Welcome to Weekly Rapts
Every week I come across some exceptional articles, books, videos, tweets and other stuff that captures my attention and inspires me to action which could be to write about a blog post; have a conversation about it with someone; create something from it; escape down a rabbit warren to learn more about it.
These have enraptured (‘rapt’) my imagination and attention for the week so I’m going to share them here as (‘wrapped’) gifts to you too.
This week I have been captured by the concept of “Reflective Practice” especially the pros and cons of this happening in the workplace and for the context of professional and lifelong learning. You can read how I got started on this topic on my blog post Reflective Practice in the Workplace.
It’s taken me down a rabbit warren exploring why my reflective practice on my own blog had at times, not only helped me but also hindered me professionally.
This was the question I pondered…
“Is there some kind of disconnect between organisations wanting their people to take action with their own learning and development through reflective practice but at the same time, using it against them because in so doing they expose not only perceived weakness but also challenges in how things get done?”
“Does reflective practice in the workplace have a place in organisational learning (because evidence shows already that it does have a place for professional and lifelong learning).
Anything in RED are my own ponderings and questions….
First and foremost the paper by Knipfer and Wessel called Reflection as a Catalyst for Organisational Learning (yes, they agree that it is)…
“Sharing experiential knowledge more systematically provides the basis for developing best practices within an organisation. Our considerations on the role of reflection for organisational learning imply the following characteristics, which have direct implications for practice:
(1) Organisational learning evolves by cumulating learning through reflection of individuals and groups/teams within the organisation.
(2) Organisational learning can also be the result of reflection of a responsible person on the accumulation of work practice experiences of several employees.
(3) In both cases, sharing of employees’ work-related experiences and/or externalisation of their reflection outcomes are a prerequisites for organisational learning and knowledge creation by reflection. In addition, reflection is one means to consolidate shared best practice and to develop standard processes. Finally, reflection is also a major catalyst for modification of institutionalised practices and innovation of processes and routines. Reflection thus plays a crucial role for day-to-day learning at the workplace on an individual, a team and an organisational level in fact, reflection should be considered to be circulating among these three levels
But there’s a PARADOX in organisational learning. This idea of SLOWING DOWN in order to SPEED UP!
“Additionally, when one considers the fact that the skills involved in reflection are not as highly valued, and therefore not taught or practiced as much in the action-oriented workplace, it is not surprising that these skills are generally underdeveloped among organizational members, regardless of personal style differences. In a work team, reflective practice ideally would balance a task or content orientation with periods of reflection on the team’s process, or discussion about how the team is accomplishing the task. Although the need for this balance is sometimes, though rarely, recognized, the implementation is fraught with difficulties.”
New research by Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano shows that taking time to reflect on our work improves job performance in the long run in the article Reflecting on Work Improves Job Performance.
“I don’t see a lot of organizations that actually encourage employees to reflect—or give them time to do it,” Gino says. “When we fall behind even though we’re working hard, our response is often just to work harder. But in terms of working smarter, our research suggests that we should take time for reflection.”
In Challenges of Critical Reflection: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained we see that now, we are moving into the area of “self disclosure” in critical reflection and how
“The professional literature emphasises that the therapist, social worker or facilitator should never become the focus of the group. Yet this is exactly what the intention is when a facilitator models critical reflection by presenting his/her critical incident to the participants of a group. In this sense, the critical reflection process directly contradicts strongly held beliefs about the uses of self-disclosure.”
“Current workplace cultures work against critical reflection as they become more and more procedure and regulation based. The demand from the environment is that ‘Students must be ready for, not critical of, practice’ (Preston-Shoot, 2000, p. 88).”
“Ruch (2002, p. 202) claims that anxiety is the most common obstacle to reflection. In this sense then, current workplace cultures might not only directly discourage reflection, but they may also create conditions which make it more difficult. Thus workers who try to be critically reflective without a congruent workplace environment may feel that they are committing ‘cultural suicide’ (Brookfield, 1994, pp. 208–209) in being cut off, or marginalised from the mainstream culture in which they must operate and which has sustained them.”
“Critical reflection, however, relies on being open to consciously or unconsciously disclosing to others what is not understood in order to learn from it. To thrive, critical reflection therefore requires quite a different climate from the generally accepted educational culture. Brookfield (1995) notes three types of related cultures, which we mentioned briefly earlier, which operate in educational settings and which can militate against critical reflection: the cultures of silence, individualism and secrecy. These three cultures are inter-related to some extent.”
“Another learning culture which may be challenged by critical reflection is that of the ‘argument culture’ (Tannen, 1998). This is an adversarial culture which conditions us to believe that the ‘truth’ can be arrived at only through debate or ‘fight’ between opposing sides. This involves believing that there are only two sides, and one must be dominant in order to settle differences. This sort of culture tends to oversimplify complexities and to emphasise differences. It militates against understanding of differences and arriving at consensus positions.”
