The value of reflection for professional development

Recently I have been reflecting on reflection… At the moment I am tutoring both a How to Blog course and a couple of Online Tutoring courses. In both of the contexts covered by these online courses, although in very different ways, reflection is key.

In the case of a blog, being able to reflect effectively is key to writing thoughtful reflective blog posts on a variety of issues and topics, both those in which you are an expert, and those which you have just encountered. A reflective blog can be one way in which reflection on learning can take place. And for anyone, reflective writing is a skill that can be applied in a variety of contexts from writing business reports to project management, from teaching and learning to training or informal learning.

Leading thinker Donald Schön suggested that the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning was one of the defining characteristics of professional practice. He argued that the model of professional training which he termed “Technical Rationality” — of charging students up with knowledge in training schools so that they could discharge when they entered the world of practice, perhaps more aptly termed a “battery” model — has never been a particularly good description of how professionals “think in action”, and is quite inappropriate to practice in a fast-changing world.

In the busy and challenging environment of business and professional practice today, reflection is a key tool for ongoing personal and professional development. However if you are developing your own expertise and practice, whether you run a small business, are a lawyer or trainer, or senior manager in a large company, or growing a memebrship organisation – in all sorts of contexts – the habit of reflection is worth acquiring as a means of continuing to learn and grow in your professions. Reflection can lead to:

  • personal growth
  • professional growth
  • meaningful change.

Reflection can help you to:

  • better understand both your strengths and your weaknesses
  • identify and challenge your underlying values and beliefs
  • acknowledge and question whatever assumptions you may be basing your ideas, feelings and actions on
  • recognise areas of potential bias
  • acknowledge your fears, and
  • identify any potential inadequacies or areas for improvement.

A blog of course, is an excellent way to reflect, but is too public for some. If you are reflecting honestly on your own thoughts, beliefs, behaviours and needs, then a personal journal may be the best idea. In this case all of the good practice in writing journals and writing blog posts is applicable, you don’t have to be concerned about any readers and you can still get a good deal out of it. Effective reflection is a technique well worth learning and practising.

Originally published on reachfurther.com