Reflective and Reflexive Learning: How easy is it to reflect on yourself? Personally, it makes me feel a bit uneasy

I find the process of reflecting on my previous actions, behaviours and learning a little bit uncomfortable. Thinking about why I did something and having to analyse myself on that level, when sometimes there seems to be no reason, is a weird notion to me. I’m quite a shy person anyway and I’m definitely not the type of person to blow my own trumpet, so as strange as it sounds, I find the whole reflective process quite self-indulgent. However, this whole process has helped me to realise how vital reflective learning is for self-development and being able to recognise which areas you need to work on and what past experiences I’ve had that have shaped who I am, without me actually realising it.

The assessment we were given, to write 5 blog posts was designed to help us, as developing HR practitioners gain and hone the skills that are necessary for us to begin building our HR profile. Creating and developing our own online HR profile through our blog pieces, which can allow us to engage with other HR professionals and like-minded people and which I can use to showcase my understanding and capabilities when seeking employment opportunities. Building my own HR voice also allows me to explore literature and materials outside of my university learning and expand my existing knowledge and keep up to date with the latest cases and developments within the field. The job site Monster recommend establishing your own online profile through means such as blogging to reach out to other people in your industry [1].

Reflective practice is the foundation of professional development, it takes meaning from experience and transforms insights into practical strategies for personal growth and organisational impact [2]. It’s the ability to be able to reflect on past events and in hindsight, understand what could have been done differently. Learning in action is the ability to think about the appropriate course of action whilst in a situation and understanding what experiences and feelings you were able to pull on to be able to help you, whereas reflection on action is about hindsight, reflecting on your past actions and understanding why you reacted a certain way in a situation and the consequences of your actions.

Collier and Williams’s paper looks at the reflective process and how, as a student, you can train yourself to think at deeper levels in order to maximise your learning and ways that your learning can inform and impact your life. The paper opens with the statement: I have realised that it is often difficult for people to explain why they behave in a certain way. What I have been forced to do in the writing assignments is just that. The process of writing down my views and patterns of thinking took nearly every drop of energy I had [3]. This statement rings so true to me, I often find myself when writing reflective pieces exaggerating situations or experiences or even manipulating them to try to make sense of it or understand it so I can then put it into words, which of course just undermines the whole point of doing a reflective piece.

David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle 1974 model recognises that knowledge, values, relationships and intentions influence our behaviours and new things that we learn, with the learning process involving 4 stages; concrete learning, the feeling of the experience, reflective observation, reflection on the experience, abstract conceptualisation, thinking and learning about the experience and lastly, active experimentation, action on the experience [4]. I could use Kolb’s learning cycle in future situations to further reflect on my learning and further understand the steps by engaging in each stage of the model and by applying structure to my learning process that I otherwise may be dismissive of. However, I feel it’s not my personality style, to try and identify with each stage of the process so it may initially quite difficult, to essentially train myself to think through the stages. The skills I have gained that have shaped the practitioner I aim to be, I have developed through some level of reflection, but not necessarily in any great detail or following any certain structure. I’m quite an impulsive person and my actions are often led by emotion, so having to reflect on my actions doesn’t fit with who I am and my personality. However, although I am able to realise this in myself, I also realise that in order to produce effective reflective learning, I need to really commit myself to understanding the need and benefits of it. Once I am able to do this, I can then progress with the outcomes I find and work on developing myself to become the HR leader I aspire to be.

Gibb’s Reflective Cycle 1988 expands upon Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, adding extra elements, which offers a more simplistic approach to the steps, but more thought evoking process as it encourages change [5]. Going through the stages of the cycle allows you to not only reflect, but also look for areas of improvement and think about how you would approach the situation differently given the opportunity. For me personally, Gibb’s cycle would be the most appropriate to use for the reflection process as it allows you to think about tackling the situation differently, reflection is no use if it doesn’t allow you to think about what you should have done differently, rather than just understanding why you did something, there needs to be some sort of resolution or change to make the reflection meaningful.

