Friday, 21 January 2022

A primer on reflecting

In career practice, a key way of ensuring we progress is to we need to reflect. We think deeply about what frightens us; what we are worried about. We need to write about it. We need to dig into it. We need to consider what we think we need be informed about before we begin. This is deep work, and must not be superficial... and brutally honest. 

Reflection is thinking back - rethinking, if we will - after exposure to events or materials, to organise our thoughts in order to learn from them (Leong, 2012). This might be "through individual inquiry", or in "collaboration with others" (Leong, 2012, p. 153). Our rethinking - reflections - may focus on 'concrete' elements of what we have been exposed to, or may be blue sky, high-level considerations of how this new material may work with our societal views (Leong, 2012)

Writing our reflections down is key: because then we can come back to our thinking later, and reconsider it with more learned eyes. We can compare how we felt 'then' with how we feel 'now'. We can track and trace our learning. 

So how do we reflect? Using a practice model helps us to be deliberate, and to organise our thinking. There are a number of models which will help us to walk through "describing, justifying, evaluating and discussi[ng]" our reflective thinking (Leong, 2012, p. 153): Gibbs (1988); Driscoll (2007); and Johns (1994, 2000).  We just need to explore enough to find a model that suits us (see here).

I often find that, when students are starting out, Driscoll's model is the easiest, because it has only three steps (2007). Co-founded on two continents by Driscoll in the UK, and Borton in the US, this model is often known as the "What, so what, now what" model of reflective practice (Borton, 2007).

For example, consider the student career practitioner reflections in the paragraph below: 

When I look back at my conversation with my client, I realise that I should have explored their linear thinking in relation to the uncertainty and unpredictability that dominate the modern world of work and the world in general. I was quite apprehensive about approaching this topic, as the client's job as a [...] has been affected by the pandemic and I was afraid to bring up any negativity. It is forgivable in a student, but as a future career practitioner, I would be better to develop strategies so that I can gently ask challenging questions that might push clients out of their comfort zone and potentially provoke - and sensitively manage - a potential level of anxiety. This will become one of my key learning steps: to explore the client's thinking around how they have dealt - and are planning to deal - with change in a world where careers are increasingly boundaryless (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996). I can anticipate a degree of resistance from future clients, and prepare strategies to mitigate it. It appears that people who hire career coaches and counsellors mainly seek out clear guidance predicated on certainty and expect counsellors to give advice, opinions and answers (Galassi et al., 1992), but a small amount of nudging (Miller & Rollnick, 2013) should aid to clarify future client thinking, and not be detrimental.

Can you see how the writer has explored the 'what'; the 'so what' and the 'now what'? Providing the writer then actions the 'now what', the learning cycle is now complete: applied, and hopefully embedded through good future practice.



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