Archive for April 2011
One thing I’m learning from the Chartership process is that writing reflectively is really quite difficult.
Now, I’d say I’m fairly good at writing. I can write in a range of genres, formats and registers – I’m equally comfortable with constructing a notice, putting together web content, creating my infamous Mills and Boon attempt or writing an academic essay. In fact, I would go as far as saying I talk the talk a lot better on paper than I do in person. But I don’t think I’m necessarily very good (yet) at reflective writing.
Why is that? It’s obviously not the writing itself which I find difficult. It’s what I’m writing about. I can describe a professional development experience competently, and I could shape this nicely into a set of notes or a report, no problem. But reflecting upon an experience? Tricky. I’ve been trying (and you can see some of my attempts elsewhere on this blog; e.g. here, or here) and I don’t think I’ve been entirely unsuccessful, but I’ve been starting to feel like this in itself is a skill I need to develop.
So – I thought I would try and find some information to help me out. Decided I’d start with a book hunt in the Library and I managed to find a couple of books which I’m rattling through in my spare minutes. I had a quick Google search for ‘reflective writing’, which came up with some useful PDF guides from other UK academic institutions. I’m also thinking that a bit of database/e-journal searching, particularly for articles to do with reflective writing and librarianship, might be the next step.
But what I really wanted to talk about today is one of the books I found on my ‘I need to improve my reflective writing’ mission, and my BIG IDEA. I’ve just been looking at Winter, Buck and Sobiechowska’s 1999 book ‘Professional Experience & the Investigative Imagination: The ART of reflective writing’ (strange mix of cases used in the title, but hey ho). I’m not going to provide any sort of close critique of this publication, but the general idea is that your typical report-style reflective piece isn’t the only way to go. In fact (disclaimer here: Winter et al. don’t go as far as stating this in their book, so this is only my opinion) I find that generally the times where you find yourself writing reflectively in a professional context can have a number of other constraints and influences. When I fill out evaluation forms for the training events I attend through work, I generally lean towards the positive, because I’d like to be able to attend such events in future; when I look back over my year in my annual appraisal, I want to make sure that particular areas are covered, so I concentrate on these. Given this precedent for reflecting upon development activities and personal performance, it’s no wonder I find it difficult to write reflectively.
Back to ‘Professional Experience and the Investigative Imagination’: Winter et al. put forward the idea that another way to reflect upon professional experiences is by writing creatively. And this is when I had my new BIG IDEA. I would say that I am a creative type – in fact, I’d say that my creativity is one of my strengths. And I get quite a lot out of exploring things in a creative way. So although some of the things Winter and his colleagues put forward didn’t quite work for me, I could totally see why taking a different approach to reflecting on professional issues and activities might be something to consider. And I have considered it. And I think it’s a good idea.
So – alongside my blog, writing for publication and the various reflective avenues I have at work, I am going to start a Chartership art journal. An art journal is kind of like a scrapbook, and often includes writing, images and collage – have a look at some Flickr examples if you’ve never come across them before. I’m choosing to create an art journal, rather than any other kind of creative medium, as it combines both words and pictures, both of which are representative (rather than abstract) ways of communicating. I bought a sketchbook at the weekend, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to start using this soon – I’ve already got some ideas. And I’ll post my work here when I have something worth sharing!
This week I have been having a MAJOR READING LIST BLITZ. So major, it deserves block capitals. I actually quite like processing reading lists, when you get into a bit of a rhythm – there is a comfort to be found in routine and I get some satisfaction from doing quite technical tasks accurately. However, when I sat down to write a blog post this lunchtime, which was going to be about the Learning Resources Centre (LRC) at a local FE/HE college I visited last week and how they handled reading lists and academic liaison, I could see it was quickly turning into an essay. Evidently, I need slightly more mental simulation for seven hours of the day than reading lists provide. But I am noticing a pattern recurring – when I start to write a blog post about something, it turns into hundreds and hundreds of words on my chosen subject of the day (tips, anyone?).
Anyway, to avoid this, I’ve decided that I’m going to confine myself to one-liners for the remainder of this post. I’m not going to focus in depth on liaison and reading lists, but instead I’m going to tell you about lots of different things I noticed during my time at the LRC, in no particular order. Rules of the game: I’m only allowed one line of the Word document I’m writing this on per topic (I don’t trust WordPress not to eat my posts). And GO…
One liners: interesting things I learnt about the Learning Resource Centre
LMS: The LRC uses Heritage, which seems really user-friendly and is used by many FE colleges.
Fines: Are much lower at the LRC than the University Library, and staff aren’t charged fines (!).
Stock selection: Resources are chosen by academics and signed off by their head of department.
Acquisitions: Orders recorded by the LRC, but all purchases managed by College purchasing office.
Print journals: are all reference only and classified at the same Dewey number as the book stock.
Cataloguing: All LRC resources are catalogued from scratch – they don’t import MARC records.
Access: Visitors sign in at reception; the LRC has moved away from ID cards to biometrics.
Teaching space: 5 computer clusters in the e-learning area are available for teaching bookings.
Website: No LRC website; patrons access information through the VLE or via the web OPAC.
OPAC: Front page easy to customise, but resets to original whenever there’s a Heritage upgrade.
Grouping resources on the OPAC: can be done by adding piece of code into web OPAC URL of items.
Social media: the LRC contributes to the College Facebook page, but Facebook is banned in College.
Branding: Blue and white used (College colours); the LRC has its own logo.
Marketing: The LRC mainly use traditional print media, but are soon to get a plasmascreen.
Information skills: Staff member based in the HE building offers HE information skills programme.
Inter-library loans: The LRC group isn’t part of a lending group and only use the British Library.
Reading lists: Formal process is launching this year; academics will use LRC template to submit lists.
Induction: In 2010, 2524 new students went to 184 LRC induction sessions (seriously impressive).
Why write an essay, when you can write it in a sentence?