Reflection | noitcelfeR (or: my BIG IDEA)

with 3 comments

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!


Written by missrachelsmith

April 11, 2011 at 17:27

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve also been contemplating how difficult it is to reflect recently. Look forward to hearing about how you get on with the art journal!


    April 12, 2011 at 09:32

    • Thanks Jenni – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on reflecting on personal development activities/professional issues? I’ll hopefully post some art journal pictures here soon – watch this space.


      April 12, 2011 at 21:03

  2. […] over commencing Chartership), being quite a difficult skill to master in itself. This blog post from Rachel Smith describes an interesting, creative method of reflection and, while I’m not all […]

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