So now I’m thinking YEAH BUT THIS IS WHAT CULTURE IS LIKE IN A BUSINESS! Therefore, how safe is reflective practice in workplaces?
Do we need to prepare our workers for the challenges of critical reflection?
Let’s continue. In this article called Reflections in Work Based Learning: Self Regulation or Self Liberation we learn:
“Foucauldian critics (for example, Knights and Vurdubakis 1994) indicate that in the workplace employees, consciously or unconsciously, modify their actions and learn to deal with the multitude of power relations within which they have to operate. Choosing from a range of ‘tactics’, workers either yield to external influences, or display resistance to them by devising strategies which subvert the exercise of power (Siebert and Mills 2007). In addition, workers who undertake work-based learning are required to engage with reflective practice, and therefore, it is argued that workbased learners engage in another form of control self-control or self-surveillance, an inevitable consequence of a dual role of learners and workers.”
“Usher and Edwards (1995) have observed that the self-disclosure arising from reflection can lead to personal development and empowerment. However, elsewhere they point out the apparent illusion in such a belief: ‘Thus in confessing we feel liberated, even though we are still ‘subject’ to the power-knowledge formations that shape subjectivity as an entity that confesses. Confession, therefore, results in regulation through self-regulation, discipline through self-discipline (Usher and Edwards 1994, 95). Thus, the argument is made that individual identification of the benefit which comes from the exercise of reflection is an illusion, and that any benefit actually accrues to the organisation.”
“When considering power dynamics in the workplace, it is certainly the case that opportunities to learn in the workplace are not evenly distributed. As Billett points out, ‘Access to activities and guidance through work can render learning opportunities either rich or poor. The participatory factors that make available and distribute these opportunities are not benign’ (Billett 2002, 65). Opportunities for development and learning are affected by ‘seniority in workplaces… and work demarcations… Workplace cliques, affiliations, gender, race, language or employment standing’ (Billett 2004, 62). However, such aspects of organisational culture usually operate at an informal level, and are not immediately apparent to those disadvantaged by them.”
“As Brookfield (2008, 135) points out, ‘Ordinary men and women which means almost all of us struggle along with received ways of thinking and doing’. It is important to remember that ‘for Foucault a better understanding of the working of power does not automatically put us in a position where we can free ourselves from the impact of the workings of power’ (Biesta 2008, 199), and to appreciate that ‘the autonomous, self-reflective life does not overcome power relations’ (Fejes and Nicoll 2008, 6).”
“Through reflection learner/workers are supported in analysing and evaluating their workplace and helped in identifying where change may be an option for them.”
So I’m thinking do we need to reframe how we do critical reflection in the workplace to make it SAFE for our workers?
Again more thinking now….So does this mean there are certain people who are pre-disposed to being more reflective than most? Why would someone take this on knowing that there’s going to be some good and some bad when it comes to their role, position, status in the organisation?
In the paper, Encouraging reflective practice in periods of professional workplace experience: the development of a conceptual model” (unfortunately it was a target group of students that this experiment was about – not workers)
“These arguments suggest that students will bring to a learning situation a certain set of pre-conceived ideas, values, attitudes and abilities which are likely to impact on the extent to which they reflect on their experiences. Some of these may be as a result of a student’s prior experience, whilst others may be hard-coded into an individual’s personality. What remains unclear is the extent to which an individual’s propensity to reflect can be developed, and whether reflection can be taught, with no clear viewpoint amongst contributing scholars. Nevertheless, it is possible that by providing appropriate scaffolding, then those less inclined to ‘spontaneously’ reflect, may achieve some of the outcomes experienced by more inclined reflectors.”
Final Thoughts – Is there a Link to My ‘Identity’?
This has been an interesting trip down a rabbit warren trying to reconcile the benefits I found around reflective practice in my work and the disconnect between whether this has actually helped or hindered me in my own professional career or business using this blog as a reflective journal melding both the professional AND the personal.
The idea of the “blog as a confessional” and this also possible link of the “self identity” (as being the REAL AND the DIGITAL self) that I’ve tried to hold onto (that is, I have resisted going down the path of having two identities online: a professional and a personal one simply because I see reflection as a core skill and attribute of what I do, who I am and how I make sense of the world).
Understanding the perceptions and the possible impact and effect it may have on future customers, clients, stakeholders who may find it too revealing because it discloses aspects of myself is something that I need to be mindful about – and take on the risk for the benefit and the value of being empowered – or to empower others – to be the change they want to be and see in their lives – and to find themselves with a network/cohort/community of people who value their work and thinking.
Here’s some more reading:
- The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action by Donald Schon
- Review of the above book by Peter Buwert
Video in Why Use Reflective Practice? https://libguides.scu.edu.au/reflectivepractice/why
- Reflective Practice – Skills You Need
- Reflective Practice in Health (good guide and one which would be great to do as a work guidebook for knowledge workers too)