What is reflection?
In definition, "reflective practice is the process of learning through experience towards gaining insights of self and/or practice" (Boud et al 1985).
In the case of professional practice as turf managers, what does this really mean and how can reflective practice be applied to personal development?
We must start by understanding the practice of reflection. The study of reflection has different meanings to each individual practitioner and, in general according to Kitchener (1983), many words may be used synonymously with the act of reflection, for example; reasoning, thinking, reviewing, problem solving and reflective judgement. These are the skills by which one manipulates knowledge towards a further purpose.
In reality, reflection involves examining daily practice. It requires the individual to be self-aware and analytically evaluating their responses to situations that have arisen, with the ultimate aim to study past performance with the vision of improving future performances.
Practitioners may embrace reflective practice in a number of ways; for some it simply refers to adopting a practical thinking approach towards decision making, others will systematically and purposefully critically evaluate each moment.
In professional practice, reflection can be described as looking at one's self in a mirror and being conscious of what one is doing. Within the turf industry, it is the study of one's turf management methods as seriously as the subject of turf management itself.
Reflection is a process to formulate one's understanding of what is already known, it identifies what needs to be known in order to advance one's understanding of a particular subject. Reflection makes sense of new information in the context of experience and guide choices for continual professional development. Reflection will tell the practitioner "what do I know? What do I need to know? How much and how well do I now understand the particular subject? Finally, what is the next step in my continual professional development?"
History of reflective practice
Reflection was first recognised as a specialised form of thinking by J. Dewey (1933). Dewey's ideas provided the basis of reflective practice and influenced the work of Schon's (1983), which identified ways in which the reflective practitioner could become aware of their knowledge and learn from their experiences. Schon's most important contribution was to describe the specific types of reflection; reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action, two fundamental practises.
Reflective practice has developed exponentially over the last few decades throughout various fields of professions and education. In some professions, it has become one of the defining features of competence, namely nursing, where it originated.
Reflection-in-action and Reflection-on-action were central to Donald Schon's works within the subject of reflective practice. Reflection-in-action can also be described as "thinking on one's feet", which turf managers do consciously and subconsciously throughout each working day to overcome various issues. This process involves looking into one's experiences and past achievements then connecting them with one's feelings of the matter.
Reflection-in-action requires one's theories of a situation and using them to build new understandings to then inform one's actions within the situation which is developing in the present. This process is ever ongoing, as with the new experiences and knowledge gained from the present situations will be relied upon for future reflection-in-action. In essence, one draws on one's past experiences to dictate one's actions in the present.
It is important for the practitioner to practice a number of forms of reflection, such as both reflection in and on action in both private and non-private methods, formal and informal, written and verbal reflection. Through practising different forms of reflection, the practitioner will learn what is appropriate for specific contexts and also what works best for one's situation and lifestyle. According to Quinn (1988), reflection in practice can be time consuming and, in some cases, certain forms of reflection may not be realistic in a highly pressurised workplace environment.
How does one become a 'reflective practitioner'? A standard starting point is simply by adopting a reflective diary. A reflective diary draws on the application of Reflection-on-action and can involve many aspects of reflective learning, such as a Professional Development Plan (PDP). A reflective diary must, first and foremost, be a record of events that are true and honestly written. It will eventually be a cue to memory in the future but, above all, it must be enjoyable in its production to provide the greatest benefits.
The reflective diary will include, describe and honestly evaluate daily events and note any recurring themes and will offer a platform to reflect in writing by appraising those events. It is also good form to question one's self whilst writing, such as 'what evidence have I for what I have just written'? Time must be set aside within one's daily routine to allow for processing of thoughts and ideas within the diary, ideally as Turf Managers, a suggested time would be at the end of the working day with the few quiet minutes before leaving the office for the day. If one can just sit back and think a little harder and be a little more curious, then that curiosity will change the way one thinks about turf management and, in turn, may change the way we all think about turf management.
In essence, a reflective diary is a private record of one's experiences throughout a prolonged period of time and, to gain maximum fulfilment, it is essential to include feelings and opinions rather than just monotonous daily events.
Another interesting approach of reflection in professional practice is the Professional Development Plan which can be defined as a structured process undertaken by the practitioner to reflect upon their own learning and performance to plan for their personal, educational and career development.
PDP is a very wide concept with vast possibilities of outcomes; it is, therefore, perhaps better within this article to discuss PDP in general terms rather than design a specific approach.
PDP is a way of recording and reflecting on the practical outcomes of past experiences, which goes hand in hand with one's personalised future goals. A PDP takes the form of a folder in which one maintains a written record of one's career to date and future career aims, alongside the suggested process to achieving those aims. The interesting point that a PDP can offer is that it personalises one's learning and gives one an ownership and a positive attitude over current and future education and career management in general and, it can be argued, also throughout one's life itself.
Monk (et al 2009) states one of the major benefits commonly attributed to a PDP is an increased employment ability with the identification of explicit transferable skills, whilst also having been shown to improve confidence and self-awareness within practitioners.
In general, being a reflection practitioner involves slowing down and being able to pause to examine and analyse what has occurred. It is a cognitive process to analyse, synthesise and evaluate events and, to be of significance, it must be regarded as implying purpose.
Refection is a state of mind and can be encouraged by structuring a daily schedule, however, not everybody is or therein wants to be reflective, many are more adapted to action orientated learning. Some also have a 'fear of going through the mirror', in which one is subconsciously self-protecting against exploring the unknown aspects of one's conscious through reflection, but that, however, may be for a separate article.
The key is how effectively reflective practice is embraced. Does it encourage critical self-aware evaluation and welcome transformation and change? If yes, then reflective practice to the practitioner will fulfil its potential to help one make sense of the uncertainty in our industry, and offer us the "courage to work competently and ethically at the edge of order and chaos" (Ghaye, 2000).
Ben Kebby BSc
Boud, D., Keogh, R. and Walker, D. (1985). Promoting reflection in learning: a model.
Dewey, J. (1933). How we think: a restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process.
Ghaye, T. (2000). Into the reflective mode: bridging the stagnant moat. Reflective Practice.
Kitchener, K. (1983). Educational goals and reflective thinking.
Monks, K., Conway, E., Dhuigneain, M, N. (2009). Integrated personal development and career planning.
Quinn, F.M. (1988). Reflection and reflective practice.
Schon, D, A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action.