Thursday, 17 September 2015

Thing 17 Reflective Practice

Eye - M.C. Escher


Congratulations all for getting this far. I hope the catch up time last week helped. Thing 17 is our final reflective practice. 
Thing 6 introduced our first reflective practice. We asked you to view other participant’s blogs and get a sense of the developing community, while taking the time to catch up with the tasks.
Thing 11 went deeper into reflection by asking you to look at your progress to date, assess your time management and view your support network. 
However, believe it or not, every blog you write is a reflective practice. These blog posts keep us updated on your progress with the current Thing, your thoughts on it and any problems or successes you encountered. We just didn’t want to scare you away by calling it a reflection! So armed with this information, you may wonder if you have been doing it correctly? As stated at the beginning, to achieve your CPD certificate the quality of your writing or the look of your blog is not being assessed. Rather, verifying that you attempted each Thing and updated us on your progress is of importance.  Reflective writing is something that takes a bit of practice and there are many articles and books written on the topic, I hope to give you an overview here, along with some guidance and examples.
Reflective Practice can be defined as the capacity to reflect on actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning (Schön, 1983). We chose to use a reflective practice blog as an assessment tool as it matches the format used in the original 23 Things. Furthermore, Kinsella (2001) argues that action without reflection leads to meaningless activism, while reflection without action means we are not bringing our awareness into the world. While completing a task such as creating a screencast showcases your skills, writing a reflective blog post allows you to record the process. This process includes difficulties or successes encountered,  your impression of the task and how you might apply it to your library setting.  Up to this point,  you were not asked to reflect deeply on your blog entries and this was perfectly acceptable, until now. Thing 17 invites you to attempt deeper reflection. 
To help with our reflective writing, many models of reflective practice exist. The Gibbs model of reflection (1988) was recommended on my UCD MLIS course, so I suggest that we use the same model here.

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford.

Using the Gibbs model: stages of reflection

We have to begin somewhere, and a description of what happened sets the scene for our reflection. The following reflection is on a superficial level:
‘’I created a screencast in thing 9, you can view it here. I found it difficult to begin with, but after some help from a colleague I created a good screencast that I am proud of”. 
This is sufficient for the course and informs us that you have completed the task. However, there is no reflection on how screencasting will be used in your career or why learning to use the tool was beneficial to your CPD. 
To enhance the process, we need to consider our feelings. Was it a negative or positive situation? Did it work and how did I feel about that? What was the end result? For example:
“I created a screencast in thing 9, you can view it here. I was worried about creating this podcast as I hate the sound of my voice and am not confident about using the equipment. I was afraid I would make a mess of it, it would go live, I wouldn’t be able to stop it and everyone would hear me swear. However, once I read the instructions again, I realised that this could not happen. I was in control of when I released the recording, if at all. I didn’t actually have to speak on the recording as I could use subtitles, type on screen, and use the mouse as a pointer. After some experimenting with the tools, and trying a few options, I realised my voice didn’t sound too bad at all. With some help from a colleague, I created a good screencast that I am proud of.”
We now must go further and analyse the impact and outcome of the task. Can we apply any learning theory to the situation? Did we have all the skills necessary to complete the task or was it a steep learning curve? If you had previous knowledge of other applications would this have helped? Did you get any help? Would help have made the task easier? What did you learn and what changes would you make if faced with the task in the future? 
 “I decided to create my screencast on using our institutional repository. I thought that might be easy as I run our repository and I pretty much know all there is to know about it, but making the recording wasn’t as simple as I thought. I didn’t think I needed a script as I knew all the information, however I kept forgetting some points while recording and would have to keep stopping and re-doing the screencast. I also stumbled over a few words, spoke too quickly and took too long to find certain links. I was so confident in my knowledge of the repository that I overlooked the task at hand, which was to learn about the screencast tool.  Two hours passed and I still hadn’t produced a publishable screencast. I recalled from my masters course that peer learning and collaborating is a valid and important learning lesson so I finally consulted my colleague who had previously created some libguides and she gave me some great pointers. I took some time to write a script and tested the functionality of the repository to ensure everything worked as planned. After this, I practiced reading my script aloud and began recording using the screencast software. ”
Finally, for the deepest level of reflection, you must assess what you would do if you had to repeat this task or something similar, what progress you have made and how your views and opinions of the task have changed. It is the deepest level of reflection. Ask yourself, what did I learn? In what way has it assisted my learning? Could I have applied this task to a situation in the past? Where could I use this knowledge in the future?
“Having completed the task, I now realised that I was worrying too much at the start. I must have confidence in my abilities. I had never used a tool like this before, but I run an institutional repository, so I have a skillset to complete these tasks and it was not too technical. I read the Thing quickly without really understanding the instructions. On reflection, if completing a similar task, I will re-read the instructions and make sure I have a clear understanding before I begin, therefore eliminating unnecessary anxiety. I also took the focus off the task on hand and tried to create a comprehensive guide to our repository in my first draft, which made the project a lot bigger than it should have been. I wasted hours trying to perfect a product when I should have been getting a feel for the software and trying out something new.  I now have a good grasp on screencasting, and have made a mini guide. I will apply the knowledge learned and attempt to make a more comprehensive guide to the repository. I feel this will be a good use of my time and will create a useful resource that I, and my institute, will be proud of. Once I have created something I am proud of, I will showcase it to my manager and perhaps share my experience in our next team meeting. I think it will reflect well on me and my manager will be impressed! ”
Photo by Cesar Astudillo

Hopefully these examples illustrate the difference between superficial reflection and deeper reflection. There is no right or wrong way to write reflectively. However, learning to write reflectively will equip you with the relevant ethical and analytical ability to augment your practical experience (Howatson-Jones, 2010). Atkins and Murphy (1994) state that the skills to write reflectively comprise: self awareness, description, critical analysis, synthesis and evaluation. As educated information professionals, we have these skills, it is just a matter of learning how to apply them effectively. 
Many practicioners believe ‘learning by doing’ is the most beneficial approach, without any need for self reflection (Edwards and Thomas, 2010). However, while learning by doing is a major component of this course, Schön, (1987) advocates for written reflection. Through reflection, emphasis is placed on learning by questioning and investigating, which leads to further understanding  (Smyth, 1992). Day (1999) recognises the link between reflection and factors such as professional health, competence and the ability to exercise professional judgement. Therefore, becoming an effective reflective writer is essential. 

Your task for thing 17:

  • Write a blog entry describing how you could use reflective practice in your library experience. 
  • Look back at your previous blog entries from 2-16 and choose one to re-write. Implement Gibbs model of reflective practice, remembering to consider the questions suggested. 

References and further reading:

Atkins, S. and Murphy, K. (1994). Reflective Practice. Nursing Standard 8(39) 49-56.
Day, C. (1999). Researching teaching through reflective practice. In J. J. Loughran (Ed.), Researching teaching: Methodologies and practices for understanding pedagogy. London: Falmer
Edwards, G. and Thomas, G. (2010) Can reflective practice be taught?, Educational Studies, 36:4, 403-414.
Howatson-Jones, L (2010). Reflecting writing. In Reflective practice in nursing. Exeter; Learning Matters p. 120-121
Kinsella, E. A. (2001). Reflections on reflective practice. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(3), 195-198.
Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books. 
Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 
Schön, D. A. (1992). The reflective turn: Case studies in and on educational practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Smyth, W. J. (1992). Teachers’ work and the politics of reflection. American Educational Research Journal, 29(2), 267-300.

Thing 17 was written by Stephanie Ronan, Information Professional at the Marine Institute, Galway. 

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