On Being a Reflective Practitioner
Last week, I blogged some reflections on a learning project I started that has stalled, at least for now. Then I blogged about Nancy White's recent experiences in facilitating a class, which led to a great exchange in comments that forced me to reflect further on my own assumptions about facilitation. This led me down a path of thinking more about the practice of reflection and how one of the benefits in my mind of blogging is that it can make us more reflective as practitioners in our occupations, regardless of what line of work we may be in.
The idea of reflective practice is not a new revelation. It's been around for quite awhile, originally articulated by David Schon in his book, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action published in 1983. It is essentially the practice of thinking critically about your professional experiences and identifying the lessons to be learned from those experiences. It's a strategy that has become embedded in many professions (at least in the preparation stages), most notably education and healthcare. With the growth of blogging as a professional development practice, however, I think it has become more visible in other occupations and industries as well.
Reflective practices can include:
- Personal journaling to examine experiences and identify themes, patterns, new questions, etc.
- Peer learning groups where small teams continually work together to examine their assumptions and approaches to their profession.
- Coaching and feedback from more experienced practitioners
- Action research projects--learning that takes place in the context of researching how to improve the quality of an organization. Essentially it's reflective problem-solving.
As has happened with so many things, the advent of social media tools like blogs, wikis, etc. have turbo-charged the reflective process, not only providing a format with a built-in reflective and collaborative component, but also removing reflective practice from the constraints of time and place. Now, instead of only engaging in reflective practice with colleagues in my own organization, technology enables me to work with colleagues from around the world. Virtual mentoring becomes a real possibility and I can get perspectives that reflect a much wider range of experiences and contexts.
To my mind, technology takes reflective practice to an entirely new level. One of the challenges of sustaining reflection is having access to a group of like-minded colleagues who are interested in the same questions and want to pursue a path of learning. While such groups may exist when we're enrolled in college or grad school or participating in some professional development event, they often aren't as readily accessible in the "real world." But as a blogger, I connect to a world-wide network of peers who are willing to provide the support, resources, and culture of ongoing reflection on experience that support me as a reflective learner. This is exciting when you think about it--the heart of why social media is so important as a tool for learning.
Tomorrow I plan to explore this concept further, discussing some specific ideas for incorporating more reflective strategies into our organizational cultures and into our individual practices. For now, I'd love to hear your thoughts on reflective practice. Do you find that blogging has made you a more reflective practitioner in your work? What do you do to sustain yourself as a reflective learner?
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Do you find that blogging has made you a more reflective practitioner in your work? What do you do to sustain yourself as a reflective learner?
Blogging is a piece of it, but I would suggest that few of us blog in isolation...which gets at your social context. Blogs were not a daily part of my life until I first began using RSS feeds to aggregate like-minded (and some not so like-minded) blogs into a reader. Read in this way, I began to see themes emerge, which led to commenting and eventually my own blog. Right now, I am following 29 blogs in my Reader ... and I saw a post in one of them from Alan Levine yesterday where he stated that he follows 145 blogs. RSS feeds and aggregation have allowed me to see global conversations and feel the need to join the discussion.
I do think one thing that sustains me is the circle of blogging friends I have made. My colleagues at the Center for Teaching Excellence, Jeff Nugent and Bud Deihl, both blog - and we tend to feed off of each other. Part of our drive comes from the rich content we see weekly from bloggers like you, Michele. It used to jump start our coffee conversations in our office (and still does), but now we are as apt to blog about some idea as gather around the coffee pot...and our coffee conversations are richer because of the global feedback we receive from blog posts.
Posted by: Britt Watwood | March 09, 2008 at 12:04 PM
More than anything my blog gives me justification to be reflective. I'm innately wired that way, yet particularly in professional contexts there is not always venues for that part of me. I don't do as much of my reflection live as you do, but it takes quite a bit for me behind the scenes. Especially to translate my naturally circular nonlinear communication style into something remotely readable. (OK, so I have to rely on my business partner for some of that too.)
I agree that blogging also connects me to people and ideas I wouldn't otherwise encounter. I love that part. There is always something to learn from each person, and I highly value the diversity of expression.
Posted by: Christine Martell | March 09, 2008 at 05:21 PM