«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
4.0 Methodology The paper presents research which took place at Sheffield Hallam University Business School. The first element was to conduct a literature review enabling some discussion and recommendations in relation to the delivery of reflective practice across business related courses. The second element drew on observations from teaching the part time HRM students on the MSc HRM, and the third element draws upon the doctoral research of Bull (2014), which examines responses of professional students that have completed an undergraduate programme in Facilities Management (FM). These students are mature professionals and the course is delivered via a blended style of block teaching and distance learning.
The unstructured interviews were held with past students either face to face or via the telephone and were recorded and then transcribed. The interviews included an exploration of the individual's background and their current roles in FM. Following the understanding of the individuals as people there was further discussion on their use of reflective practice in the workplace post the course, and also whether they felt there were any benefits to learning how to use reflective practice. A simple discourse analysis was performed on the narrative in order to identify key themes and trends.
4.1 Teaching Reflective Practice in HRM at SHU The teaching of reflective practice is situated on the part time MSc HRM as part of the “Developing skills for Business Leadership” module. The sessions are ad hoc throughout the duration of their course. The module is assessed at two stages in the module. This comprises of a 2500 word paper based upon 3 required portfolio entries. This is formatively assessed and not graded. This enables tutors to provide feedback on progress. The core task is the final portfolio comprising of 7 learning outcomes, a core requirement for the CIPD.
The portfolio entries are:Demonstrate through practice the skills to manage themselves and interpersonal relationships in a professional context;
2. Develop the ability to solve problems and make decisions based on sound judgements grounded in practical experience and theory;
3. Critically evaluate and apply the research and theory in the field of reflective / reflexive practice and continuous professional development;
4. Demonstrate the capability to manage and interpret financial resources and information technology;
5. Apply effective leadership and team working skills in the management of people;
6. Demonstrate competence in postgraduate study skills;
7. Act ethically with a demonstrated commitment to equality of opportunity and diversity in all aspects of professional and personal practice.
The Portfolio word count is 5000 words (+/-10%). Students are asked to keep a reflective journal for the duration of the course to record key experiences and learning including modules, study blocks and residential on the duration of the course. This enables them to use extracts from the journal within the portfolio to demonstrate professional and personal development.
The CIPD state that the purpose of the module is to encourage learners to develop a strong sense of self-awareness and explore their own strengths and weaknesses as managers and colleagues. The module focus is to develop and improve a range of definable skills which are perceived to aid their management practice and develop effective leadership. The module seeks to encourage postgraduate study skills and critical reflection on theory and practice from an ethical and professional standpoint.
The sessions for this module include a range of activities such as, tutor led sessions exploring developing professional and personal practice, learning forums, expert guest speakers designed to provide knowledge and demonstrate the usefulness of reflective practice and praxis, student facilitated learning sets to develop learner autonomy.
The issue with much of the approaches outlined is that anecdotally the students dislike the portfolio and diary. They struggle with how some of the learning outcomes relate to their individual practice, particularly the Finance and IT element.
4.2 Teaching Reflective Practice in FM at SHU On the undergraduate certificate in FM students submit two assessments, a piece of reflective writing and then a reflective portfolio as part of the Reflective Practice for FM module. The first assessment is based on a workshop activity in relation to FM that is delivered in the first block and they have to submit a 1500 word reflection on this, outlining their learning, their strengths and limitations recognised during the full day workshop activity and also recognising areas for development. The portfolio includes five learning outcomes including communication skills, problem solving abilities, identification of strengths and limitations and areas for personal development and use of feedback. They are encouraged to reflect on not only the learning on the course but also the impact of this learning to their practice using specific examples as evidence. The reflective practice module is the first module delivered on their first block followed by submission of their portfolio 18 months later. The students attend the university every 3 months for a block study, and at each touch point they are reminded about the reflective portfolio, with an interim submission approximately 12 months in and also a reflective practice workshop at their final block. Anecdotally the portfolios represent evidence of engagement and learning, and also a strong change in mindset from the beginning of the course to see the benefits of reflective practice. To engage the students with reflective writing in the first instance they are encouraged to write an account of an incident of work, explaining the situation what happened, and the outcome and then chat this through with one of their peers. Following this there is a lecture, discussion and workshop on reflective practice and the students revisit the first account which was written descriptively and they are then encourage to write this as a reflective account, drawing more on the impact on themselves and their learning from the experience. Throughout the course, each module requires the student to hone their reflective practice skills through either summative assessment or action learning in the classroom; reflecting on their own performance in practice.
4.3 Interviews Drawing on unstructured interviews carried out by Bull (2014) some initial themes have emerged from their engagement with reflective practice and the impact this has had on their work practice. These included the initial engagement with reflective practice and their feelings of “relevance” to their profession at the outset, to the learning they have taken both from a personal and professional perspective, and how to engage students in reflective practice from the start of the course.
4.4 Initial engagement As discussed in the literature review, engaging students in reflective practice can often be the hardest point, some of the comments below concur with Smith (2001) in relation to engagement and understanding.
Interviewee A stated that “I was a bit of a sceptic of reflective practice four years ago and it makes me smile when I read the stuff that I wrote years ago to what it is now … I think about what went well and what didn’t go well now [at work]… I also try and think how people perceive me which I would never have done before” (Bull, 2014) Interviewee B recognised that they were “a naturally reflective person” and therefore engaging with reflection had already been part of their upbringing being the youngest of six children “you learned what you did had a consequence and that you could change the outcome by thinking about what you did… you learn to have that bit more self- awareness about what you do” (Bull, 2014) Interviewee C stated that reflective practice was not something they engaged with in the work place but “having done the first part of the uni course … it has become a big part of how I work and how I treat other people now.. I never thought about reflective practice before the uni course, and now it is something that I think about a lot and it is something that I am starting do almost as second nature.” (Bull, 2014) Interviewee D recognised their use of reflective practice in the workplace now although they stated that if they had been asked this four years ago “I would have looked at you gone out”. When asked how they had felt about the concept of reflective practice. “it was interesting because initially you think oh what is this crap, to be honest. What is this tosh we are doing now? But then you sit down and you start writing it and in our infancy … you are going through stuff and you haven’t really got a grasp of what it is all about and then you suddenly sit back and you reflect upon the reflection because you are driving home and you are thinking oh yes, I see the point there and you start matching it with the things you have done and probably unknowingly, you have reflected but you haven’t realised you have reflected.” (Bull, 2014) There does appear to be a need for students to understand how this relates to their particular discipline and this means as lecturers there is a need to ensure the subject can be related to in some way; so if we are teaching FM or HRM students perhaps showing case studies, or real life examples of how reflective practice can influence and help practice in a ‘real’ way would aid understanding and engagement from the outset.
4.5 Personal and Professional learning Operationalizing reflective practice, as discussed in the literature review, can feel positivistic in its approach if researchers try to draw on statistical evidence.
However the students interviewed drew on the changes to their personal behaviours and professional practice to evidence Interviewee A discussed the difference that colleagues had seen in them “my senior HR Manager who has known me since she interviewed me when I started working here has said you have changed” The recognition of the interviewees behaviour and approach to people has become very different and realised a promotion “I wouldn’t have been considered for this now showing the behaviours that I did four years ago because it is not in keeping with the culture or what they expect of managers”.
Interviewee C reflected on how her team see her now and they said “I am different now to how I was a year ago. I said different good or different bad and they said different good!" When questioned further about reflective practice and her changes she acknowledged that rather than rushing into decisions without hearing any of her team she “now reflects on what the outcome is going to be and how to achieve it”.
When engaging students in reflective practice, whether they be practitioners already, or undergraduate students; there needs to be a safe environment with opportunity to draw on not only professional skills but also personal development. (Rush-Sahd, 2003)
5.0 Discussion and impact on teaching reflective practice across multidisciplines Drawing on the above literature and anecdotal evidence from teaching in health and FM there are multiple areas for the HRM team to consider. The potential for empowerment through reflective activities is considered by Ghaye in Ghaye et al (2000), Emancipation and empowerment are also considered in Moon (1999) in a discussion of the purposes and potential outcomes for reflection. In summary these are to consider the process of our own learning; critically review something; build theory from observations; engage in personal or selfdevelopment; and empower or emancipate ourselves (Moon, 1999:23) This is echoed in health care sector where empowerment is key ( Caldwell and Grobbel, 2013).
In relation to the delivery of the reflective practice module on the FM course, the first 4 elements of these are addressed not only through the module but across the course which does ask students to use their reflection across several modules to aid in their critique of organisational practice.
Fortune (2004) discusses the need to “provide students with a clear statement of purpose for their reflective activities." Whilst this is made explicit in the HRM portfolio guidance this needs to be an iterative process. There is also a need to ensure we are seeking the views of students currently on our programmes to understand theory, experience of, and engagement in reflective practice and this paper leads us to advance the research into a broader study of more reflective practice modules delivered with Sheffield Hallam University to better understand the issues with engagement. There also needs to be further consideration of how we assess reflective practice modules. As Fortune (2004) discussed in her research if we consider that assessment strongly influences what students do, then the module requirements and method of assessment need to be linked to the motivation of the learner (Boud, 1996; Bourner, 2003).
From the interviews with the FM students, the reflective practice has enabled them to review their own personal behaviours but also their working practice.
This can be seen in part within the HRM portfolios yet as the anecdotal evidence shown in the earlier part of this paper; students have reported not realising how much they have changed until they have come to put all their reflective commentary into the portfolio; and this becomes a powerful reflective tool in itself.
One of the main issues that the FM students have always been keen to establish is who reads the portfolios, quite often these can be very deep in their reflection and the material feels very sensitive to their own personal growth, and therefore this needs to be made clear to students from the start. This is also reflected in HRM students due to the nature of their roles.