Reflective Practice
Sharon Woolf
Head of Professional Development
Dominique Lowenthal
Professional Development Services
Reflective Writing
1. Introduction
to writing reflectively
Why do reflective writing?
What does good reflective writing look like?
How do you do it?
1. Introduction to writing reflectively
Personal reflection happens as part of day to
day living. If we find ourselves in a difficult or
challenging situation, we often spend time
‘reflecting on’ (thinking about) what happened,
what went wrong, what we could have done or
said differently.
We discuss the event with friends or family.
We may or may not deal differently with
similar challenges when they happen again.
This kind of personal reflection has much in
common with the more sophisticated
techniques that are described as ‘reflective
practice’ (Kolb 1984).
1. Introduction to writing reflectively
Kolb’s reflective cycle
Kolb’s cycle is the basis
of many reflective
activities undertaken in a
professional context.
Nursing practice has well
established systems and
processes which
encourage self reflection
(Johns, 1995, Foster and
Greenwood, 1998, Heath, 1998).
1. Introduction to writing reflectively
Please remember
Reflective writing is a major part of the
learning experience!
Reflective practice at work
As health professionals become more concerned about ‘professional
competence’ and how best to describe it and measure it, the need for
personal reflection on skills, knowledge, attitudes and personal values
RCSLT places considerable emphasis on a reflective approach in its
guidance on continuing professional development.
RCSLT defines reflective practice as ‘the means by which
therapists will extend their knowledge and skills to maintain
competence throughout their professional lives’
(RCSLT Competencies Project, 2002, p.2).
2. Why do reflective writing?
Over to you…
2. Why do reflective writing?
To analyse complex and
challenging situations
To analyse communication and
relationships with colleagues
To examine the way you make
To make connections between
your non-work activities and
your practice
To improve your memory of
your learning activities
To make it more likely that you
will put what you have learned
into practice
To improve your researching
To improve your problem
solving skills – you’ll find that
you can solve new problems
more easily when you develop
your analytical ability and have
reflected on similar problems
To help you identify gaps in
skills and knowledge and
learning needs – career plan,
personal objectives,
Performance Development Plan
2. Why do reflective writing?
Reflective practice and your PDP
The learning needs, objectives and achievements which
you specify in your PDP could relate directly to your
reflective diary as ‘evidence’. Your reflective diary could
contribute to your preparations for completing your PDP.
The PDP process should already be a reflective process
and might also guide you to choose appropriate learning
to shape your career
3. What does good ‘reflection’ look like?
Think of reflective writing as being a development
from a basic description to a much deeper analysis
of the experience.
The challenge is to ‘go beyond’ descriptive writing.
not quantity
3. What does good ‘reflection’ look like?
Extend your thinking
Imagine that you learn this
fact from a newspaper
“Human aggression increases
in hot weather. “
Recording this may take a
few seconds. Imagine
extending this idea - seeing
its implications, wondering
about possible solutions and
Are people more aggressive
in hot regions than in cold
If discomfort causes
aggression, why aren’t
people just as aggressive in
uncomfortably cold
Are workers in hot factories
more aggressive than
workers in chilly factories?
Do Eskimos become
aggressive on vacations to
hot places?
3. What does good ‘reflection’ look like?
Extend your thinking
Reflective writing development:
‘Shopping list’ of what you
Doesn’t make sense in 6
weeks time
Doesn’t connect your new
knowledge to your practice
Black & white
It’s not just about
saying what you did,
it’s about saying
why you did it, what
you learned from it
and what you might
change because of it
in the future.
Glorious technicolour!
