«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
The following statement from JHe also recognises a greater belief in their own ability and since this email response she has now moved on to a more strategic role within a large organisation.
Last year I would have said that I was not ready to move into a more strategic role. I did not have the confidence to do so. Now, with my degree ½ way through and using reflection I feel more confident in my ability and will now be moving into a regional role, more strategic. (JHe – email response) There are further discussions below about confidence leading to more general personal development and an acknowledgement that not only reflection but also their learning has given them a changed view of themselves. There is an element of skill acknowledgement alongside this. I feel that I had to add that this is one of the reasons I enjoy teaching these kinds of non-traditional students, you do tend to see real differences in the way people are carrying themselves by the end of the course.
I am now more confident in myself, I can be truly honest with myself and understand that mistakes are made in life but they can be corrected if you understand why (MP- email response) I am becoming more confident and productive when getting things done, it has definitely helped me to improve (DN – email response) Reflective practices have definitely improved my personal development. I think this is mainly down to giving me more confidence and understanding of difficult situations and how to approach them in future. (CR – email response) Going back to my first reflective assignment, I feel I'm a much more confident person, and didn't realise back then just how low my confidence was… looking back I can definitely see how much I've grown as a person. My confidence is growing all the time, and there's still room for improvement, but that will come in time. (LS – email response) However, there is not a ‘cockiness’ and that the learning is complete, this felt that, from the statements above, this is the first part of the journey and they will continue to embrace the experiential workplace and potentially further academic learning. Sgt Chef’s comments below I felt were quite liberating when I had asked him if he had changed, his first comment was ‘you tell me’ and I can see a real change in him but I wanted him to express this and explore in his own words and there was a sense of real honesty in the next statement I came to uni I wouldn't have said I was confident. I was quite loud, wanted to interact, to maybe impress and get on with people and justify my point, whereas I would say now I am confident but I am confident because I actually believe and know what I am saying and understand what I am saying. So yes, I have changed, big style (Sgt Chef –face to face interview) Peggy Olsen (face to face interview) reflected on having to apply for a position with the same organisation due to a restructure, and she recognised that reflecting on her past experience that she had a great deal of knowledge in FM and also the impact on her confidence more broadly ‘So I suppose I look at myself more now, at what I do now, and I have got a bit more confidence. The process of having to reapply for your job is awful, but it does make you look back and see what you do do and what experience you have got and it is quite a confidence boost.’ Conversely, using reflective practice helped DO recognise how her last role had impacted on her level of confidence and made her realise that perhaps the doubt it had created had prevented her from career progression.
Reflection on my career to date has led me to understand that my position with my previous employer led me to have feelings of self-doubt and prevented me from moving forward. (DO – email response) Reflective Practice and Personal Development Summary This has not just been about the practical elements in relation to workplace, but also more of a soul searching journey that has led people to being in a very different place. As part of this journey, there has been a wider educational input than just reflection, but it feels like perhaps this was the tool that allowed them to reach the point of recognition and development of self (Mezirow, 1991).
The students have all been very open and honest in how they feel in relation to their confidence and I think I could have probably used quotes from every interview and email response as this is and always has been one of the key learning areas for our non-traditional students. From the day they arrive to the day they finish the certificate stage (approx. 15 months) there is such a difference in the majority of the students. Through my own philosophical position, I want to try to engage with our students and take them on a journey, as Fry et al (1999:23) discussed constructivism focuses on experiential learning and reflection and using the concept that no-one is a blank sheet we are merely giving the option to add or change pre-existing knowledge as discussed by Mezirow (1991). With adult students with great experiences but little academic theory, this is exactly the approach I have taken through my teaching engagement with them and an area that needs to be further explored in the conclusion in relation to teaching reflection to professional facilities managers through our undergraduate course.
Hermeneutic Discussion – The final spiral
On reaching the point of synthesis or the final spiral within hermeneutics, I have drawn on the ‘whole’ to try and gain some meaning from the hermeneutic journey. I acknowledge that if I revisited the text, I may find new interpretations, as may the reader as they have entered the thesis and representations of the themes and the text, as the circle is never closed and always open to new interpretation (Gadamer, 1981). This section will explore and draw on the holistic view of the research. As Crotty (1998:92) discusses the hermeneutic circle is my attempt to understand ‘the whole through grasping its parts and comprehending the meaning of the parts divining the whole’. I note that in Paterson and Higgs (2005:349) paper they have used NVivo through a hermeneutic exploration to ‘assist in managing large volumes of data and tracking the coding of key concepts’. Whilst, similarly to my approach, they used this to manage the volume, they still immersed themselves in the text to develop a deeper understanding. I felt the need to delve deeper into the narrative rather than just a coding exercise, which concurs with the approach of Paterson and Higgs (2005).
After my preunderstanding chapter 1, I also raised the following questions which I have responded to in this chapter.
Is there a question of reflective practice impacting on organisational behaviour?
