In a nutshell, reflection is a learning tool. It can help us to learn from our mistakes and to find solutions to problems. With a little more critical thinking thrown in, reflection can enable professionals to better understand their work, build on positives or identify areas for development and, therefore, improve their effectiveness.
Unfortunately reflecting on professional experience takes time and effort, before significant benefits can be observed. Since many professionals are under pressure they feel they genuinely do not have time to spare. Some people struggle to commit energy to reviewing things they've already done, preferring instead to concentrate on the future. And dwelling on the past without truly knowing what you're searching for requires a leap of faith which some people are simply unwilling to take.
But this approach might just help more people to get on board. It takes little time, links explicitly to future action, and systematically builds on an individual's personal or professional needs, so that benefits are more relevant and tangible. I've seen it work well with trainee teachers who've used it to improve their lessons and to become more effective. And it simply involves answering the following three questions:
- So what?
- Now What?
This step requires you to simply identify and describe an experience. It can be real or imagined. It can involve a problem or an achievement. It can reflect a specific professional development target, or a more general aspect of your work you feel you could improve.
Step Two: So What?
This step calls for some thinking. Your task is to analyse the 'What?' to uncover assumptions, omissions and alternative perspectives which help to shed more light on the experience. Do not simply try to confirm what you already suspect to be true. Try asking questions (examples of which are given below) which will help to generate new ideas about the experience.
Step Three: Now What? Or, What Next?
This step focuses squarely on the future. By systematically reflecting on a specific experience (So What?) you are giving yourself time to identify implications and opportunities for yourself. These may be personal or professional and may prompt you to think or act differently in the future, as a result of this exercise.
I have seen this model of reflective practice in a number of different guises, with various guidance notes. And my students have felt confident adapting it for their differing needs, creating their own A4 proforma, or utilising variously coloured post-it notes... Some people stick to a simple, straightforward narrative approach. Here's an example layout. A more comprehensive example can be download from the bottom of the page.
Reflective Development Framework
(Step One - Description.)
(Step Two - Analysis.)
(Step Three - Implications.)
Some 'So What?' Questions:
(These questions are meant as prompts, examples of triggers to get the analytical process underway.)
...might [another professional] have thought or done in the same situation?
...were the positives and negatives that emerged?
...caused the situation in the first place?
...have I learnt about the situation?
...effects did it have?
...did I feel about it?
...does it all matter?
...have I missed?
A .pdf version of this reflective model can be downloaded here: ReflectiveDevelopmentalFramework-SoWhat.pdf
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References & Recommended Reading
Ayres, D. (2015) Reflective Writing Exercises. Available at: http://danieljayres.blogspot.co.uk/p/reflective-writing-exercises.html
Bolton, G. (2010) Reflective Practice: writing & professional development (3rd ed.) London: Sage
Pollard A. (2008) Reflective Teaching (3rd ed.) London; New York: Continuum
Reed, M. & Canning, N. (eds.) (2010) Reflective Practice in the Early Years. London: Sage
Citing this post?
Ayres, D. (2015) Reflective Practice - So What? Available at: http://danieljayres.blogspot.co.uk/ (Accessed: [Date]).