Extend your thinking:
A world of learning possibilities…
The CPD Diary has learning activities
in different categories (A – E)
A – Workbased
Learning by doing, Case studies, Reflective practice, Clinical audit,
Coaching from others, Discussion with colleagues, Peer review, Gaining
and learning from Experience, Involvement in wider work of employer
e.g. representative on a committee, Shadowing, Secondments, Job rotation,
Journal club, In-service training, Supervision of staff/students, Visits to
other departments and reporting back, Role expansion, Critical incident
analysis, Completion of self-assessment, questionnaires, Project
B – Professional
Involvement in a professional body, Member of specialist interest group,
Lecturing/teaching, Mentoring, Examiner, Tutor, Branch meetings,
Organising journal clubs or other specialist groups, Maintaining and/or
developing specialist skills e.g. musical ability, Expert witness, Member of
other professional bodies/groups, Presentation at conferences, Organiser
of accredited courses, Research supervision, National assessor
The CPD Diary has learning activities
in different categories (A – E)
C – Formal
Courses, Further education, Undertaking research, Attendance at
conferences, Submission of articles/paper, Seminars, Distance
learning, Courses accredited by professional body, Planning or running
a course.
D – Self directed
Reading journals/articles, Review of books/articles, Updating
knowledge via www/TV/press, Progress files
E – Other
Public service, Voluntary work, Courses
3. What does good ‘reflection’ look like?
Here are some examples of how you might record events
submitted by RCSLT members.
The first example illustrates how you might reflect on a
Formal learning activity.
The important part is the reflection on what the event has
taught you that will enable you to provide a better service
for your patients.
3. What does good ‘reflection’ look like?
Example - Computer skills Course
Computer skills Course
“In my 2007 PDP, my manager and I agreed that there was a need to
develop my computer skills, as I had not received any formal training in
this area. I was given the opportunity to enrol on a computer skills
course locally.
Although the course was demanding in terms of time, and I had
concerns about its impact in the short term on my work, I found very
quickly that there were benefits not only for me but for my team….
3. What does good ‘reflection’ look like?
Example - Computer skills Course … cont’d
“…As a result of going on this course, I had a better grasp of using the
computer to create handouts / documents as well as improving my record
keeping. It has also meant that I spend less time on the computer than I used
to, freeing me up to spend more time with other work. I’ve also been able to
watch other people using the computer and learn some really useful shortcuts
that would have been beyond my comprehension before the course.
I also received new insights into my own skills and abilities, and realised that
I’m not as ‘silly’ as I thought, in fact I’m feeling much more confident and
excited about the computer rather than dread. I’m going to do a short
presentation/workshop at the next team meeting with my colleagues and show
them some of the valuable tips I’ve learned that will save everyone time. “
3. What does good ‘reflection’ look like?
Example – Attending a SIG
Membership of Special Interest Group
Discussed how to adapt Lidcombe therapy for stammering for families
who speak other languages. In particular, changes to the service were
agreed for when working with children who stammer whose families do
not speak any English.
Learned further information about working with families who speak other
languages and from other cultures. Particular focus on services for
children who stammer. Learned about and discussed in groups how to
adapt current provision for families for whom English is not their first
Not all CPD looks the same, the important thing is that it works for
you and that it would make sense to a 3rd party
3. What does good ‘reflection’ look like?
Example – Watching a documentary
Channel 4 documentary “Help me Speak” (Stuttering)
Identified this programme as useful for showing to potential clients as part
of therapy and use sections as facilitation for brainstorming, problem
solving and counting activities.
Important media overview of SLT options available for stuttering and how
portrayed to general public. Emphasised the variation in services available
for stutterers in different parts of the country. Useful accessible info to
potential service users to approach the SLT service with and supported
questions about therapy options and outcomes. Discussed with specialist
SLT in stuttering.
3. What does good ‘reflection’ look like?
Attending SLT presentations at staff meeting
Alternative ways to deliver a service to autistic pupils in mainstream
secondary schools
Although not my main work area this was a thought provoking
presentation on an innovative way to support high functioning teenagers
attending mainstream schools. A very effective lesson on ‘thinking
outside the box’! Have since worked with the team to look at creative
ways to support our clients who sit outside the main class group.
Choosing Health
This presentation from the PCT’s health team brought forward the trust’s
agenda of health for all by encouraging positive health choices e.g. giving
up smoking, healthy eating etc. We explored ways we could implement
this by weaving it into our daily practice e.g. during home visits, topic
work with clients etc. Has far reaching consequences, easy to implement
and yet a powerful way to support the health agenda. Not something I
had considered but so easy to do and effective too!
