Reflection Might Be Easier Than You Think

20 February 2018      Sophie Harris, Deputy Director of Human Resources

Sophie Harris, Deputy Director of HR at SOAS, discusses the benefits of reflecting on your working practice.

I don’t know how it was for you, but from my perspective last term seemed to be particularly full on! Just as I thought there might be an opportunity to draw breath, something new, and bigger, jumped in my path.

While all this was going on, I was keenly trying to carve out corners of my days to dedicate to study for SOAS’s new online leadership development programme.

Image credit: SOAS

Somewhat counter-intuitively, I found that being under pressure at work while studying on the course was surprisingly constructive in terms of my development. The first module focused on ‘leading the self’ and taught me some useful lessons in critical reflection. This in turn has helped me to analyse the way I work and my decision-making and (I think!) improved the quality of my approach.

I have always reflected a lot on my work, my approach, and how I interact with colleagues. But I have never previously written this down.

Interestingly, I have kept a personal diary for many years, but have avoided writing down anything that could be described as a critical reflection. Committing the more tricky things to paper somehow makes them much more real, and avoiding them can then be very difficult!

The reason I have found critical reflective practice particular accessible is because, to start with, all you have to do is write down what happened in any given situation in a factual way. It's only later that you revisit your writing:

Stage 1: Factual account of any situation.

Stage 2: The ‘so what?’ This involves coming back to your original writing and providing some analysis from a distance

Stage 3: The 'now what?' This involves coming up with clear learning plans or outcomes.

Initially, I was apprehensive about the reflective aspects of the practice. My thinking was, 'If I had the answer to those questions then I'd have done something about the issue already!'

Nonetheless, I've found that it's actually really easy to comment on something that you have written previously, because you can almost approach it as a third party or impartial commentator.

I’m sure that most of us have been in situations where something hasn’t gone as well as we might have liked:

  •      an interaction with a colleague,
  •      the way we dealt with an email,
  •      a discussion we have led,
  •      a session we have organised
  •      or a presentation we have given that didn’t quite go to plan.

It’s often tempting to push the offending episode to the back of your mind and hope things go better next time.

But it’s the feelings and thoughts from these experiences that helps us to tackle future situations more effectively.

I recently read an article from the time management section of the course. It recommended approaching really big and onerous tasks by just throwing yourself in and doing a little bit of it, say ten minutes, and then stopping and coming back to it later. I find the same with critical reflective practice. You can just dip in and make a few comments, and then run away and ignore it again!

Over time, you can reflect really deeply on something, making sense of the complexities and frictions that we encounter day-to-day and enabling more mindful decision-making.

I’ve adopted critical reflective practice as an integral part of my work. Maybe it could work for you too!

Read more

This site uses cookies and other tracking technologies to assist with navigation and your ability to provide feedback, analyse your use of the site and services and assist with our member communication efforts. Privacy Policy. Accept cookies Cookie Settings