5. Frameworks for reflective practice Part 1

From action to reflection

In this section, we will look at some of the key models and frameworks for learning and reflection. Firstly, David Kolb's (1984) experiential learning cycle which indicates that learning is about much more than experience (concrete experience) and thinking about what happened (reflection). It also suggests developing a more general understanding which can be applied in other situations (generalisation) and also finding ways to try out this new learning  in the form or more experiences (Kolb, 1984).

Concrete experience leads to reflective observation, leading to abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation
Figure 1: Adapted from Kolb's experiential learning cycle (Kolb,1984)

Activity 5.1 A first framework for reflection

Look at this example from a manager's learning journal where she applies the Kolb experiential cycle. Note how the  steps from this model match the extract from her reflective journal.

Blog: Do you feel she has reflected and learned well and come up with some good solutions for the future? Is there anything else you would have suggested if you were her coach or friend? Post your thoughts in your blog.

26.06 Meetings, meetings...
We had a department meeting today and it went very badly. I'm afraid I turned up like a few others without reading the paperwork which I tried to read during the minutes. As a result, I had no time to think or reply to questions or comment on the papers. It looked like I had no opinion on some important issues like the office move! I was really cross with myself for doing no preparation!!!

Concrete experience 

I realise that I should have read the papers thoroughly and in good time but I have been really busy getting the report done for Jack and didn't want to let him down.

Reflective observation 

I need to organise time before the meeting - perhaps block out an hour in the diary to stop calls and distractions- and just do the reading. I need to make a list of other ways to prepare (checklists/To do lists) and consider time management techniques. As part of the preparation, it might be helpful to think about the various 'stakeholders' - participants in the meeting  with a vested interest in the meeting and how much power and influence they each have.

Abstract conceptualisation

I will do that tomorrow for the next two monthly meetings to see if that is enough time to grasp the main points. If it doesn't go well, I will need to think about finding other ways of managing my time better.

Active experimentation 

Concrete experience

Activity 5.2 Writing your reflection

Blog: Think of a recent example of an incident at work which concerned you. Apply the steps in Kolb's model to reflecting on your experience and coming up with ways of changing practice in future.

You could use a set of headings for your reflection based on the Kolb model. Here is an example of a template you could use to describe an incident with a few examples of questions. You can download this template as a Word document if you wish or you can use the learning journal template.



1 Concrete experience

What was the general context? What did you observe? Who was involved? What do you think they thought or felt? Were there any surprises? How did you react?

What happened in more detail? What was the problem and challenges?

2 Reflective observation

What do you make of the experience? What are the causes of the issues? What other evidence is there? What other perspectives are there? What have you learned for the future?

3 Abstract conceptualisation

Can you apply new ideas using any business ideas, theories or models from wider reading to the situation?

4 Active experimentation

Where will you go from here? What will you do differently and when? What impact do you hope to have? What changes will you make? What SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Timed) objectives could you set? What impact would you like to make on others (stakeholders)?

Activity 5.3 Reflecting on your reflection

Blog: How did you feel after writing about the experience using this framework? Do you feel you have learned more about the situation or your approach as a result of reflecting and writing about the event? Write a brief reflection on your learning from this activity and post it to your blog.

If you would like to, post your thoughts from this activity into the Chat room 5.3 thread and discuss your responses with other students.

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Last modified: Tuesday, 1 Sep 2015, 14:26