3. What does good ‘reflection’ look like?
Peer Observation
Peer Observation
In order to improve my skills in working with refugee children, I spent
several sessions shadowing a more experienced colleague. We
undertook several home visits and schools, and I attended two multi
disciplinary meetings with her. I also observed a bilingual co-worker
with a small parent group.
During the therapy sessions I used the RCSLT peer observation
guidance to record my observations. I found this experience very
helpful, as it gave me practical ideas as well as helpful insights into
working effectively. Following the observation sessions, the therapist
agreed to become my mentor. This relationship has contributed
greatly to my confidence in working with the children and their
4. How do you do it?
You have seen why it’s valuable to do reflective writing and
you’ve seen some examples, now it’s time to start looking at
how you could do it.
Over to you…
4. How do you do it?
Activity A
Write a piece of
reflection on 1 thing
you have learned
5 mins
4. How do you do it?
Remember Kolb?
Great, now let’s look at some
tips and techniques.
As we do that, please keep
your piece of reflection handy
reflect on whether you
have followed this advice
whether you would choose
to do your reflective writing
differently in the future.
4. How do you do it?
Ground rules
There are a few ground rules about writing in a reflective way.
Always write about yourself and your practice (although
your writing may involve narrative about other people as well).
Always be explicit about how the learning will positively
impact your practice & patients.
Write in the first person.
Write honestly.
Write as if you were writing to your future self.
Remember to maintain patient confidentiality in your writing
4. How do you do it?
Option 1 for reflective writing
Many of the texts on reflective writing encourage practitioners to write about
their emotional reactions to situations (Bolton, 2001, Johns, 1995, 2004).
Bolton suggests reflecting on;
actions (what you did)
ideas (what you thought about)
feelings (what you made of it all)
Writing about these three aspects may be a good place to start if you feel
uncertain about reflective writing. It may not seem appropriate to you to
explore feelings in the context of reflections on CPD events. However, many
of the challenges of therapists’ or assistants’ work do have an ‘emotional’
component to them.
4. How do you do it?
Option 2 for reflective writing
Think of a recent therapy
session/CPD activity or event
Describe the session/experience
What did this session make you
What would you want to change?
What has this session has taught
This can be anything – an
experience with an individual client,
a short course, a supervision
session, a presentation to a SIG, a
review of an article, writing a
business plan, completing a funding
application, writing an induction
course, attending a case
conference, designing an audit
4. How do you do it?
Option 2 for reflective writing
Think of a recent therapy
session/CPD activity or event
Describe the session/experience
What did this session make you
What would you want to change?
What has this session has taught
Describe briefly what happened,
what you did, who else was
involved, how long it took. Write in
the first person.
4. How do you do it?
Option 2 for reflective writing
Think of a recent therapy
session/CPD activity or event
Describe the session/experience
What did this session make you
What would you want to change?
What has this session has taught
This question may or may not be
relevant. If you are describing a
difficult clinical situation, then write
about how you felt during and
afterwards. If you are describing
attending a workshop, then you
may not think this question is
4. How do you do it?
Option 2 for reflective writing
Think of a recent therapy
session/CPD activity or event
Describe the session/experience
What did this session make you
What would you want to change?
What has this session has taught
Again this may or may not be
relevant, but it is encouraging you
to think reflectively about the
experience or event. You may use it
to reflect retrospectively, (on what
you would have done differently), or
you may use it to reflect
prospectively (on what you think
might change as a consequence of
the event).
4. How do you do it?
Option 2 for reflective writing
Think of a recent therapy
session/CPD activity or event
Describe the session/experience
What did this session make you
What would you want to change?
What has this session has taught
Write down what you have learnt
from this event. You may be able to
make a summative list of what you
have learnt, or you may want to
write down more ‘subjective
learning’ (‘I was really struck by
what the speaker said about X…as
it related to my own situation at Y
clinic.’). Both are equally important.
An experience on a hospital ward
1. Think of a recent therapy session/experience you have had with a client.
23 September 2006 4.30pm Ward 2a
2. Describe the session/experience
Went to see a patient with aphasia who I had seen several times before on that
ward. Wasn’t sure I was going to get to see her that day, as I had been very busy
with lots of new referrals.
