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It is not a lower level or derogatory term but rather an indication of lifelong learning. Many work-based learners discover that, as learner workers, they are already using critical reflection in an intuitive way without realising and this can be very empowering for them as it provides a strong starting point to enhance this skills-set. Teaching reflective skills in academia has steadily grown in importance Schon, ; Schunk and Zimmerman, , from strong beginnings in professions such as nursing it became more apparent how useful the practice was for work-based leaners generally.

Teaching reflective skills is beginning to appear across the curriculum, with many different kinds of students being asked to compile reflective essays, reports, journals, logs, diaries, or portfolios as part of their assignments in UK universities Helyer and Kay, Established WBL programmes such as those mentioned above have long included active reflection within the core modules; learners might typically compile a series of short narrative statements , words in which they purposefully reflect upon their learning processes during different work and study activities.

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These activities will facilitate the development of reflective practitioners who can share their critical reflections and analysis, together with their higher-level ideas, with their work colleagues. Innovative practice in this area can be seen, amongst others, at Plymouth University, UK — www. Instructions given to students to help them to reflect on what they have done and learned, and on how they intend to build on that learning, often include illustrations of a circular format based on the work of Kolb and Gibbs This means that feelings and senses are used as well as thought processes.

Furthermore, attention is given to thinking about information, but also doing something with the information. Reflection is therefore not passive but leads to active experimentation, creativity and progression. Kolb suggests that reflective observation transforms concrete experiences into learning experiences.

Multiprofessional teams, reflection and the learning organisation

The cycle is continuous and can be joined at any stage. Reflection is more iterative and messy than a neat circle suggests. Gibbs further developed the idea of a reflective cycle to encourage learners to systematically think about the phases of an experience or activity. One of the most important things that tutors of work-based learners can do is develop good listening skills. They need to listen and also to respond appropriately. This response might include prompts and encouragement rather than instructions. There is no point forcing ideas, plans and priorities on a work-based student, who knows their own workplace better than you do.

This will mean that the tutor in turn will need to develop their own teaching methods to include knowing how to tease out important information from their students. These facets need to be thought about, discussed and worked on in order to make future enhancements, via planned actions. Merely learning about theory and then attempting to apply it afterwards is increasingly criticized Schon, Theory should be used and interrogated, in order to transform and enliven it.

When experience, learning, theory and practice are merged there is a far greater potential for innovation than viewing any of the aspects separately. Gray , p. The results are worth the tutor walking their delicate tightrope between provoking students into thinking, looking back and being critical, whilst supporting, encouraging and guiding rather than telling. The traditional notion of knowledge as being finite and capable of being owned or held by one party and passed on to another is increasingly challenged Freire, Students do not come to university as empty buckets waiting to be filled up with what the lecturer knows already.

Guidance might include such tips: reflect strategically on where you have learned through past experiences;.

Critical Thinking in Social Work - Mike Weyers

However, what experienced work-based learning tutors try to do, as the core to their interaction with work-based students, is acknowledge what has been, is being and will be learned by employed students. Teaching innovations such as massive open online courses and flipping the classroom Bergman and Sams, equally play with the order of learning and prove that the order of learning and the location of knowledge are flexible and changeable.


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Despite some employees having vast knowledge and expertise they can start to feel insecure about being on a university course but not being 18, with the usual academic entry requirements. Students never enrol to look back; they want to move forwards towards a qualification. As Cox , p. It is all too easy for students to feel that tutors and peers are judging them, and perhaps trying to alter and amend their practice for less than altruistic motives; the spirit of reciprocity must be highlighted. People instinctively reflect on events, perhaps to better understand what has happened and make sense of it; the idea of learning from the past, especially trying not to repeat mistakes is well established.

It is possible to reflect on what is happening in the present moment, within the context of thoughts and feelings as they occur. There are some overlaps here with the principles of mindfulness that may be worth exploring. One of the main reasons for sharpening reflective skills is that it is these skills that enable intelligent and informed analysis of how our other skills are doing. Without some honest reflection, how would anybody know that they needed to polish, for example, their time management or organisational skills? Other than noticing that things frequently seem to be going badly.

By consciously focusing automatic reflection into a structured response its usefulness is maximized, encouraging the reflector to become a reflective and self-aware person. This means looking both backwards and forwards and sometimes sideways to make connections with current undertakings. This kind of evaluation can feel fragmented and disjointed, this is normal; the process is utilizing the knowledge which lies deep within tacit knowledge — so deep it is often taken for granted and not explicitly acknowledged, but it is the data humans use to make instinctive decisions based upon accumulated knowledge from past actions and experience.

