What is Reflective Practice and how does this fit with CPD?

There is a lot of discussion on reflective practice and how this fits with Continuous Professional Development  (CPD).  We often get asked not only what it is but also how do you do it.  This post is an attempt to de-mystify reflective practice regardless of which profession you belong to.

We all reflect on a range of everyday problems and situations all the time without really giving it a second thought.  However converting this into formal reflective practice often falls in the “too difficult” bucket.

By tapping into what we do naturally reflection can be used in a structured way to review events, practice or learning events.  A good starting point is to use a few basic questions as a framework to help you to structure your reflections.  We would suggest using the following questions:

  • How did it go?
  • How do I feel about it?
  • What went well, or OK? Why?
  • What was not so good? Why?
  • How could this have been done differently?
  • What should I change or work on for next time?
  • What would be the first step?

The Gibbs model of reflection  can be really useful in making you think through all the phases of an experience or activity.  Enabling you to relatively quickly capture the information needed for effective reflection.

How can reflection help you?

Reflecting on learning or events can enable you to acknowledge your immediate feelings, then to stand back from them to be able to see things in perspective.  This helps you to make a balanced judgement, seeing what went well and focussing on the positive side of an event as well as the negative.  SOmetimes it is easier, on reflection to acknowledge things that may be difficult to admit in the normal course of events.

Reflection can bring greater clarity, like seeing events reflected in a mirror, developing a problem-solving approach rather than seeking blame or avoiding thinking about difficulties.  It involves drawing conclusions in order to move on, change, repeat or develop an approach, strategy or activity.

How should I record my reflection to meet any CPD requirements?

Each professional body is different in terms of demonstration of CPD, however keeping a reflective diary , a written record of your reflections can be very helpful.  This diary does not have to be lengthy but has the added benefit of enabling you to include examples as part of your CPD record.  It can also be used in your appraisal to provide examples and evidence of what you have done and how you have developed.

It does not need to be a shopping list.  You need to be selective about what you include and exclude.  Hard copy or electronic copy is fine.

Your diary can be used to identify new objectives and any further training needs reflecting on your experiences and skills as a learner and providing a structure to help you plan your personal, professional and career goals effectively.  It will build your evidence portfolio of your development and can be used both for reflection and as evidence in the future, such as when you apply for a job.

How do I become more reflective?

You will be reflecting in the normal course of events it is about building on the way you reflect already.  Here are some top tips:

  • Become more aware of how, when and why you reflect on things
  • Put time aside to reflect, even if only for a few minutes, on a regular basis
  • Use a structured approach, use some of the questions above as a starting point for developing your own methods
  • Keep a reflective journal, read it over ona  regular basis and look for themes
  • Consider whether your reflection is enabling you to reach any short term goals
  • Find an approach that suits you.
  • Look for changes in yourself, your actions, attitudes and confidence
  • Recognise your achievements, however small they may seem