‘We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey
At university you are encouraged to continuously reflect – no, not this type of reflecting:
(This only happens in romantic films when the protagonist realises they’ve made a horrendous mistake, and let the love of their life go. I mean, that situation could happen at university, but what is the probability of that? Please say p<0.05 because I don’t want to feel more single than I already am).
I am talking about the type of reflection that involves dissecting an experience and implementing strategies to understand and change your practice in response. Technically, we are always being reflective, remember the last time you had a hot drink, burnt your tongue then waited longer the next time (or sneakily asked someone else to check) to avoid three days of taste bud recovery? That’s being reflective.
As future health professionals reflecting is done in a meta way, so we are continuously learning. Whilst on placement I take five minutes on my way home to write in my reflective diary. One positive moment I recall writing about is when a child finally completed an entire therapy session without once asking me to return to class – it was a miracle! I noted the success of building rapport over time and other factors that made that session worthwhile for the child – using a visual time-table, reading Ben 10 and taking the child out of the class discreetly, not in front of his peers. Learning from this experience not only helped me with this specific child, but other children as well.
I used the ‘Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide’ model for my reflective diary, however there are many models (yes, this is how legit this thing is) that you can use. Here is a brief description of the model with a worked example:
This is your opportunity to exhibit your creative writing skills and detail the event.
I ordered a hot chocolate from Pret (mistake in itself as Pret drinks are far too watery) and drank it too soon. I then burnt my tongue and couldn’t appreciate the rest of the drink.
- So, what?
Why did you choose this specific event, and what did you learn from this?
I chose this event as it exemplifies the importance of displaying patience, in this case, waiting for the drink to cool down.
- Now what?
This is the learning part – how can you make it better or what might the consequences of this action be?Next time to make things better, I will wait a bit longer before drinking my drink, so I do not burn myself again.
If the above model doesn’t seem the right fit for you, I recommend checking out the blog post by “Life Long Learning with OT” on the matter, in which they discuss the other models of reflective writing there are out there, in the healthcare setting
So next time something goes particularly well, or not so well, take a step back to be reflective as there is always something to be learnt from your experiences.