«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
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 and names 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.
3.3 Reflective Practice Skills The skills associated with being able to be reflective don't appear to be directly discussed in the literature, however, Boud et al (1985) recognise the importance of open mindedness and motivation and whilst these are not necessarily skills to be learned they are prerequisites for reflective practice (Atkins and Murphy, 1993). Atkins and Murphy (1993:1190) continue to state that "self-awareness, an analysis of feelings and knowledge, and the development of a new perspective" are crucial to reflection. They suggest that these could be
considered as the following skills:
Self-awareness: an ability to able to analyse our own feelings Description: accurate recollection of events Critical analysis: including challenging own assumptions and existing knowledge Synthesis: integration of existing and new knowledge Evaluation: As Bloom et al (1956) state this is making judgements about the value of something.
The above list links to the requirements outlined in the MSc HRM CIPD requirements and are linked closely to Bloom's taxonomy (1956). The authors concur with Mezirow (1981) that both synthesis and evaluation are crucial to developing new perspectives. Kolb's (1984) four stage cycle of learning also allows further consideration for reflection in our learning process. However, whilst Kolb's iterative model states the ideas of having a concrete experience;
observing, reviewing and reflecting on that experience; linking ideas to previous experience; and then planning and deciding on future actions; the impact of the reflection does not seem to be engaged with in depth. It does appear to be more of a review of the experience rather than a true deep critical reflection.
Again, as with Bloom's model, they both have their value and place in understanding our learning but both are limited as discussed above.
3.4 Reflective Practice in Teaching HRM The formative feedback from students at SHU suggests they perceive reflective practice of little practical use; as Fook, White and Gardner (2006) highlight this raises concerns over a simplification in teaching of genuine reflective practice.
The following documentary evidence taken from the portfolio submissions in 2013 highlights the significance for this research.
Student A: I am by no means a fully functioning reflective practitioner as it takes time, firstly to get used to the idea of what it actually is and what processes can be used. I need to find something that is quick and punchy; I don’t have the time or the inclination to keep a journal and flittered around the idea of a diary….
neither one has stuck…. my role is task focused and not strategic so the benefits of reflection are unidentifiable… I see this as something that is more useful as you move up the promotion ladder.
Student B: My opinion of reflective practice is somewhat divided… I dislike keeping a journal and find it too time consuming to build into my daily routine.. I also over analyse thoughts which at the time made me paranoid… I can see this tool can become dangerous if constantly applied to this high level of reflection. Part of me does still feel like I am doing this just because I’ve got to do this as part of the course. I do appreciate the benefits and at points it has helped me but this is the underlying thought mechanism This highlights the mixed levels of engagement and provides the impetus to rethink pedagogical approaches. In order to address this further, the next sections will focus on how reflective practice is used in FM and nursing.
3.5 Reflective Practice teaching in Facilities Management The research has focused on the teaching practice in the FM discipline defined by the British Institute for Facilities Management (2014) as “Facilities management is the integration of processes within an organisation to maintain and develop the agreed services which support and improve the effectiveness of its primary activities”.
Williams (2003) would argue that FM was a non-core service along with other support services such as HRM. They are not perceived to be the main organisational purpose, however after staff costs, generally an organisation's second highest cost is their estate, assets and the management of those. This suggests there needs to be professional strategic thinking and a joined up approach to deliver an estate that enables the business to deliver, often termed as "fit for purpose". No longer should the Facilities Manager be viewed as the caretaker but more, as Tranfield and Aklagahi (1995:7) stated, as "A combined people, process and place manager capable of tuning into overall objectives to plan and deliver an environment conducive to successful work in any organisation".
The above section clarifies the focus of facilities management; however there needs to be some consideration as to why reflective practice can benefit the facilities manager. Research carried out by Bull and Ellison (2009) focused on two cohorts of professional students on the Undergraduate Certificate in Facilities Management within Sheffield Hallam University. One of the questions specifically used within the focus groups asked "How useful did the students find reflective practice?" Some of the responses included: “I think for me it is the bigger picture, being able to think a little bit more strategically. Whereas opposed to just being reactive in your day to day duties, you’re looking at the bigger picture and it’s starting to open your mind a little bit as to why I do this, as to why we’re looking [in] that direction. That’s how it works for me at the moment” (participant A). “What surprised me is how my reflection changed over time, when I read that one I’d written, because I wrote it as soon as I left here to get my first thoughts and feelings out, but I did it again in two weeks and couldn’t believe the difference” (participant B).
