Reflective practice: Mirror, mirror on the wall.

As we are soon to enter 2015 may I wish anyone reading this a healthy and prosperous new year both personally and professionally.  Many thanks to those who have read my posts I really appreciate and value your support. I just hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

This blog is really just a labour of love, a vessel for some of my thoughts relating to my careers work and an opportunity to perhaps write in a wider sense on related matter.  I wasn’t sure what my voice or approach would be on subjects when I started blogging exactly a year ago.  As it turns out, I think I found my writers voice after a few posts.  So this isn’t a theory blog (although it has theory and references in it) and (hopefully) it isn’t just a collection of uneducated ramblings either.  I like to think it occupies a healthy medium from  a practitioner perspective with a healthy dose of colloquial humour thrown in.  Well maybe….

Part of the reason I blog is because I feel reflection and the art (some would say science, I’m going to blog on philosophical perspectives of reflection in my next post I think) of a reflective practitioner is perhaps the most important and valued part of my practice. On a simplistic level we also need to remember we have  a moral and ethical duty to practice what we preach!

In the past I’ve enjoyed reading the work of Schon (1983) in being a reflective practitioner and wanted to highlight this passage which reaffirms the difficulty we often face in practice.

“In the varied topography of professional practice, there is a high, hard ground, overlooking a swamp. On the high ground, manageable problems lend themselves to solution through the application of research-based theory and technique. In the swampy lowland, messy, confusing problems defy technical solution. The irony of this situation, is that the problems of the high ground tend to be relatively unimportant to individuals or society at large, however great their technical interest may be, while in the swamp lie the problems of greatest human concern. The practitioner must choose. Shall he remain on the high ground where he can solve relatively unimportant problems according to prevailing standards of rigor, or shall he descend to the swamp of important problems and non-rigorous inquiry?”

This harks back  to an old adage which has done the rounds which proclaims ‘Theory without practice is meaningless, but practice without theory is blind’.  In my role I simply don’t have time to do all the reading I would like to do so in this sense fail as a scholar but conversely I have the privilege to work with clients and put theory into practice. It’s a juggling act whereby the only solution is to generate some extra hours in the day for additional reading and reflection!

As practitioners we need to try and constantly occupy that happy medium of conscious and effective evidenced based work so what  Schon advocated is the absolute value of reflective practice in this process.   The phrases reflect in action (while you are doing something, such as a guidance interview) and reflect on action (after you have done it) has become an influential basis for how we view professional development and the schema of reflective practice.

So in summary, the middle ground is a struggle. For added confusion I’m not sure the middle ground even exists, as the critic in me will always question whether I am getting it right.  I’d like to hear how other practitioners approach this dilemma and what mirror they use for reflective practice? How do we best achieve the  juggling act between evidence based practice and doing what we get paid to do?

Which reflective mirror should we use?

Which reflective mirror should we use?


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