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About this book

This important textbook is a revised and updated edition of a very well-received and much-appreciated insightful guide to reflective practice designed for students, practitioners and managers of social work, health care and related fields. Its clear and careful integration of both the 'thinking and doing' elements of the often challenging task of practising reflectively makes this book an ideal text at all levels of study and practice. Divided into two parts, the book focuses first on theoretical issues to help develop a sound foundation of understanding of critically reflective practice and then on practical guidance on how to make this type of practice a reality.

Written by two highly respected authors with a strong track record in explaining complex ideas clearly and accessibly without oversimplifying them, this textbook is accompanied by Palgrave’s It’s All About People website, developed to showcase the work of Neil Thompson and Sue Thompson.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Introduction

Abstract
There is already a significant literature on the subject of reflective practice (see the Guide to Further Learning at the end of the book). This book is not intended to be simply another one to add to the list. Rather, our aim is to provide a basic introduction to the theory and practice involved in a reflective approach that will also act as a gateway to the wider literature base and the insights it offers.
Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

Understanding Reflective Practice

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. What is Reflective Practice?

Abstract
When good ideas become very popular, there is a danger that they also become oversimplified and used in a superficial way, thereby failing to do justice to the complexities involved. And there are lots of complexities involved. This is partly because reflective practice has grown up in different professional disciplines and contexts, each with their own subtle differences and nuances. As Moon (1999) comments:
The work on reflection in the context of practice — reflective practice — originated mainly in the professions of teaching and nursing, but there is little integration of these two sources, and relatively few professional educators have crossed boundaries, even if they have been attempting to develop similar attributes in their novices or their trained professionals. It is as if reflection has been viewed through a series of narrow frames of reference, with little overlap.
(pp. vii–viii)
To this we can add a significant body of literature relating to reflective practice in social work and a growing literature on how reflective practice can also be seen to apply in a management context. Our aim here, though, is not to explore these differences, but rather to focus on the commonalities: what are the key concepts and themes that help us make sense of reflective practice and the philosophy underpinning it?
Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

Chapter 2. Dimensions of Reflection

Abstract
As we noted in Chapter 1, the traditional approach to reflective practice is one that has a strong rational emphasis, with little or no attention paid to the emotional issues involved. This can be seen as a significant omission as professional practice clearly has a number of emotional issues to address. We also noted that the traditional approach has relatively little to say about the wider social and political sphere. This chapter therefore seeks to go some way towards rectifying these imbalances. Here we present reflective practice as a three-dimensional entity, the three dimensions being:
  • Cognitive: understanding the importance of thinking in general and analysis and creativity in particular.
  • Affective: appreciating how significant emotional concerns are in shaping practice and how dangerous it can be to fail to take account of them.
  • Values: becoming aware of the moral-political factors that are ever-present in our work and which should not be neglected.
We shall address each of these in turn below.
Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

Chapter 3. Contexts for Reflection

Abstract
Chapter 2 was divided into three main sections, each relating to an important dimension of reflection. Chapter 3 is also divided into three main sections, this time relating to three different contexts for reflection. The structure is based on Clutterbuck’s comments when he argues that:
An important factor here is the creation of reflective space — time to focus on thinking, understanding and learning instead of doing. Reflective space is important at three levels: personal (quiet thinking time on one’s own); dyadic (one-to-one); and as a group or team.
(1998, p. 15)
Our subject matter in this chapter is therefore concerned with these three sets of contextual issues:
  • Personal reflective space. How can I maximize my potential for guiding my own reflection and promoting my own critically reflective practice?
  • Dyadic reflective space. How can supervision, coaching or mentoring be put to best use in terms of promoting critically reflective practice?
  • Group learning space. How can we maximize the positive outcomes in terms of promoting reflective practice by the use of group learning experiences (training courses, for example)?
We shall explore each of these important areas in turn.
Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

Making Reflective Practice a Reality

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. Using Strategies and Techniques

Abstract
Developing reflective practice is not something that can be done by adopting set formulas or following instructions — it is a much more creative, variable and complex undertaking than that. There are, however, strategies and techniques that can be drawn upon to help us develop critically reflective practice, both our own and that of others (if we are supervisors, mentors or practice teachers, for example).
Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

Chapter 5. Recording and Assessing Reflection

Abstract
Many students and award candidates find reflective writing a major struggle and often produce highly descriptive work that is not of a reflective nature. This section therefore explores what is involved in producing reflective and analytical accounts of practice that provide clear evidence of competence in relation to reflective practice. Before looking at what is involved in the actual recording of reflective practice, we first briefly explore why and when to write reflective accounts. As with any piece of written work, or indeed any piece of work, why we are doing it will inform what we need to do and how we need to do it (Thompson, 2003). Furthermore, the value we accord it will influence how much time we devote to it.
Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

Chapter 6. Barriers to Reflective Practice

Abstract
Our experience of running training courses on the subject of critically reflective practice has helped us to identify a wide range of actual or potential obstacles to reflective approaches. These range from individual factors, such as attitude and skills, to issues about workplace culture and organizational expectations. In a short chapter such as this, there is not the space for us to mention every problem we have come across, and so we have chosen instead to highlight just a few of those factors and explore why they present significant obstacles; and provide some food for thought on developing strategies to address them
Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

Chapter 7. Conclusion: Rising to the Challenge

Abstract
In this final chapter we summarize the main arguments we have put forward and present our views on how best we can, individually and collectively, rise to the challenge of developing critically reflective practice in circumstances where, on the one hand, we have considerable misunderstanding and oversimplification of what it is all about and, on the other, strong resistance to making it a reality — for example, through organizational cultures that encourage staff (and managers) to ‘just get on with the job’.
Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson
Additional information