Reflective practice is a means of developing self-awareness relating to performance and behavioural change, enabling growth and development (Osterman 1993). For most, reflexive practice is a skill that has to be learnt. There are various theories and models that analyse reflexive practice.

Experiential learning (e.g. Piaget) is the theory relating to reflexive practice, focusing on the processes and context of learning (Osterman 1993). Learning begins with problematic experience. Learning is most effective when people become engaged in the process, it is relevant to their needs, they are motivated to learn and collaboratively involved in the process (Osterman 1993). learning is a cyclic process, involving “experience, observation and reflection, abstract reconceptualization, and experimentation” (Kolb, 1984: Osterman 1993). However, many have criticized the models for not clearly defining concepts so can be interpreted in different ways (Orey 2016), which has produce a number of theories, which do not fit together under this model. It also does not account for the effects of non-reflective experience or shared experiences on the learning process

In reflexive practice it is hard to determine who the tutor is, groups engage in discussion. The teacher’s role is to instruct, advise, participate in discussion and listen. Learners are active participants in the learning process (Osterman 1993).

Models of reflection include

  • Gibbs (1988) reflective cycle is a six stage cyclic process (University of Cumbria no date)
    • description of the situation,
    • analysis of feelings/ emotions
    • evaluation of how it went
    • analysis and make sense of the situation
    • conclusion i.e. could have done any more and what learnt
    • Action plan and how to improve next time
  • Johns (2000) Model for structured Reflection is a guided analysis for more complex decision making and analysis in conjunction with a supervisor. Learning occurs through structured diaries which are then shared with others. This he proposes is more beneficial than individual reflection. There are 5 processes to achieving behavioural change: aesthetics, personal, ethics, empirics and reflexivity (hants.gov no date).
  • Schön developed a reflection in action and reflection on action model (Bradford University no date). Reflection in action assesses the processes, decisions made and feelings during the experience. Reflection on action reflects after the event and any new information available such as theoretical perspectives and how that impacts on processes, feelings and actions.

Models of self-reflective practice include

  • Peters (1991: Brainboxx no date) DATA model. His consists of 4 stages
    • Describe – looking at the training and assessing what needs to be changed and why
    • Analyse – the results and effectiveness of training from various sources
    • Theorize- alternative ways of delivering the training which are more effective
    • Act – trial new approaches
  • Brookfield’s (1995: Brainboxx no date) 4 critical lenses to reflect on practice. These lenses include
    • Autobiography or personal views – Brookfield states this is the most important evaluation tool
    • Learners views this gauge’s people motivation to learn and participate in the course, results can then be applied to improve the content of the course
    • Views of colleagues
    • Theoretical perspectives

Effective reflection requires a high level of objectivity, however, it is impossible to completely to suspend our beliefs and values and ignore the dominant ideological context and cultural beliefs (Finlay 2008). Another criticism is that this model cannot be applied to other cultures (Sung-Chan et al (2006: Finlay 2008) highlighted how this model was incompatible with Chinese values. Most tutors have significant time pressures placed upon them, so it may be impossible to allocate sufficient time to teach and nurture self-reflection. The effectiveness of this model is also dependent on the value this method had by the organisation and the tutor themselves.

Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model (1994) analyses the effectiveness of the impact of training for future improvements (MindTools 2016). The 4 levels are

  • reaction – measures how learners reacted to the training, including assessment of the venue, to gauge how well it was received and how it can be improved. This is typically assessed through satisfaction and feedback surveys
  • learning – measure what learners have learnt and whether this matches the specific learning objectives of the course. To accurately assess the level of learning it is advisable to complete an assessment before and after the training.
  • behaviour – the extent that the training has changed behaviours, and how learners apply what they have learnt. This is usually conducted a considerable time after the training has occurred. But it is important to take into consideration that even if behaviours don’t change that learners still may have learnt from the training
  • results – analysis of final outcomes of the training. This however can be costly and time consuming

Kirkpatrick’s model can be very costly and time consuming and cannot be applied in all situations (MindTools 2016). Also the results of satisfaction surveys are not always accurate, many learners just tick yes fine, as they see it as a chore – so the results obtained are usually not accurate. Kirkpatrick’s model would not be an effective measurement of evaluation in our context, as many of our learners are transient in nature and assessment over time is not possible

Assessment Methods can either be

  • Quantitative use numeric data for assessment and can include large numbers of information that enable generalizations to be made relating to learning outcomes and evaluate the programme’s effectiveness (Stanford University no date). Assessments include structured interviews, questionnaires, and tests. Tests can be either created on a national level or institutional level to assess specific learners needs. However, this research does not enable a holistic picture to develop
  • Qualitative provide richer more holistic information relating to the learner’s journey. Focus is on how learners create meaning and experience the world (Stanford University no date). However, data takes a long time to collect and analyse, has a narrow scope and is not generalizable. Assessments can include interviews, focus groups, portfolios, self-reflection and observations.

It is preferable to adopt both qualitative and quantitative methods to the reflection process.


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