Reflective Practice is “an improvement tool to produce a change in practice” (Knowles et al., 2006) and can be applied in a personal as well as a professional context (Ghaye, 2001; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004). Knowles, Gilbourne, Cropley and Dugdill (2014) describe reflective practice as a complicated procedure which allows experience to be converted into learning (p.10). Reflecting in such a way comprises of cognitive processing where expert knowledge and professional practice are combined in order to encourage knowledge-in-action (Boud, Koegh & Walker, 1985; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004).
Benefits of Reflective Practice
There are a range of benefits that come with the use of reflective practice (Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004; Cropley et al., 2010). An increased level of self-awareness is an advantage of reflective exercises, through documenting activity, the individual’s understanding of their own application and techniques as a coach, practitioner (psychologist, physiotherapist etc.), or athlete can be improved (Cropley et al., 2010; Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004). Another benefit of reflection would be the individual’s opportunity to overcome any conflict or unease that they may be experiencing internally following practice or performance and it’s requirements, providing a chance to express concerns and attempt to find resolutions (Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004). The use of knowledge-in-action, often referred to as craft knowledge (e.g. Knowles et al., 2001; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004) or tacit knowledge (e.g. Martens, 1987; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004), and defined as knowledge acquired through carrying out a role rather than obtained through educational means (Knowles & Telfer, 2009), can be particularly advantageous to individuals during reflective activity. This knowledge can be used to assess situations and influence behaviour that follows, increasing effectiveness (Cropley et al., 2010).
Methods of Reflection
There are different models which offer guidance in reflective practice techniques available to those choosing to incorporate it into their service (e.g. Gibbs, 1998; Atkins & Murphy 1994). John’s (1994) structured reflection process (as revised by Anderson, 1999) provides a series of 21 questions to assist the use of reflective practice, prompting thoughts, for example, on the consequences of their actions, as well as considerations of alternative approaches (cited in Heanley, Oakley & Rea, 2009, p.30). Cropley et al. (2007) advocated use of this model and summarised it to be a “structured and meaningful” method of reflection after the first author in that paper expressed an improved insight into his own professional and reflective methodologies. This model would be beneficial to follow when engaging in reflection, as it has rigid structure which encourages a methodical reflective process instead of simply thinking through the happenings of practice (Knowles et al., 2001; cited in Cropley et al., 2007).
It is also possible to fulfil the needs of reflective practice in the form of a diary entry (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012; Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004; Cropley et al., 2010) this would not only comply to guidance of the above model, but also assert the use of ‘reflection-in-action’, meaning that reflection could take place during events along with between sessions (training, consulation etc.), stating thoughts, feelings and decisions in the moment. The inclusion of professional judgement and decision making (PJDM) may also be valuable in order to justify and evaluate such feelings and choices, producing a greater level of intensity during self-reflection (Martindale & Collins, 2007).
Types of Reflection
Staged reflection, is a form of reflection that encourages individuals to reflect instantly after service delivery or during events, as well as using deferred techniques, by reflecting again after a prolonged period of time following the event (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012). In the Knowles, Katz and Gilbourne (2012) paper, staged reflection was demonstrated by author two, who then invited peer inquisitorial processes from author one and three to trigger the further engrossment in reflection on the same events one year later. This therefore also displayed the involvement of layered, or shared reflection, by communicatively expressing reflective thoughts with others (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012; Knowles et al., 2007). Layered reflection is an additional method that can be employed within reflective practice as it offers and provokes further affections and points of view surrounding practice (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012). This would again be beneficial as reflection in isolation may display deficit in some areas of knowledge and experience (Knowles et al., 2001; cited in Cropley et al., 2010). In circumstances of supervision, with utilisation of layered reflection, collective engagements are essential in order for the supervision to be collaborative in a beneficial way for both parties (Knowles et al., 2007).
Another form of reflection, critical reflection, is described by Knowles, Katz and Gilbourne (2012) as “a process that includes moments of evaluative activity” refocusing individuals from a “professional in-context to the person in a more global and interactive sense”, although a difficult form of reflection, is vital to practice (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012). In order to exhibit critical practice, there is a requirement of assessing the limitations of “social, political and economic factors” (Knowles et al., 2006), however this can be particularly difficult to include.
It can therefore be recognised that there are a vast number of benefits to be gained through carrying out reflective practice, not only to the evaluation of practice but also to self-development both personally and professionally (Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004; Cropley et al., 2010; Anderson, Miles, Mahoney & Robinson, 2002; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004) and the use of it could be employed through following models (such as John’s, 1994) along with the procedures of staged and layered reflection (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012; Knowles et al., 2007) in order to reflect in the most beneficial way for the individual as well as anyone else concerned.