«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
I wanted to be able to understand how reflective practice impacts on emotional intelligence from a personal and professional perspective. Based on Goleman’s (1995) ideas there needs to be a strong sense of self to be able to understand emotional triggers and management of emotion, and from the social actors’ text this does seem to have been borne from using reflective practice to recognise their own strengths and limitations but also to challenge their personal values and beliefs. However, the research was not focusing on this area and again this could be an area for future research and exploration. As Swan and Bailey (2004) discussed there has been little discussion on the relation between emotion and reflection. Raelin (2001) discussed how emotions can be used as a source for reflection and Brookfield (1994) discusses emotion and reflection in relation to Masters level study.
A more pressing issue for me as a reflective practice lecturer is to understand how we can get the students in the classroom situation to engage openly with their strengths and be comfortable to state them. This is an issue which I have reflected upon and will be adjusting in relation to how reflective practice is taught in the classroom, one of my interviewees suggested a more lived approach in that after every study block students are asked to reflect on a workplace situation. I felt the concept had potential, as they could note down a situation and then reflect on how they could have approached this differently (limitations) or conversely recognised a situation that they felt went well (strengths). I do feel that there is an element here to help them address their strengths and perhaps this is where the difference can be made in asking students to recognise a workplace situation that went well and what skills they felt they brought to the situation to enable a positive outcome. There also needs to be further consideration of how the current delivery engages the students with reflective practice throughout the undergraduate certificate and beyond through assignments, however to encourage the lived practice, as discussed above, there needs to be more engagement in how they can use it in the workplace not just in assignments, this requires further reflection and my ideas for improving teaching of reflective practice will be discussed in the conclusion.
Using the concept of operationalising critically reflective work behaviour, van Woerkom and Croon (2008) drew on the need to create an instrument to measure critically reflective behaviour in the workplace for individual and organisational learning. Whilst I agree and can relate to their defined aspects of critically reflective work behaviour as they suggest: reflective working (Chapter 5, Theme 1); openness about mistakes (Chapter 5, Theme 3 ) asking for feedback (Chapter 5, Themes 2 and 4); experimentation (again, touched on within this area, in creating new ways of working and trying them out in chapter 5, Theme 1); critical opinion sharing (from my personal view this relates to trust and again has been explored in Chapter 5, Theme 3); challenging group think and career awareness (drawn upon within personal developments Chapter 5, Theme 4); I then found it difficult to engage with a statistical, positivist style analysis which I felt lost the voice of the interviewees and what this critically reflective behaviour actually looked and felt like, as opposed to being a percentage. However, the seven areas they have identified do link quite closely with the interpretations from my research, and by way of synthesis I aim to explore each one through this section; not as a measure but a discussion under each area.
Table 7: Operationalization of reflective practice
Adapted from van Woerkom and Croon (2008:319-321) I have explored the 7 concepts individually below, drawing on the text from the social actors, theory and my own reflections; also referring to the questions that came out of the earlier hermeneutic spirals.
Reflective Working Reflective practice seems to have had a distinct impact on the working practices of the social actors, this has led to changes in service delivery but also in the relationships within the workplace.
Openness about Mistakes This is an area that seemed to vary dependent on individuals and organisations.
There needs to be a level of trust amongst the collective and also the organisation for this to be a truly reflective learning experience. This is where I felt there was a need to focus not only on the individual which they have in their research but also on the organisation.
Asking for feedback
This was not a specific area discussed however I feel that the more self-aware individuals were, the more they are able to critique themselves and are less afraid of asking for feedback. However, as most of the social actors have drawn upon the ability to be able to address their limitations and find recognition of their strengths more difficult, then this has to be a balance of both.
Due to the type of work the facilities managers are engaged in, I felt this was a strong area in relation to engaging with new ideas; however again this comes back to organisational and individual trust as without these aspects, people are more fearful of making mistakes and therefore less likely to try something new.
Critical opinion sharing and challenging groupthink Through the discussions I felt that these linked closely together and through the conversations it felt that people were more balanced in their approach to critique current methods of working and this has led to changes within services delivery.
Career awareness I felt this evidenced the biggest learning area to the social actors, the recognition of their own personal development and also their growth in confidence and self-awareness (whilst not always comfortable) has led to significant changes in themselves which has also been recognised by their peers, managers and even their personal relationships.
I felt the model by van Woerkom and Croon (2008) gave a good understanding of the operationalization of reflective practice, however my aim was not to focus on operationalization but to understand whether there was a link between their approach and the students interviewed, I found there to be a missing in the model in relation to trust and as discussed this is an area for future research.
Whilst the model discussed being open about mistakes, and also not trying to cover up mistakes or reacting defensively, I felt the model did not address the organisational responsibility. The social actors’ identified the concept of ‘blame culture’ and perhaps by creating more reflective facilities managers and leaders this would create a change in the organisational environment.
