As trainers, we often ask our trainees to reflect on their learning. Reflective practice is seen as crucial to the learning experience. We encourage trainees to explore their thoughts and actions, think about what they did or learned and then decide what they would do differently in the future based on this insight. It’s a continuous cycle of learning by experience.
But what about reflective practice for trainers? We can get a lot from reflective practice too.
The benefits of reflective practice
Reflective practice requires us to consciously think about our words and deeds and the reasons behind them. This can help to make us more self-aware – a key component of emotional intelligence – and boost our empathy towards others.
Research shows that those who reflect on their learning tend to embed what they have learned and, consequently, improve their performance. It can also help us to be more creative and to better engage with finding solutions in a range of scenarios.
Reflective practice is also beneficial because it encourages us to identify our strengths and highlight areas for development, as well as pinpointing our own education needs.
Our students may find it helpful to have a trainer who models reflective practice. Often, trainees are asked to reflect on their learning without really understanding what this means. If you are familiar with reflective practice, you can pass on your insights and experiences.
Tips for reflective practice
To prioritise the habit of reflective practice, you might want to try the following:
- Keep a learning journal
Use a learning journal to record everyday activities and events at work and at home, as well as reviewing training sessions.
Describe an experience, what happened and how you felt; reflect on your actions and feelings, as well as factors that influenced the situation and what you learned from it; theorise about your expectations and whether you could have done anything differently to change the outcome; and experiment with different reactions in future situations based on your reflection.
- Schedule time for reflection
Reflective practice is most beneficial when it becomes a daily habit. It only takes a few minutes a day of reflection to make a difference, so try to pick a point in your daily routine where you can take five minutes out to write in your learning journal or reflect on what’s happening in your professional life.
- Minimise distractions
It’s hard to reflect on anything when the phone is ringing or emails are endlessly arriving in your inbox. When you’re focusing on reflective practice, turn your phone to silent and come out of your inbox so you’re not constantly being distracted.
- Try free writing
It’s important to approach reflective practice without judgement or self-criticism if you can. The idea is to step back and review your actions and feelings almost as an objective bystander. Free writing is a fantastic tool for this.
Aim to write continuously for four to six minutes. Start with the topic on which you want to reflect but then write whatever comes into your head.
Try not to pause or think too much about what you write. Grammar, spelling and punctuation don’t matter. All that matters is the act of writing and giving voice to your thoughts.
At the end of a free writing session, look back through your words and underline any that stand out for their significance.
- Create a narrative
Another helpful writing approach is narrative reflection writing where you tell the story of what happened from your first person perspective as though it were a piece of fiction. You may find that reworking your experience as a story gives you fresh insights.
Just one or two minutes of purposeful breathing can help to boost your brain’s ability to focus, which is important for reflective practice.
Find a quiet spot to sit or stand where you’ll be free from distractions. Breathe in slowly through your nose and then out slowly through your mouth. Each cycle of breaths should take about six seconds. Let go of all your thoughts – instead concentrate on the act of breathing.
- Mind mapping
If you’re a more visual learner, you might find mind-mapping helpful for reflective practice. Think about mapping out:
- What happened
- What you were thinking and feeling
- What was good or bad about the experience
- What sense can you make of the situation
- What else could you have done
- What else could you do if the situation arose again
A good use of your time
In my opinion, reflective practice is a good use of anyone’s time. Anything that promotes self-awareness, critical thinking, communication skills, empathy and engagement can only be positive, not only for our clients but for us as trainers and as individuals.
Reflection is fantastic for re-energizing your business and your role within it. For 20 more ideas about how to re-energize your training business, grab your copy of my free guide before you go.