«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
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 be 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 quite closely to Bloom's taxonomy (1956) but I concur with Mezirow (1981) that both synthesis and evaluation are crucial to develop new perspectives and from my own position in reference to the taxonomy - these should be placed next to each other rather than in an ordered hierarchical position. Kolb's (1984) four stage cycle of learning also allows further consideration for reflection in our learning process. However, I have found that whilst Kolb's 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 I feel both are limited as discussed above. As our students (my proposed sample) are very much involved in experiential learning it would be interesting to understand whether they feel they engage in reflection in learning in relation to Kolb's cycle in the workplace; or whether there is missing in relation to the "review/reflect" stage. As a personal approach to teaching I believe I am in the constructivist camp, as Fry et al (1999:23) discussed constructivism focuses on experiential learning and reflection and uses the concept that no-one is a blank sheet we are merely giving the option to add or change pre-existing knowledge discussed by Mezirow (1991).
There are varying views within the literature in relation to the use of reflective practice and the skills utilised, and also how this can enhance individual's practice; and this question forms an element of my own research, although I am not trying to operationalise reflective practice as this feels too much like taking it back to a positivistic stand point and towards technical rationality (Schön, 1991).
The next section takes this further in relation to Schön's (1991) ideas of reflection-in and -on-action. This concept leads us on from his initial thoughts of technical rationality as he believed that we had an element of "knowing" alongside our technical ability; this is our ability to spontaneously deal with a particular situation.
Reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action Schön (1983, 1991) discusses the concept of reflection-in-action and reflectionon-action. The concept of reflection-in-action is intrinsically linked to professional practice, and is quite often referred to in nursing journals in relation to reflective practice (Atkins and Murphy, 1993). In nursing terms, reflection-inaction occurs while practising and can influence the level of care given, but this may be a subconscious process; whilst reflecting-on-action is usually done post the experiences and can help to build on the knowledge and will be more of a conscious process. (Atkins and Murphy, 1993). Schön states that reflection-inaction is the here and now situation; if something unexpected happens it is how the practitioner experiments, evaluates and redefines their practice (Rømer, 2003). According to Schön, reflection is a reflective conversation with the materials of the situation (Schön 1987, in Grey and Fitzgibbon, 2003:12). As reflection-in-action is carried out, in my view, in a more subconscious manner this does actually allow for in depth critical thought process on not only the process of our particular profession, but also on our own behaviours and selfawareness. As my interest in this research is on the use of reflective practice with facilities managers; I am intrigued to see whether they feel there are two different elements. Also whether this idea of the two stages of reflection are actually intertwined and/or whether they feel that one provides better understanding and changes in behaviours than the other. As discussed in the introduction, there is an element of reactivity to a facilities manager's role and perhaps their reflection is very much as it is with nursing, engaged in reflectionin-action.
The concept of reflection-in-action in relation to management is further expanded by Schön (1983, 1991); he discusses those moments when we question perhaps our uncertainty "This is puzzling; how can I understand this?" (Schön, 1991: 241). Schön compares this to other professions but his recognition is that a manager's reflection-in-action, whilst similar to the nursing profession, also has to engage with organisational knowing as opposed to just a technical knowing. Equally so, due to this organisational knowing and the need to engage in reflective practice in this context it can also be inhibited dependent on the organisation's ability or willingness to adapt to new ideas. Schön also believed that the inhibition of reflection-in-action and the inability of managers to share their learning with "subordinates" can stop the organisation from learning.
This reinforces another of my hunches that facilities managers are inhibited in their ability to engage in reflection as organisationally the recommendations for change are unwelcomed or not taken seriously. The following section will review some of the research in reflective practice and the types of methodology used.
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. Houston (1990), 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 the concept 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, 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 McCartnery (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 information in research as students, being aware that the portfolio is marked, will be aiming to deliver what they perceive the teacher wishes to see.
From my own engagement over the last 4 years with reflective portfolios, I would state that the majority appear to be open and honest reflections on their learning journeys, and therefore there may be some consideration in whether these can be used as some form of text with the student's permissions.
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. This is an area which may be of relevance, in relation to gender and potentially temperament types (Steiner, 1944).
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 included in the table below. The table included the labels from van Woerkrom and Croon's research with my synthesis of the key aspects.
Table 1: Operationalization of reflective practice
The above seven aspects were then explored using a survey approach, and quantitative data. From my own perspective, I find to have entered into statistical data in relation to reflective practice, to be limited in relation to the subjective experiences of reflective practice and again the concept of "operationalising" it refers me back to Schön's 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). Whilst I found their concept of being able to "operationalise" the impacts of reflective practice interesting, I would not be inclined to enter into a quantitative piece of research on a topic that, from my own philosophical standpoint, is not objective and also my interest lies in the benefits to the individual from a personal perspective as opposed to organisational operationalization.
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. As addressed above, my own epistemological view of subjectivity encourages me to explore reflective practice from a qualitative standpoint. Within the research articles, there was also a strong link between reflective practice and the concept of self-awareness and the next section will explore the links.
As discussed by Atkins and Murphy (1993) there is a strong link between the ability to engage with reflective practice and our own self-awareness. I feel that self-awareness is a key element of our ability, willingness and motivation to engage with reflective practice. NHS Scotland also reiterates the link between self-awareness and reflective practice as being the foundation skill.
"Self-awareness is the foundation skill required for reflective practice as the outcomes from being self-aware underpin whole process... being self-aware means that you are conscious of your beliefs, values, qualities, strengths and limitations." Flying Start NHS Scotland (2011) Stevens (1989: 87-89) discusses communication with others, especially the issues of trust and honesty, he says with regards to being honest with others that "I have to first be honest with myself and get in touch with my experiencing and take responsibility for it by expressing it as my experiencing". This focuses on the individual being able to take their own responsibility for their actions but also in ownership of perhaps not always having done the "right thing". Again with reflective practice this is something we have to become comfortable with or we will not be able to engage in truly challenging our own behaviours and actions.
"Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self-awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment."
Van Warmerdam (undated) Within the nursing profession it is seen as prevalent to be engaged with selfidentity and self-awareness to allow the nurse to be open and authentic with their patients (Cook, 1999). Barber (1993:345) evidences how important this is in relation to nursing educational literature and the teaching of nursing "Show me how well you share of yourself, are able to communicate this to others, and I'll know how good or bad your nursing care is". Bulman & Schutz (2004) refer to self-awareness as being not only the fundamental skill underpinning reflective practice, but it is also crucial for understanding and developing good interpersonal skills and building therapeutic relationships with patients / clients and their families. Through self-awareness we are able to consciously learn to use ourselves in interactions with others. Burnard (2002:36) states that being self-aware allows us to "… select therapeutic interventions from a range of options so that the patient or client benefits more completely. If we are blind to ourselves we are also blind to our choices. We are blind, then, to caring and therapeutic choices that we could make on behalf of our patients."
There is an element of having to be true to ourselves as Morris West cited in Saunders (1996:41) stated "It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the love and courage to pay the price". If we constantly battle with our own self honesty and self-awareness, how can we engage in reflective practice that actively encourages us to question our own values and beliefs?