Reflective Practice

Reflective Practice & The Research Process

Reflective Practice is integral to the research process – and to the Afterlife of Heritage Research project.  This page outlines some ways of engaging with reflective practice.

The importance of reflective practice was outlined by Donald Schon in his book The Reflective Practitioner in 1983.  Schon defined reflective practice as the process of critically refining one’s own craft or discipline through reflection.  Schon’s definition of the “reflective practitioner” suggests that it can be a professional characteristic, as well as a process.  Schon made an important distinction within the reflective process – the distinction between reflection in action and reflection on action.  Reflection in action can often be associated with the process of thinking on one’s feet – the process of reflecting whilst in the situation itself, whilst having the experience.  Reflection on action, however, is the process on reflecting after the experience.  Both are integral to the research process.  Recently, Jennifer Moon has described reflective practice as a mental process with purpose and/or outcome (Reflection in Learning & Professional Development, 1999).  In a research context, reflective practice can help when reviewing progress, defending research outcomes, reflecting on the literature and when responding to feedback.  Reflection is also crucial when working with cultural partners and in a public engagement context – hence it is essential to all three strands of the Afterlife project.

Reflection can also be structured, where the reflective practitioner chooses a particular structure to their work (reflective questions, format etc), or unstructured, where the format is open-ended.  Reflection is crucial to the research cycle where the researcher decides the direction of the research, based on his/her experience.  Reflective practice does take time – time needs to be factored in to the research process in order to make sure that learning is documented appropriately.  The advantages of reflective practice in research are many and varied:

  • •A better understanding of the motivations for doing research
  • •Developing self-awareness, including knowledge of strengths & weaknesses
  • •Gain insight into how to manage opportunities and threats
  • •Discover what affects performance and progress
  • •Develop insights and critical judgment
  • •Develop knowledge & critical voice
  • •Using feedback positively & constructively, get the most from supervision
  • •Enhance writing style (academic and otherwise)

Blogging is an excellent way to document progress in a research project.  Reflection can take many forms and can be electronic or otherwise.  Research journals can be written in notebooks, or on a blog, or using software such as MS Word.  Mindmapping is also an excellent way of reflecting.  Reflection can be public or private – but it is always personal.

The projects funded through the three strands in the Afterlife of Heritage project will all be reflective.  Please check the blog regularly to follow the progress of the successful researchers.

Recommended reading:

•Beech, Brockbank & McGill, Reflective Learning in Practice (2002)

•Bolton, G.  Reflective Practice: Writing & Professional Development (2010)

•Hennessey, S.  Reflective Practice in Arts Education (2006)

•Johns, C.  Becoming a Reflective Practitioner (2000)

•Moon, J.  A Handbook of Reflective & Experiential Learning Theory & Practice (2004)

•Schon, D.  The Reflective Practitioner (1983)

 

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