Why do people engage in reflective practice, and is it due to the learning journey with us that has encouraged them to reflect more deeply on their own learning?
Do organisations need to become more open to allow true engagement in reflective practice Is there a question of reflective practice impacting on organisational behaviour?
I felt this was a substantial area of this study, in that the majority of the respondents have actually reflected on their own working practices leading to changes in behaviour. To be able to change, we first need to have a level of self-awareness, understand what makes us tick; reflective practice seemed to give them that deeper understanding but also allowed them to challenge their own behaviours, to recognise the limitations and what they could do differently.
This also linked with the discussion on blame and learning from mistakes, whilst individuals may be prepared to recognise their learning, there has to be engagement from the organisation to allow this to be a safe process, without fear of retribution.
Why do people engage in reflective practice, and is it due to the learning journey with us that has encouraged them to reflect more deeply on their own learning? The students interviewed have embraced reflection, but I do feel this is based on the journey they have been on, and the active engagement with reflection throughout, however as I have discussed in my contribution to practice in relation to teaching reflection, there are areas for development of the curriculum not necessarily just on our courses but also across the wider business and management courses across this university and wider.
I developed a paper with a colleague in relation to engagement with reflective practice which was delivered at the SPACE network conference in Barcelona in April 2014 (copy of paper attached as appendix B). This paper drew on my doctoral research and also a comparison of engagement in reflective practice from part time professional HRM students within Sheffield Hallam University.
The findings from this study suggested the issues for the HRM students were that they see reflection as too introspective and use strong narratives suggesting that "over thinking can be dangerous". The students on the part time MSc HRM are similar to the FM students, they are professionals who may have some previous experience of higher education or whom are being sponsored by their companies. Whilst they have similar work statuses they are dissimilar by not engaging in reflective practice often stating it is too time consuming or lacks purpose. An exploration of the approaches used in FM and health teaching and the literature has provided two clear areas of future focus for engaging HRM students. The initial element is on preparing the students for reflection, drawing on the approaches that we have used within the FM subject group and also from the literature in reflective practice in nursing to provide reflection as a pragmatic process and to utilise models which are tool based and can be applied practically. By delineating teaching of reflection this could help the students to engage with reflective practice in a different way, for example drawing on Zeichner and Liston (1996) who propose five different levels where reflection occurs. These are rapid reflection; repair; review; research; and retheorizing and reformulating. They are action based and less focussed on emotions and feelings.
Whilst most of the HRM students recognised the possible advantages of reflective practice as they engaged with learning, they discussed issues such as having little or no time for writing down their feelings. This can be attitudinal however it could also be a reality as they are time poor professionals (although FM students are in a similar position). A clear barrier appears to be getting students to go beyond description and towards a deeper scrutiny. Thus this may relate to a tension in teaching approaches rather than the students themselves i.e. if they perceive themselves as pragmatists then the advantages may already be limited. Thus an area for teaching to address is how we link learning to practice. Lastly a core element will be on how we approach delivery to suit specific cohorts (Bull and Taylor, 2014).
Do organisations need to become more open to allow true engagement in reflective practice? This has been the biggest learning curve for me within this doctoral journey in that as human beings we need to feel safe and therefore this concept of organisational engagement is key to allowing their staff to engage in reflection but also to feel more engaged with the organisation overall. I felt that these questions were answered through the analysis but I also, during my analysis of the themes, noted specific areas that I felt needed to be revisited during the synthesis to draw the themes together as a whole and these are discussed below.
The first concept was whether reflective practice helped people to feel more engaged with their organisation, as opposed to just personal development and on reflection I felt this was twofold. In some aspects, they were more engaged due to recognition from management and their peers in relation to their performance. Even to the point of promotion based on their perceived behavioural changes by the organisation, for example Basil Fawlty reflected on the comments made by the HR Manager and recognised that he would not be in the position he is now if he had not grown personally. However for some perhaps a growth in self-awareness through their reflections has led them to realise that the organisation does not support them or indeed has led them to doubt their abilities, as DO discussed.
Secondly, the issue of FM and innovation, this is an area that is increasingly being used in management of outsourced providers, and within the industry there needs to be more understanding on how we can encourage innovation through reflective practice. Several of the social actors have recognised a change in their service delivery, and therefore are innovating due to their changes in thinking and decision making which they have recognised as being part of their engagement with reflective practice. There is a great deal of pressure within the facilities management industry as a whole to permanently innovate the way the service is delivered and to make cost savings in the current climate.
There needs to further exploration to understand how organisations and individuals can find a balance of openness organisationally and also how the organisation can encourage reflection and improvement. There needs to be an environment that allows staff to be open and honest about mistakes and to learn from them. This is an area which following my doctoral study I would like to take forward to try to understand how organisational trust can promote and encourage the use of reflective practice in the organisation. As Reynolds and Vince (2004a:6) discussed ‘it is a social, relational and collective process as well as an individual one’ which means there needs to be a trusted environment for all of these to be able to take place.