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BE Reading

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This involves creating the opportunity, space and time needed to think about practice and the appropriate action emerging from a reflective thinking process. We argue that being a 'thoughtful agent' alls requires a deeper understanding of self and of the nature of personal engagement with ongoing reflective activity. This approach enables restrictions to question the 'paradigms in which one is operating' (Peters and Vandenberg, 2011 : 63) and to be responsive to the need for change and quality improvement in relation to the specific needs of spellbinder, families and settings. Consequently, it requires an understanding of what we mean by being a reflective practitioner, including understanding the terminology we use and the interpretation we apply throughout this chapter.

Table 4. 1 explains how we use the terminology that surrounds reflective practice in this chapter. Reflective practice has been identified by educators as beneficial for quality improvement (Arises and Chon, 1978; Bout et al. , 1985; Brookfield, 1987; Broadband and McGill, 2007). It has been described as a generic term for 'those intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lee ad to new understandings and appreciation' (Bout et al. , 1985: 19). In addition, reflection has the capacity to create 'alternative and more productive ways of organizing the workplace' (Brookfield, 1987: 14).

Together these two statements indicate that examining our actions and activities, both at a cognitive and an emotional level, can help restrictions to think and learn from experience in order to improve practice. Such reflective activity can also be creative, offering different, new and more effective ways of organizing things, whether applied when working with children or colleagues or to the way we organism the environment. Expressed simply, the core principles Of reflective practice involve reflective thinking and learning, which are used to inform decisions and actions in practice, and by implication, improve quality. A number of 'models' have evolved to support reflective thinking and practice. Many of these, such as Kola's (1984) model of experiential learning,

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Ghee and Ghee's (1998) 'reflection-on-practice' and Brookfield (1995) 'lenses', have the clear purpose of supporting critical thinking about experience and using what is learnt from this process 60 to inform future actions. In addition Ghee (2011: 28) draws on the work of Bandmaster (1991 ) and asks us to see reflection as a mainstreaming process that includes the satisfaction of four personal needs of purpose, value, efficacy and self-worth'. However, while many recognize the role of self- reflection and the influence of a range of personal 'drivers', they do not serially encourage practitioners to understand, take ownership or utilities the unique nature Of their reflective activity.

Ownership draws on a range Of personal factors, such as heritage, disposition, skills and understanding. A deeper level of engagement with reflective activity also requires understanding and appreciation of personal potential. Self-awareness can support reflective practice that is personally meaningful and therefore more likely TA produce the energy and drive necessary to make significant differences in terms of quality. This perspective includes recognition and acceptance of unique ways of being reflective and how this is supported by an individual's specific professional qualities. Such an approach values different ways of engaging with reflective activity and professes no single model or particular professional context.

It also supports the development of reflexive practitioners who question 'taken for granted beliefs' and develop an 'understanding that knowledge is contestable' (Peters and Vanderbilt, 201 1: 63). Peters and Vanderbilt argue that such reflexivity supports a focus on 'doing the right things rather than doing things right', a key principle hat we believe underpins the process of improving quality. An individual's reflective activity often takes place within dynamic and changeable socio- cultural context, which shapes the processes, responses and individuals involved. While the core values and principles of an individual al may remain constant and be articulated and understood as a basis for reflective activity, there are many ways of responding to issues according TA context.

Developing as a reflective practitioner means being someone who is able to act in ways that make a qualitative difference and it requires an understanding of the current socio-cultural context and how this affects the nature Of professional responses. Brotherliness's (1986) ecological model may help us to explore this concept of socio-cultural influence on reflective identity and practice. According to Frontbencher an individual's development is affected by a series of environmental influences: the 'mortises' of family, school, or neighborhood; the 'ecosystem' of a town, local policy, or economic influences; and the 'Microsystems' of cultural influences, national policy, or pervading ideology.

