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Reflective Practice – creating learning from evaluation

In this step you will learn how to surface deeper, richer learning outcomes from your evaluation though the process of reflective practice.

In this step you will learn how to surface deeper, richer learning outcomes from your evaluation though the process of reflective practice.

What is reflective practice?

A circular flow model explaining What is reflective practice. Full description linked below

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Reflective practice enables you to understand a process or event in depth, extract all the relevant information about what did and didn’t go well, and then explore more deeply what you could do in the future to improve outcomes.

It is a cyclical process where the end of one phase of reflection leads to the beginning of the next cycle, embedding continual, iterative learning into your practice.

This model was created by Terry Borton as a group facilitation technique in the 1970s before it was popularised as a reflective tool for clinical healthcare practitioners in the 1980s. It is a simple and effective reflective technique, a continuous cycle of experiencing, reflecting and learning.

Borton’s What? So What? Now What? approach involves: 

  • asking ‘what’ happened by describing the facts of an event; 
  • ‘so what’ by analysing, sense-making, and drawing insights from the event;
  • and ‘now what’ by applying your lessons for effective next steps.

What does reflective practice look like?

Reflective practice at its best is a structured process that involves answering a series of questions that take you from the past (what happened?), to the present (what do I make of this?) to the future (how does this inform my next steps?).

Reflecting in this way will provide valuable insights into what needs to change and can inspire new ideas you can experiment with.

The temptation might be to conduct reflective practice on your own as this is the easiest way to ‘get it done’. However, this comes with risks because it can be difficult to remain completely objective and you may find yourself succumbing to subjective and professional bias.

Consider instead incorporating the views of key players in the ‘story’ – colleagues, partners, stakeholders, audiences and participants. Bringing together these multiple perspectives can throw light onto blind spots in your own understanding of what happened. It can also bring richer analysis and a deeper, more holistic approach to learning.

Here, you will find a series of questions that you might find useful when engaging in critical reflection. The structure is based on the Borton model in the image above.

What?

This is where you describe the actions you took and what subsequently happened. Focus on the relevant elements only and try to avoid unnecessary detail.

  • What was the context for the event/activity?
  • What was I/were we trying to achieve?
  • What was my/our role?
  • What actions did I/we take?
  • What did I/we base those actions on?
  • What happened?
  • What went well/badly?
  • How do I/we know this?
  • What unintended consequences emerged?
  • What elements did I/we find challenging/stimulating?

So what?

Here, you analyse your answers to the questions above. This will provide you with the insights to make improvements for future actions.

  • So what questions am I/are we asking myself/ourselves as a result?
  • So what does this say about my/our role or the involvement of others?
  • So what does it say about the model I/we used or the decisions I/we took?
  • So what conclusions can I/we draw?
  • So what could I/we have done better or differently?

Now what?

This is where you explore how you will use this new insight and knowledge to inform future practice.

  • Now what are the most important things I/we have learnt?
  • Now what will I/we do to apply those learnings?
  • Now what broader issues need to be considered for future action to be successful?
  • Now what might the consequences of taking these actions be?
  • Now what kind of risk mitigation could be put in place?

Once you have answers to all the relevant questions, it’s time to explore which ideas, approaches or solutions have the most potential and then find ways of introducing them into future practice. Implementation sets you on a course for your next cycle of evaluation, and in this way, you continue to iterate and improve.

We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”John Dewey

What are the benefits of reflective practice?

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Share and discuss

  • In what ways does your organisation already engage in reflective practice?
  • To what degree is it embedded and cyclical?
  • Where is the potential to embed it further?
  • What specific challenges might you encounter to achieve this?
  • How might you overcome them?
Share and discuss your thoughts with other learners in the Comments section. Try to respond to at least two other posts made by other learners to help explore their challenges.
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