It’s easy to get swept along in the hustle and bustle and the hum-drum work-a-day life. The constant flow of work emails and phone calls, running from one meeting to the next, information going in one ear and out the other, you feel like you’ve run out of hours in the day before you’ve even begun! However, all the things you do at work, although might not feel like it at the time, have a purpose, and result in a solution that provides information that can help others!
So let’s take a step back and breath!
Let’s start with a little activity: go and make a cup of tea and ask yourself:
‘when was the last time I sat down and actually reflected on my work?’
It may sound like a silly question, but I bet most of you don’t actively reflect on your daily work life – things that you’ve achieved, things that didn’t go so well, new things you’ve learnt, ways you’ve helped people, provided new ways of doing things, seen or read something interesting that could help your team or section, events and conferences you’ve attended – there will always be something that you or your peers can learn from.
Can you think of any examples? If so, jot them down.
By sharing these experiences that we don’t always think are significant, we could aid others to learn and develop new skills and improve communication within a team/section and organisation.
The importance of reflection
Reflecting helps you to develop your skills and review their effectiveness, rather than just carry on doing things as you have always done them. It is about questioning, in a positive way, what you do and why you do it and then deciding whether there is a better, or more efficient, way of doing it in the future. By reflecting on a regular basis, it soon becomes habit and can be incorporated in your daily working life.
Reflection is an important part of learning and we encourage our students to actively self reflect – so why aren’t we?
The Open University explain the importance of reflection as:
‘You wouldn’t use a recipe a second time around if the dish didn’t work the first time would you? You would either adjust the recipe or find a new and, hopefully, better one. When we learn we can become stuck in a routine that may not be working effectively. Thinking about your own skills can help you identify changes you might need to make.’ 
This in turn helps you develop within your role and learn from your experiences. So how can we learn from our experiences and evolve by reflecting?
Putting reflective writing into practice
By regularly self reflecting and keeping a record of our experiences through writing we can put what we have learnt through reflection into practice. Reflective writing includes both analysis, description and helps clarify your thoughts, particularly important aspects and identifies areas where you need more support and can help work out strategies for problem solving. It can help you to personalise and contextualise your own learning experience.
The way you respond to situations, opinions, events or new information can aid in exploring your learning and achieve clarity and understanding of what you are learning. Blogging and online journals are a great way of keeping a record of your experiences and practicing reflective writing on a regular basis.
The benefits of reflective writing
It can be difficult when you’re busy to find time to reflect, but by doing so you’re learning an important skill. You’ll not only improve your writing skills, but you’ll increase you’ll self-awareness and develop a better understanding of others. Reflective writing can help you to develop creative thinking skills and encourages active engagement in work processes.
Did you know reflective learners share the following common characteristics:
- Very motivated – know what they are trying to achieve and why.
- Proactive in expanding their understanding of new ideas and topics.
- Use their existing knowledge to develop their comprehension of new ideas.
- Understand new concepts by aligning and comparing them to their life experiences.
- Accept and understand that research and extensive reading will improve their comprehension and add value to their writing.
- By evaluating of their previous learning experiences, they will develop their future learning and thinking.
- Become self-aware and are clearly able to identify, explain, and leverage their strengths and work on their weaknesses
Learning by doing – Reflective learning cycle – the theory bit!
Graham Gibbs’ (1988) Reflective Learning Cycle was developed to give structure to learning from experiences. It offers a framework for examining experiences, and given its cyclic nature lends itself particularly well to repeated experiences, allowing you to learn and plan from things that either went well or didn’t go well. It covers 6 stages:
- Description of the experience
- Feelings and thoughts about the experience
- Evaluation of the experience, both good and bad
- Analysis to make sense of the situation
- Conclusion about what you learned and what you could have done differently
- Action plan for how you would deal with similar situations in the future, or general changes you might find appropriate.
Carol Dweck (2007) takes this a step further by looking at the growth mindset – which reinforces the idea that everyone can learn and learn most things well. Reflection can help you to fulfil your potential by believing you can improve.
‘In practice reflective learning allows students to step back from their regular learning methodology and develop critical thinking skills to enhance their future performance by analyzing and reviewing their learning experiences – both the content of what they have learnt and the emotions, if any, attached to the learning content.’ 
Carol Dweck – growth mindset https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve#t-353
How we are ‘Learning by doing’ – Tel Tales and the Tel Team
Tel Tales is an example of reflective writing in practice, it’s a community of practice, where we regularly share our experiences, ideas, failures and learning through blogging. It can often feel difficult and challenging as a form of self reflection and academic writing as it does involve writing about our errors and anxieties just as well as our successes. It’s often hard to find the time to stand back and reflect but it’s also crucial for us in developing and evolving as individuals and as a team within the current university climate.
Reflection is an important skill in learning and developing one’s self and helps us to personalise and conceptualise our own experiences. Collaboratively, it’s a great way to share our experiences whether bad or good, and develop as a team whilst raising our profile and improving our writing and critical thinking skills.
We are always looking for guest bloggers, so if you would like to contribute to our blog and did have time to have that cuppa and reflect, then please get in touch with me and share your ideas!
Using Blogs to Enhance Critical Reflection and Community of Practice https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4c24/86837c8ee3bc4a52b925143cb20d5cdd45a9.pdf
 The Open University, 2019: http://www.open.ac.uk/choose/unison/develop/my-skills/self-reflection 2019.
 Li-ling Ooi, www.colourmylearning.com, 2019:https://www.colourmylearning.com/2017/11/collaborative-blogging-as-a-reflective-learning-tool/ – Gibbs’ Reflective Learning Cycle.