the earlier you start then the more useful it is likely to prove as you adapt your own style.

A prop for reflection is the journal; a diary logging your thoughts and rationale, to which you can refer back in order to check understanding and which mistakes to avoid in future………. Chris Whitty is probably doing that right now!

Neil Wolstenholme, Chairman, Kloodle

The first article in this series was "T Levelling Up: The “Levelling Up” Agenda Must Result In Equality With A Levels"

In the third of our trilogy of articles, we shall explore how all of this forms the bedrock for Kloodle’s digital support for students doing T levels.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page