Eraut discusses the subtle nuances between the tacit, that which is implicitly acknowledged and referred to, rather than that which is explicitly pointed out. Because reflection is a vital part of personal development, HE WBL programmes encourage learners to be actively and analytically reflective. Reflection begins almost as soon as we are born and has always, even if subliminally, influenced how we view ourselves and define our identities and profile.

Rather than the disjointed arms and legs we look down upon as a small baby, we begin to consider ourselves as a complete entity. Reflection is closely tied to how we view ourselves both physically and mentally. By actively considering our thoughts and actions we become aware of the power of reflective thinking as a tool for continuous improvement and this obviously has implications beyond the personal.

If used effectively and purposefully, reflection facilitates ongoing personal and professional learning; developing and creating practitioners capable of demonstrating their progression towards learning outcomes and required standards, whilst also providing a structure in which to make sense of their learning, so concepts and theories become embedded in practice, whilst constant thought and innovation are simultaneously fostered for improvements to take place in a continuous cycle of enhancement Helyer, Try this exercise — think of a time when an experience and its outcomes have had an effect on your actions — this will happen all of the time but we do not always acknowledge the process.

This means that it is often hard to track back where that learning came from, and you may even struggle to remember when you did not know how to do a certain thing. This gradual learning means you do develop skills — but you do not always give yourself credit for them or acknowledge when and where you use them or when they might need polishing. Complete the grid below with a situation or happening — it might be from work, study or your personal life.

What was the outcome? Was it deemed a success?


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Did you learn anything? Did you change your methods and thoughts because of your evaluation of your experience? Questioning and considering our learning experiences is an extremely powerful way to develop future strategies, approaches and tactics in order to build skills to tackle future similar situations, as well as further enhancing the skills which made you successful on this occasion.

Exercises like this are designed to make you think critically about past actions, within the context of what is happening in the present and what may happen in the future. Structuring a reflective response to an event embeds good practice for future continuous professional and personal development activities.

Developing an ongoing ethos of reflection means that an individual begins to automatically challenge and question why tasks were undertaken in a certain way rather than how they were carried out, and furthermore they will become accomplished at recognizing that they are learning and building skills continuously; it is not a standalone process.

Employers have much to gain from encouraging staff to actively reflect on their work practices, as Cox , p. Barnett describes the traditional view of HE where critical thinking and all things cerebral are championed and prioritized. This concept can be applied to all professions and work activities, as it allows for individual complexities and characteristics.

Whilst reflective practice can be a solitary pastime, peers have a definite role to play in helping and supporting each other. Mentors can become inspirational role models. Within such groups and networks students can explore issues arising from reflective practice with their peers and utilize debate and discussion in a safe and supportive environment. This can be helpful when the reflection prompted by what is happening at work is contradictory, or becoming too challenging and rather than empowering the work-based learner, it is worrying them.

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Having a supportive group to discuss this with can make all the difference. The ethos of action learning Revans, includes this idea and claims that support and insightful questioning from peers can help the worker to move beyond what seems like a blockage, to constructive and active reflection. This is particularly helpful if a learner feels they cannot discuss what is bothering them with colleagues at work.

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They can feel secure in a non-judgemental CoP where they are all operating confidentially. One of the other major benefits of taking part in such CoP is that a great deal of learning occurs socially with other people and whilst much reflective practice can be undertaken alone it is more productive to share the learning outcomes of it with others — the learning might have happened already — via experience at work — but it can come to life and be given meaning through sharing it with others who use and adapt it.

Such sharing also allows for different cultural and professional translations to enrich and transform the learning, taking it to many different and new levels Smith and Smith, The jobs market is changing, and will continue to change. This is due to many variables, some of which have been discussed above. They include a fast-moving technological world, a global recession and many more graduates from higher education. In the UK participation rates for individuals up to the age of 30, have risen from 12 per cent in to 30 per cent in the early s, 39 per cent by and 49 per cent in Parliament briefing papers, Graduate job applications have increased by between 9 and 25 per cent High Fliers, , p.

Such constraints upon employment mean that employers expect more from each employee that in turn has an effect on how much an individual can afford to specialize. The modern workforce requires adaptable all-rounders, with an entrepreneurial attitude, who are willing to continuously learn. This kind of employee is likely to view change as an interesting opportunity rather than a negative or frightening occurrence. Being reflective enables practitioners to change in action, in the present moment, fully utilising observations, articulations and theorisation to strategically transform and re-conceptualize practice.

Source: Helyer and Kay Barnett, R.

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Leadership Support of Supervision in Social Wor – Canadian Social Work Review – Érudit

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