«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
Carl Jung focused on the opposite set of characteristics; his theory suggested that "the random variation in behaviour is actually quite orderly and consistent, due to basic differences in the way individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment." (Myers and McCauley (1986) as cited in Vincent and Ross (2001:39).
If we focus on this aspect of judging and perceiving can this link to our own philosophical view of the world. The sensing/intuitive typology - the sensing typology does suggest that we need to be able to touch it for it to be considered to be true, whereas the intuitive side is more open to the possibilities and able to see the bigger picture. There appears to be a strong link between our personality and how we view and move through our lives and the wider world, our philosophical perspective; although this thesis is not focused on the personalities of the social actors.
My observations through the workplace
As a senior lecturer in facilities management I have taught students across a spectrum of ages and experience. The main engagement with teaching comes through our taught courses, both undergraduate and postgraduate, which are aimed at professional people working within industry to study on a part time distance learn/part time block study basis. The average age of our facilities management students is between mid-30s to mid-50s and they come to the undergraduate programme, in the majority, with no further education qualifications (e.g. A levels) and to the MBA in FM programme they either have significant work experience at a senior level or a first degree.
Students that attend the undergraduate programme can be low in confidence in relation to learning and studying as this is a new experience; however these students, in my own viewpoint, are the ones that tend to embrace the learning and engage with reflective practice from the outset. This has been discussed by some of the interviewees in relation to their engagement with reflective practice, and the majority have mentioned a growth in confidence through the interviews. As part of the research I have students, past and present, that have been interviewed from both programmes and also have varying backgrounds, ages, and experience.
As a lecturer in this environment I am inspired by the tenacity of some of our students to engage with learning in later life. For instance, I have had a student finish the MBA just after her 60th birthday and the MBA was to prove that she could do it as she had started her working life as a cleaner and reached the role of Assistant Director of Estates within an NHS Trust.
As a method of engaging with our students, they are actively encouraged to participate in workshops, general class discussions and case studies. The different forms of delivery of theoretical knowledge over a block of study (typically 2-3 days) means their knowledge and peer learning is recognised as being of value and as Wlodkowski (1999) would suggest adults are more likely to learn and engage with learning when they feel safe and included with an understanding that their experiences and opinions matter.
When reflecting on my classroom experiences or even my dissertation supervisions, the main focus on my critical thought is on my own performance as a teacher, a peer, a colleague and a course or module leader. I feel very passionately about the wellbeing and the experience of learning for these students and I hope to understand further how we can continue to improve our delivery mechanisms in the support of their on-going journeys of self-discovery.
Developing preunderstanding from the literature
In relation to my research, there is a need to engage with literature to form a pre understanding to enable the research to be focused on specific areas but without clouding judgements or allowing for pre-conceived ideas, to keep the research true to the Hermeneutic tradition (Blaikie, 2010). I have therefore focused on defining facilities management as the social actors are all in this profession; to gain a greater understanding of the reflective practice literature including the use in teaching and research in the areas; and also selfawareness. This is by no means meant to be a complete view of the literature or an attempt to understand the themes that will be gained from my research but more of a pre understanding to offer some guidance as to the areas that I have explored through the initial information gathering for my research.
Throughout the literature I have also drawn on my own observations and reflections as part of the hermeneutic framework.
Reflective Practice In order to understand the meaning of reflective practice various definitions have been identified and will be discussed.
The word 'reflection' originates from the Latin verb 'reflectere' which means bend or turn backwards. (Fairbrother and Hibbert, 1997). This meaning corresponds with the core properties of reflection that are used in academic literature in relation to "looking back" on our experiences (Moon, 1999).
Reflective practice (although not used by that name) has been used by scholars for years; for example we could consider the idea of Aristotle's 'deliberation' as a form of reflection (Elliot, 1983). Dewey also discussed the problems in 'forming habits of reflective thought' (1933).
There are several theorists who have analysed reflective practice (Boud et al, 1985, Van Manen, 1977, Mezirow, 1981 and Schön, 1983, 1991). Some of their thoughts have been linked to philosophers such as Dewey, Habermas and Friere. However, there is little clarity between these theorists on a definition of reflective practice. Some further definitions and ideas are explored below.
Bengtsson (1995) highlights four basic aspects of reflection: reflection as selfreflection, reflection as thinking, reflection as self-understanding and the distancing function of self-reflection. This is further reiterated by Boyd and Fales (1983), who see reflective learning as an individual process and internal examining resulting in a changed conceptual perspective. According to Bolton (2010:xix) reflective practice is "paying critical attention to the practical values and theories which inform everyday actions by examining practice reflectively and reflexively. This leads to developmental insight." Bolton further explains the concepts of reflection and reflexivity alongside the concept of values.
"Reflection is an in depth consideration of events or situations: the people involved, what they experienced and how they felt about it." She also discusses that to fully engage in reflection, we have to be prepared to "relive or review the experience" and be able to "replay from diverse points of view". She continues to explain reflexivity as a way of "standing outside the self to examine, for example, how seemingly unwittingly we are involved in creating social or professional structures counter to our espoused values." By the meaning of values, she continues in explaining that these are manifested in practice. For example, "we are what we do". The recognition of the difference between our values in practice and our espoused values can be further explored through reflective practice to try to enable us to make them harmonious with each other.
