Thing 5: Reflective Practice

Posted: August 12, 2011 in Uncategorized
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I’ve read blog posts and tweets from people who are putting together their chartership portfolios, and seen them refer to ‘reflective writing’. To be honest, I never really knew what that meant. Was it something mysterious and sophisticated that someone only starting out in the LIS sector would be unable to do?

Well, no. I now know that it’s actually a variation of a process many of us already go through unconsciously – it’s just approached in a more systematic fashion.

Being someone with a fondness for arranging information, I already have a spreadsheet that records workshops, conferences and library networking events etc that I have been to. As well as some practical ‘title’, ‘speaker’, ‘date’ columns, there is one that optimistically invites me to fill in what I have taken away from each event and how I will apply it at work. I am yet to fill in that column for anything I’ve been to! Partly this is because I find it a difficult question to answer straightaway.

Which leads to a concern I have about reflective practice in real life. It’s often very hard to identify the point when something ends. It’s fine to reflect on the value of a workshop or a conference as these have clear boundaries and, crucially, finishing points. Much of what I do at work will  – by its very nature – never finish. It’s hard to find a point at which it’s possible to step back and reflect.

Nevertheless, I think this is a vital tool and can enable intelligent growth – both for individuals and organisations. Can organisations engage in reflective practice? Definitely. Many of the questions we should be asking of ourselves when we reflect are the same questions our employers should be encouraging us to ask when we prepare for appraisals or annual reviews.  And reflective practice strikes me as not just something that is useful when things have gone well. Arguably, it is of more use as a tool to unpick less successful activities, in order to work out what went wrong and – vitally – what can be learnt from that. This is certainly a process that could be valuable at both an organisational and an individual level.

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