Life Histories revisited
Revisiting the life histories and the social actors’ engagement with this research, there is a sense of greater understanding of the students as a whole. Whilst their journeys to facilities management may have differed and their roles are different, there are similarities and shared views on how they have engaged in reflective practice. The interesting notable issue was those in the public sector that felt if they did not innovate they were at risk of outsourcing. As a piece of interpretive and qualitative research, I am not attempting to generalise to the population, but it has given me some further understanding on the type of student I am addressing with reflective practice teaching and also ideas for how this could be improved. The life histories also evidenced the student’s nontraditional entry to education, their career in FM which for the most was unplanned, and for those that I interviewed a lack of belief in their own skills.
An area I need to particularly develop is their confidence building and recognition of strengths (as opposed to the focus on limitations and their academic learning) from the beginning of the course.
Reflections on the research As stated at the beginning of the thesis, I wanted to ensure I reflected on the process and my learning throughout as part of the hermeneutic process, but also on the changes in my own thoughts and shifts in understanding.
My own interpretation or understanding of how reflective practice was used was open to question. I wanted to understand whether this thing that we call reflective practice and deliver to FM students as an underpinning to our programme made any difference to our students in their 'lived worlds'. My enthusiasm and belief in the use of reflective practice very much hoped so, but did it actually matter to them? This was part of the exploration. I had to be aware of how I felt about reflective practice but in Gadamer's hermeneutics there is a recognition and declaration of yourself and how you make sense of your world, and I felt through the process I have been true to myself and the voices of the social actors.
Reflecting on the differences this can make to my practice moving forward has made me aware of how the tangible benefits need to be explained to students so they can understand the use of it from a very practical perspective. I have also subsequently shared some of the findings with students that were in on their last block of study and they expressed their interest and wished they had understood the tangibility of reflective practice more at the start of the course, as on person stated 'they would have found it easier to engage with'. I feel we have always explained it as a theoretical position whereas the reality is they need to understand 'what it can do' to truly engage.
The lessons learned have not only been in relation to the teaching of reflective practice with FM students but also more widely across the Business School and I will be drawing on my experiences to help feed in to the accreditation process and to ensure we have critical reflection embedded across the faculty.
This chapter has allowed me to explore the four themes and their subthemes through a hermeneutic analysis concluding with a more holistic view of the research, drawing on questions that have been raised as I have moved through the analysis. The chapter gave me further understanding to the initial research aims and the final spiral drew this to a final interpretation; equally allowing some further reflection on my learning. The next chapter will draw on final conclusions and also my contribution, through the research, to knowledge and practice.
Chapter 6 Conclusion and Personal Reflections
This chapter will review the aims of my research along with the theoretical concepts considered, credibility of the research, strengths and limitations, contribution to knowledge and practice, future research and my personal reflections. The aims of the research was to gain a deeper understanding on how reflective practice is used by facilities managers and also whether reflective practice benefitted individuals from a personal perspective and from an organisational/professional perspective.
Reynolds (1998:189) argues that ‘the socially situated nature of experience must be taken into account for reflection to have any meaning’ which links back to my initial discussion on my philosophical standpoint. Within my ontological and epistemological position, the impact of our a priori and personal values and beliefs can have a great impact on how we reflect. I felt the social actors were open in their interviews and that the life histories aided me to understand their subjective understanding of their worlds. The next section revisits the aims of the research and the initial research questions.
Aims of the research
As stated in chapter 1 the aims of this research was to develop a deeper understanding of how reflective practice can enhance the personal and professional practice of the facilities manager, and also to inform my practice in relation to teaching reflective practice to professionals in this field.
The two main drivers were How is reflective practice used by facilities managers?
Can reflective practice benefit individuals from a personal perspective and from an organisational/professional perspective?
By way of conclusion I have readdressed the initial questions with some concluding comments and discussion.
The first driver was to understand whether reflective practice was used by facilities managers. Reflection at the beginning of the course was, for the majority of students, something that was not considered. They felt their roles were reactive, which typically FM is, and therefore to maintain momentum on delivering the service they felt they did not have the time to stand back and try to look at their practice in a different way. However, the areas around decision making appeared to have evidenced that reflective practice has enabled them to recognise the benefits in doing so but also to realise the dangers of not engaging this skill in an ever changing workplace. Learning has to occur and to take on the critical learning they needed a mechanism or a tool to help to facilitate this and it would appear that reflection has given them this opportunity.
The second driver was to understand whether reflective practice can benefit individuals from a personal perspective and also from an organisational/professional perspective. This remains an interesting question, especially as this research has evidenced, when there is the concept of blame cultures, or ‘unsafe’ environments. To truly allow the individual and therefore the organisation to benefit there needs to be an organisational commitment to allow learning to be open and honest and clearly learning does come from making mistakes. Organisations need to take some responsibility for this, and this means that senior management, middle management and supervisors need to be encouraged to engage with their own reflective practice in the first instance so that they can understand the environment that is needed to allow learning to take place. As King and Wright (2003:102) stated ‘perspective transformations entail fundamental reframings of how individuals understand and conceptualize their worlds’. Unless managers are prepared to embrace this, then it limits the ability of the workforce to be reflective. From the research and the conversations with my social actors, I felt there was a need for them to not only be able to take time to reflect, but also the engagement with the organisation was enhanced when they felt the environment was safe and supportive.