When I arrived at her bedside, she was obviously distressed. I asked her what
was wrong.
She said something, but I could not make it out at first. Then she pointed to her
bed. I saw that it was wet. I realised that she was lying in a soaking wet bed.
I told her that I would go and find someone who could change her bed linen for
her. She just cried out ‘No! and held out her hand to me.
I left her and went to find a nurse or support worker, but there was no one there. I
could still hear her crying out in a loud voice; ‘No!’ over and over again. I didn’t
know what to do next so I left the ward and went back to the Department. There
was no one there, everyone had gone home. So I went home, too.
An experience on a hospital ward… cont’d
3. What did this session make you feel?
Embarrassed, angry, helpless, panic stricken at the end, wanting to escape from
the situation.
4. What would you want to change?
My own emotional reaction to the situation. I felt powerless to help, beyond my
capacity. I didn’t know if I should stay with her and try and change the sheets, or
stay with her and just be there (afterwards I wondered if she was calling out ‘No!’
because she didn’t want me to go away and leave her). I know I left before
checking that out with her. I didn’t wait and try and understand what she was trying
to say to me in saying ‘No!’ I just left. I felt terrible.
5. What has this session has taught you?
Being on a ward can be so demanding emotionally and so unpredictable. I need to
work at staying with the situation, even when it feels out of my control, not thinking
of ways to escape situations I find difficult or embarrassing. I didn’t see this from
the patient’s point of view, but from my own.
I probably need to talk about this with a more experienced colleague. Try and work
out some way of dealing with this sort of situation.
4. How do you do it?
Option 3: Adopt a questioning mind
Useful questions for prompting reflective writing
The following questions are ‘prompts’ that may help you to start writing
reflectively. They are there to help you move beyond going from basic
descriptions towards a more profound learning experience.
You may find that these questions are useful to get you started but once you
practice writing reflectively you may no longer need them.
You may find it helpful to start with a pure description that is not reflective at all
– but sets the scene for your reflective thinking.
What is the learning experience?
What happened?
What subject areas did it cover?
When did it happen?
4. How do you do it?
Adopt a questioning mind
How did the course /conference/event compare to my learning
expectations of what I thought the course would be like to how it
actually was?Are there any issues that need to be analysed ?
What have I gained in knowledge or skills from this
Has this course/conference enabled me to enhance my service
delivery? If yes, how? If no, why not?
What can I put into practice immediately to benefit service users?
What would I like to put into practice in the medium/long term to
benefit service users?
What further reading, research or study do I need to do?
How will I share this work/ the outcomes of this course with
colleagues and other professionals?
4. How do you do it?
Continuing to extend your thinking
Are there any other influences that have shaped your learning?
What other information do you have or need to make a judgment
(ideas, knowledge, opinion etc)?
How could you learn more about this subject if you were
4. How do you do it?
Significant Event Analysis (SEA) or
Critical Incident Analysis (CIA)
Prompts for reflecting on a positive or negative event:
How might have you tackled the task differently if the time/place
situation was different?
Are there previous instances of this event that will help you to think
differently about it?
What are the positive or negative aspects that helped the situation
to be successful or unsuccessful?
Is there another point of view that you could explore?
Are there ethical / moral / wider social issues to consider?
In an ideal world what would you change? (don’t hold back!)
What steps could you take to prevent (or repeat) this event in the
4. How do you do it?
Activity B
Swap your piece of
reflection with the
person next to you
and ask each other
some ‘reflective
prompt’ questions to
deepen the reflection.
4. How do you do it?
Activity C
Now with your partner
take a few minutes to
discuss what you
have learned
throughout the day
and make notes on
your reflective
practice form.
Providing support…
The RCSLT CPD toolkit
Guidance on..
Personal Development
National Occupational
Standards and CPD
Reflective writing
Significant event analysis
guidance for using the
CPD and peer review
online diary.
CPD and mentoring
Also on the web is
To help us continually improve, we greatly appreciate and
welcome your views, suggestions and comments.
[email protected]
Thank you.
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Kolb’s diagram: