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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

Understanding Reflective Practice


1. What is Reflective Practice?

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.

Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

2. Dimensions of Reflection

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.

Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

3. Contexts for Reflection

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.

Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

Making Reflective Practice a Reality


4. Using Strategies and Techniques

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). The ‘toolbox’ of potential techniques we can draw upon is quite immense.

Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

5. Recording and Assessing Reflection

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, 2018c). Furthermore, the value we accord it will influence how much time we devote to it.

Sue Thompson, Neil Thompson

6. Barriers to Reflective Practice

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

7. Conclusion: Rising to the Challenge

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
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