I found the process of writing these blogs enlightening in terms of my learning experience. I enjoy forming and expressing my view and opinion on topics and concepts, but usually in the context of a discussion with others who are also willing to share their own opinions and views, so I found it difficult and challenging to express only my thoughts and views in such a formal manner. However, the process absolutely changed my learning, usually when writing previous assignments, we are presented with a specific area or topic and expected to build a discussion or argument around it, but in this assignment, I felt I had the freedom to explore any area within a given topic and express my personal thinking on them, I wasn’t restricted to strictly literature and academic resources. I really enjoyed the process of this writing this assignment and being able to express my own view and establish my own HR voice through my blogs and really analysing how I will potentially approach situations in my future roles. It also helped me reflect on my previous work experiences and understand how they have helped me realise and shape me into the practitioner I aspire to be. I aim to continue publishing regular blogs from now on, covering a wide of topics I particularly interested in to continue to develop my newly gained skills. In this instance my learning is reflexive as I have fundamentally changed my outlook on blogging. If not for this assignment, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to share something so personal on a public platform but completing the assignment has given me the confidence in my capabilities to produce something that is my own voice and be willing to share it with others. I chose topics that I felt I had a greater understanding of and felt the most confident in my ability to research and my willingness to divulge personal into. Each topic allowed me draw on my previous experiences in the workplace and demonstrating to me the skills and knowledge I have acquired already.

I have also chosen to continue publishing blogs to aid with my Continuous Professional Development, which is a combination of approaches, ideas and techniques that can help you manage your own learning and growth. The focus of CPD is on the results, which is the benefits that professional development can bring you in the outside world. CPD is about what you want to achieve [6]. It’s an investment you choose to make in ensuring your own development and learning to help you get to where you want to be, by making the decision to continue with my blogs means I can continue to build my personal brand, I can keep up to date with the latest developments within the industry and I can build my confidence on the topics to enable me to seek better opportunities for myself. Just because I have almost finished my degree it shouldn’t mean my learning should stop, CPD is important as it allows me to remain competitive amongst my peers. The Continuing Professional Development Org advice engaging in CPD to ensure your capabilities are up to the standard up others within your field, to ensure you maintain and enhance you’re the knowledge and skills required to deliver a professional service to clients, customers and the community, and also to ensure you can make a meaningful contribution to your team and organisation, CPD allows you to become more effective and can help you advance in your career [7]. Also, as part of my CPD I have chosen to start keeping a journal to record the skills and achievements I have made so far. I’ve had several jobs which have provided me with numerous skills, but it’s difficult to keep track of what I have learnt, it’s also difficult to recognise that you possess certain skills when you take them for granted. I have chosen to do this so it gives me a much greater understanding of the skills and qualities I possess and I can call upon them throughout my career and be able to recognise which future opportunities I have the capabilities for and would suit my development thus far.

 

References

[1]  Monster Worldwide. (2017). How do I build a professional profile? Retrieved from Monster Worldwide Inc: https://www.monster.co.uk/career-advice/article/how-do-i-build-a-professional-profile

[2] CIPD. (n.d.). What is Reflective Practice? CIPD.

[3] Collier, J. P., & Williams, R. D. (2013). Reflection in Action. In J. P. Collier, Learning Through Serving: A Student Guidebook for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Across Academic Disciplines and Cultural Communities (pp. 83-95). Stylus Publishing.

[4] Lowy, A., & Hood, P. (2004). The Power of the 2×2 Matrix: Using 2×2 Thinking to Solve Business Problems and Make Better Decisions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

[5] Oxford Brookes University. (2017). Reflective writing: About Gibbs reflective cycle. Retrieved from Oxford Brookes University: https://www.brookes.ac.uk/students/upgrade/study-skills/reflective-writing-gibbs/

[6] CIPD. (2017). About CPD. Retrieved from CIPD: https://www.cipd.co.uk/learn/cpd/about

[7] Kloosterman, V. (2013). The importance of continuing professional development. Retrieved from Continuing Professional Development Org: http://continuingprofessionaldevelopment.org/why-is-cpd-important

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