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Study Skills

Reflective Practice Toolkit

Introduction

There are many benefits to becoming a reflective practitioner but it is unrealistic to think that it is always an easy process. Depending on your circumstances there may be many barriers to reflection whether these be through your work or for personal reasons. With a little thought and planning most of these barriers can be overcome. This section will talk about some of the common barriers to reflection you may face and how you can plan to overcome them.

What are the main barriers to reflection?

Whether you are studying, working or both it can be hard to find time to complete your existing to-do list so why add another thing? Doing proper reflection takes time but you need to think of this as an investment in your education, your professional development and your own mental wellbeing.

Not everyone works in an organisation which is open to the idea of being reflective - something which is particularly difficult in the workplace. A lack of support from management who don’t see reflective practice as a valuable activity can be hard to navigate. Try to outline it in terms of the return on investment they will get if they give you the resources you need to reflect. Think about what they will get out of it, whether this is a new approach to a project or just happier staff!

Many people who are new to reflection are worried that they are doing it wrong or don’t know where to start. Some of the popular models of reflection set unrealistic expectations that the process needs to be undertaken in a certain way. It is important to remember that reflection is a very individual process and there is no one ‘right’ way of doing it. You can follow which ever course suits you. It may take some experimentation before you find the way that works for you but half the fun is trying!

For some people, finding a physical location to be reflective can be a challenge. You will need to be in a certain mind set in order to practice reflection and it can be difficult to find an available place for this. Some people need a busy environment whilst others will need somewhere quiet and empty. If you are new to reflection then you may find that you need to experiment to find the right environment for you but once you have then you can work to find somewhere to practice your reflection. Try the Cambridge Spacefinder site to give you some ideas of where you could work depending on your preferences.

A lack of time and support can take a toll on your ability to reflect, especially if you are reflecting on something you have been doing all day. The last thing you will want to do is to go home at night and think about it! Even the best reflective practitioners experience this feeling at some point so if you don't worry.

Perhaps one of the biggest barriers to reflection is you! Unfortunately this is one of the hardest to overcome but it can be done. Being reflective takes a certain level of self-insight which can be uncomfortable for some people, especially if you are not used to it. The good news is that this can be achieved with some practice. If you are new to reflection you might need to try lots of different methods before you find the one(s) which works for you so don't get disheartened if something doesn't work first time - you can reflect on why and move on to something else!

Think about ... Barriers

Can you think of any other barriers which might stop you from being reflective? What might you do to overcome these barriers and how would you achieve this?

Overcoming barriers

Although it may seem hard there are several different techniques to try to overcome the most common barriers. As always with reflection there is no one way which suits everyone but below is a list of suggestions to try:

  • Set aside regular time to reflect, for example the last half hour of each day. Taking a small amount of regular time to work on your reflection can get you into good habits and prove to be really beneficial.
  • You can make use of automated tools to help you record your thoughts after experiences or at regular points during the week. Tools such as Idonethis send you a quick email prompt or you can schedule a regular reminder in your diary – whatever works for you. Setting up an automatic reminder will help to ensure that you actually make time to jot down a few reflections.
  • Try to minimise distractions when you’re trying to get into the reflective mood. Turn off notifications on your phone and email to avoid the temptation to respond. Try to take yourself away from where you normally work – not only does this avoid distractions but it helps to get your brain out of work mode.
  • If you are unable to get support from a supervisor to make time for reflection then you might need to take a different approach. Outline the benefits not just to you personally but also to your wider organisation. Talk to your manager about what they will get out of giving you the time and space to think about your work and how it can make you more effective in your role.
  • You might find that you need to experiment to find the right environment for you to reflect or that you need different spaces to think about different things, for example that you need to be away from work in order to reflect on your job. Try the Cambridge Spacefinder site to give you some ideas of different physical spaces to try. 
  • It’s important to remember why you started to reflect in the first place. Write your goal on a Post-It note and stick it to your computer or next to your bathroom mirror – wherever you are likely to see it more. Focusing on why you began reflecting in the first place can help to keep you motivated when it feels tough to keep going.

Conclusion

Hopefully this page has given you some tips on how to overcome the most common barriers to practicing reflection whether you are studying or at work. There is no easy solution to some of these problems, especially the lack of time. The best approach is to try and reflect little and often - you will be surprised at what you can achieve in just a few minutes a day. As you become more practiced you will find that you can spend longer worked on your reflection and begin to see the increased benefits.