The definition from Bolton in relation to the terminology used to explain reflective practice sits comfortably with me for this piece of work, and agrees with my own pre-existing knowledge and understanding in relation to reflective and reflexive practice. Osterman and Kootkamp (2004:13-14) refer to reflective practice being designed as a way to " facilitate identification, examination, and modification of the theories-in-use that shape behaviour... requiring change in deeply held action theories". This explanation identifies the active as opposed to passive engagement with this practice. It is not simply naval gazing but a way of changing our own inbuilt assumptions and behaviours.
To further explore the uses of reflective practice this thesis will continue to look at the various ways this practice is used individually and organisationally; the benefits and negative sides of reflective practice.
The next section will endeavour to explore the concept of reflective practice, in teaching and also in general management; and reflective practice in action and reflective practice on action; and recognition of areas of reflective practice research.
Reflective Practice in Teaching Reflective practice, as referred to by Bolton (2010:3) can be considered as being "a state of mind", and therefore this is something that individuals have to engage with, it is not just a tool or technique to be used at particular moments but more a way of living. Reflective practice allows us to explore and question our own values, beliefs, behaviours ideologies and assumptions not just in the workplace or in our home environment, but in everything we do. Reflective practice often leads to action or a deeper reflective exploration of 'self'.
When teaching reflective practice to, for example business students, it does need to be carefully facilitated to ensure the students do not enter a destructive or self-indulgent cycle. Smith (2001) discussed that mature leadership development students can often block reflective practice as a negative exercise and this needs to be facilitated properly to allow for a deeper understanding of what reflection is. As an anecdotal comment from one of my own facilities management (FM) students, one of them once said to me "I don't want to engage in reflective practice, I am a positive person". After further exploration about their understanding and some more detailed clarification this particular student recognised that reflection was not just about self-flagellation which allowed them to feel able to engage with the concept. There is also a danger of reflective practice becoming confession like (Bleakley, 2000); it is not just an unburdening of guilt. Fairbrother and Hibbert (1997:5) also refer to feedback from students who have studied a reflective practice module; when asked what
advice they would give to new students about to start the module they said:
"Watch where you walk some of it is thin ice.
At times the group were very irritable about reflective practice. I know I was.
Do it! Be prepared to have your ideas shaken about.
I went through a complex learning process through this (reflective practice) module and it has certainly made me look at a lot of things from a new perspective."
This reinforces the initial responses to the idea of being critically self-aware and being able to question your own values and beliefs (Moon, 1999).
The concept of reflexivity according to Cunliffe (2009) is taking reflective practice further in relation to not only understanding our practices but also how we relate with others; the creation or organisational realities of shared practice and also how we talk and use language. We can then recognise how our circumstances and relationships are considered in relation to our behaviours as opposed to merely reacting to them and this can help us to understand and revise ethical ways of being. We could also consider whether there is a difference between our values in practice and our espoused values, these being our core moral beliefs. This can be affected by our organisational values being different to our own. Bolton (2010) refers to reflexivity as an awareness of how I am experienced and perceived by others. Bolton also discussed her use of reflective and reflexive practice as a "through-the-mirror" method to allow for a combined reflexive and reflective journey.
Locating reflection in teaching practice can be evidenced back to Dewey (1933) as he considered the way of taking in new knowledge and the thought process that this can commence; he defined reflection as "active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in light of the grounds that support it and further conclusions to which it tends constitutes reflective thought" (Dewey, 1933:9). As discussed previously this still has some focus on an active as opposed to passive process. Whilst Dewey does not refer to the emotional engagement in relation to learning and reflective practice, Boud et al (1985:19) defines reflection as "a generic term for those intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to new understandings and appreciations".
Schön (1983, 1991) takes a different view in relation to epistemological knowledge in the workplace. He discusses how professionals or practitioners are expected to have the technical skills; and in facilities management terms this might include skills such as engineering. He refers to the growth in Positivist stances in relation to learning as predominantly these stances have been formed from scientific professions such as medicine and the sciences within universities in the late 19th century when positivism was predominant: he named this technical rationality. "Technical rationality is the Positivist epistemology of practice." This relates to the delivery of theory or knowledge in a controlled setting; Schön considers this to be inadequate and that the practitioner must engage in some reflective practice in order for the learning process to be complete. Thus there is a need for reality to be used as well, evidence of theory in practice. As Edwards and Thomas (2010) discussed Schön's ideas were the start of popularity in relation to professional development in the 1980s. Schön's ideas also fed into the concept of reflective practice in teaching and especially in teacher education (Day, 1999; Hadfield, 2004).
Interestingly, Edwards and Thomas (2010) raise the question whether reflective practice can be taught. Their discussion almost highlights the issues Schön had initially with technical rationality, and have stated there needs to be awareness that reflective practice is not just a skill to learn. As Dewey (1933) discussed this needs to be "lived practices" as opposed to a teacher's delivery of a skill to become more self-critical.
From my own perspective, as someone that engages with teaching reflective practice, this has given me some further consideration not only in how I teach reflective practice but also in the way the research in this area needs to be carried out. Whilst Edwards and Thomas (2010) discuss the need for the skills to be a lived practice, it is very difficult to teach this to practicing facilities managers that need to see the benefits of doing this.
Reflective Practice Skills