This gives evidence that once students have been engaged with reflective practice for some time they begin to recognise the benefits and can evidence the changes to their personal practice in the workplace.
3.6 Reflective Practice in Nursing It is important to note that reflective practice is routinely considered an important developmental area for clinical approaches used in nursing. Studies on health practitioners show nurses who utilise reflection as part of their practice provide better nursing care and have a greater understanding of their actions, thus developing their professional skills (Hansebo & Kihlgren, 2001). Chong (2009) iterates this point stating that nursing students perceive reflective practice as playing a major role in applying theory into nursing practice. Most studies in nursing suggest reflection is a meaningful activity area. Gustadsson & Fagerberg (2001) suggest reflection is a tool that promotes courage. When used it meets the unique needs of the patient and empowers the nurse. This is important as Mantzokas & Jasper (2004) in their interpretive study concluded that nurses felt reflection was of limited value due to the minimal power they had to initiate change. This echoes the views of SHU HRM students who anecdotally suggest they are limited by the organisation often feeling powerless to make or challenge changes.
3.7 Reflective Practice Research There appears to be a growing need to rationalise reflective practice and the individual and organisational benefits that can be gained from this (Cornford, 2006). Cornford discusses the need for improved empirical evidence, however Gore (1987) would argue that quantitative measures cannot be used to measure reflective teaching outcomes. However, Tom and Valli (1990) would counter argue that there is a need to evidence that for example in teaching there needs to be a mixed methods approach in order to be able to evidence that goals have been achieved. Korthagen and Wubbels (1991) carried out research in an attempt to operationalise concepts of reflection in relation to the characteristics of a reflective practitioner. Their research focused on education students within Utrecht University. They used four studies to attempt to operationalise their concepts; the first study was a questionnaire to students and graduates and then interviews with 10 of the respondents; the second a longitudinal study that followed 18 students, and this took more of a qualitative approach using interviews and video recordings; the third study involved questionnaires and the fourth study compared students from this particular course with graduates from another. Their findings, using these mixed methods approaches, highlighted the attributes of reflective practice teachers, but they still concluded that whilst there was an element of building blocks towards creating a theory and they also believed that there needed to be more sound empirical evidence to "leave behind the realm of vague notions and beliefs about the benefits of reflective teaching" (Korthagen and Wubbels, 1991:19).
Brown and McCartney (1995) demonstrate the effective use of reflective writing as a way of evaluating the effectiveness of a course but Askham (2004) recognised the issues with the approach of using reflective portfolios as any form of data in research as students, being aware that the portfolio is marked, will be aiming to deliver what they perceive the teacher wishes to see. Bull (2014) has recognised from their own engagement with reflective portfolios that the majority appear to be open and honest reflections on their learning journeys and the implications to their practice.
Friedman (2004) found that there was a link between formal education and improvement in the use of reflective practice, but also indicated that several personality traits were also relative to this engagement. Their research involved a personality traits test and subsequent interviews; a more mixed methods approach. They recognised that there were limitations to this research as it was a small sample based on female students In learning organisations, reflection is often encouraged and van Woerkom and Croon (2008) focused their research on how we can operationalise the outcomes of using reflection within the workplace. There does appear to be limited research in relation to the outcomes of using reflective practice as identified above, and for van Woerkom and Croon (2008:319-321) they have attempted to do this using a literature review and a survey. Their key aspects following their literature review in relation to reflective work behaviour are reflective working; openness about mistakes; asking for feedback;
experimentation; critical opinion sharing; challenging group think; and career awareness. These seven aspects were then explored using a survey approach, and quantitative data. From the authors’ perspective, to have entered into statistical data in relation to reflective practice can be limited in relation to the subjective experiences of reflective practice and again the concept of "operationalising" refers back to Schön's (1983, 1991) technical rationality.
Research in this area tends to be focused on action research or interviews in relation to reflective practice and personal learning or more quantitative approaches when trying to operationalise the benefits of reflective practice (van Woerkom and Croon, 2008 and Korthagen and Wubbels, 1991).
The methodology used in relation to reflective practice varies and this appears to be based on philosophical stances, and also whether there is a need to quantify the results in the form of empirical evidence.