A practitioner's reflective reactive may likewise be influenced by colleagues, peers, managers and parents at a setting; who in turn may be influenced by local quality improvement policy, REFLECTIVE PRACTICE 15 THE KEY TO QUALITY IMPROVEMENT 61 risk awareness, and economic status; and overall this is influenced by central government policy and perhaps the perceived 'culture' of the type of setting. Therefore practitioners may subtly shift in perceived identity and consequent reflective responses according to the social and environmental situation in which they find themselves. The ability to engage positively and constructively thin a changing professional landscape is supported by an individual's understanding of both that landscape and what is possible within a particular situation in terms of their personal responses and qualities.

Just as external socio-cultural spheres influence responses, the reflective activity by an individual may influence future qua a lit y improvement in others because the practitioner is an 'active' agent within their professional context. Recognizing and valuing the impact of this agency may offer an opportunity for reflective practice to be a 'means of empowerment, leading to change at the individual ND societal level' (Cable and Miller, 2008: 173). Developing a strong sense of one's own identity as a reflective practitioner can have a significant impact on both individual and collective confidence to engage in reflective activity as a means of improving quality.

Reflective practice as a 'way of being' Understanding reflective practice as a ;way of being' that is owned and experienced by a practitioner encourages the development of an individual as a 'reflective professional practitioner rather than as a technician' (Moss, 2008: xiii). This allows for the identification of different ways of engaging within a recess. A 'technician' may go through' the motions of making changes in practice by following a prescribed model of reflective practice. However, it IS essential for a 'reflective professional practitioner' to emotionally and intellectually 'own' the process (Moss, 2008: xiii). Ownership means acknowledging that reflective practice can include the use of deeply embedded intuitive 'reflex responses' and 'ways Of knowing' (Atkinson and Clayton, 2000: 2).

Atkinson and Clayton argue that we should value 'other forms of reflection' that do not focus solely on reason and articulation; rather, unconscious insight draws on the whole of what has been known'; the enormity and complexity of which cannot always be articulated (2000: 5). Encouraging practitioners to use their full range of personal resources within reflective activity is essential. It is possible that compliance with a prescribed 'model' limits reflective potential by indicating one preferred way of proceeding towards 62 reflection, or even towards quality improvement. We would suggest that without alternatives, such reliance on an external 'expert' model may leave practitioners feeling De-skilled and disemboweled. Recognition of reflective practice as unique to individuals celebrates difference, recognizes personal development and is therefore inclusive.

Enabling practitioners to utilities their full range of personal resources within reflective activity requires a critical view of what is involved. There is a view that intuitive forms of knowledge and 'ways of knowing' have been unjustly ignored in our rational technical world (Atkinson and Clayton, 2000). For Atkinson and Clayton intuitive and 'tacit' forms of knowledge in practice are of equal value and should be equally validated and respected. They even argue that there are times when we can 'think too much' in rationalizing processes when we should rely on a more instinctive way of being. This suggests that there is a form of professional reflection that is much more intuitive and instinctive and relies on the inner resources of a practitioner.

We see this as important in the context of developing early years practice, which requires an understanding of many complex issues. Kernel and Sheep (2010) suggest that reflective intuition should be respected as a 'way of knowing' that is particularly useful in dealing with complexity. Intuitive reflective practice respects and releases inner qualities and understandings, which inform actions taken to improve quality in practice. Many models of reflective practice represent what seems to be a relatively simple process. Investigation into the nature of a practitioner's 'real life' participation in reflective practice reveals a complex array of professional qualities applied and synthesized in different ways at different times according to the situation.

Understanding the coming together of the individual al and context offers a way of understanding reflective activity from a deeply arsenal perspective. Through a process of making 'human sense' (Donaldson, 1987) of one's own reflective activity, practitioners Gin evaluate the ways and extent to which they make changes for the better in all aspects of life. Personalized reflective activity that becomes a positive experience and rewards aspects of self is more likely to become a disposition or 'habitat mind' (Arnold, 2003), owned by the individual. Practitioners who understand the nature of their own engagement in reflective practice are more likely to be . Emotionally as well as intellectually involved in the process.

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