Posts Tagged ‘Thing Five’

In my final term of library school, we learnt about knowledge management (KM) and how it’s applied to health, law and business libraries. One of the reasons firms implement KM strategies, we were told, is so that they don’t re-invent the wheel and they don’t repeat mistakes.

I think it’s possible to think about reflective practice in a similar way. Because reflective practice is often an individual (or small team) process, you’re unlikely to needlessly repeat a task or project … unless you’re either very busy or very forgetful! But, without sitting down and debriefing yourself after a project, a conference, a job interview etc etc and thinking ‘what went well? what went less well? what would I do differently’, it’s conceivable that you’ll make the same mistakes or miss the same opportunities next time. I shouldn’t keep on about mistakes, really, since reflective practice is just as much an opportunity to pat yourself on the back and reflect on what went well, why it went well and how you can replicate or sustain that.

In a previous job, I saw a major project get behind schedule and take unexpected twists and turns, as the implications it would have on other aspects of the service weren’t fully understood at the outset. Worryingly, quite soon after it stuttered to its conclusion, a second major project kicked off. I would have liked all staff (because as mentioned, this project had an impact far beyond the one planned for) to have been given the breathing space and time to say what went wrong and why and – most importantly – how we could learn from this. With big projects like this, reflective practice (and subsequent action) isn’t just good practice, it’s a responsible thing to undertake.

As I’m going through cpd23, I’m thinking about what tools I like and how I can continue to use them. Even after hastily dismissing Storify in Thing Four, I’ve decided to use it to discuss LinkedIn in Thing Six! At the end, I’ll try to have a mega-reflective session and see what I’ve learnt. And fingers crossed, after Thing Twenty-Three, I’ll have the self-discipline to keep blogging.

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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.