A space to think

I’m planning on looking at and reflecting on the principles I previously suggested here and writing a blog post for each one using my own personal circumstances and requirements to help me understand what applying the principles would mean in practice.

My previous post “the ‘right’ environment” essentially looked at the principle “Enabling communities and environments” so that has now become the first in the series.

This post will look at “Create Space for reflective practice”

I’ve blogged before on the power of reflective thinking here and here but this post will be slightly different.

Firstly let’s be clear about what I am talking about – Reflective practice is “the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning”.

The concept of reflective practice centres around the idea of lifelong learning where a person analyses experiences in order to learn from them.

So why is all this important in the concept of the future of communities, people and places?

Regardless of what political views you have and whether or not you think local government will disappear or simply change a bit, the reality that needs to exist is that people in communities need the capacity to reflect on their own community in order to be in a better position to help shape it. One current problem I see is that communities don’t really have any “memory” or “capacity to remember” so that over longer periods of time people within communities have the ability to call on past experiences and actively reflect in order to shape future decisions.

In my personal opinion the only experiences which are shared are personal and not community based so they are biased and those people who might have influence push those biases into decision-making and therefore the outcomes and decisions could be inadvertently affected in a negative way.

Looking at my personal life and my personal situation I’m a school governor (Vice Chair of Governing Body and Chair of Resources Committee) and one of the key roles as a governing body is that we reflect as a body on the experiences we have gone through. However I am not able to understand any learning from the period of time before I joined as the practice was not formally recorded or even actively encouraged at that point.

We are fortunate that the current Chair is promoting this practice (not overtly referring to the words and term) and we have reasonably regular governor forum days where we reflect on where we have been and what we need to focus on moving forward as well as learning about new stuff and this is all set in the context of school improvement.

In my personal opinion it is an essential part and role of the governing body to demonstrate reflective practice as this is a key part of showing leadership within the school and wider community. Reflective Practice provides a tremendous development opportunity for those in leadership positions. It can provide leaders with an opportunity to critically review what has been successful in the past and where improvement can be made. (I’m sure Ofsted would love to see this :) )

So what do we need to do moving forward?

Firstly and foremost we need to create that space and time for ourselves to be reflective. Without this we wouldn’t be able to be effective in other situations. How you do this is up to you, but I originally found it hard to do in a semi structured way until I spent time at UKGC12.

What I learnt about the process is that I personally needed four ingredients to make that process work, which are:

  1. The right environment – the space has to be inspiring or at least not clinical in nature…I can’t sit in a boring room with nothing to look at, although if I have to I absolutely need ingredient 2.
  2. The right people – simply spending time with other people who are reflective (and also those who aren’t) is empowering and also uplifting, it can also be awkward and uncomfortable to start with – but you can’t beat a great group discussion.
  3. A place to share – I use my blog as a tool for reflective practice and others uses diaries or journals of some kind but capturing stuff and being able to look back and share that with people is very powerful.
  4. Feedback – what would life be like if no one ever gave you feedback on anything you did…I’m not sure I can really imagine that…but I know that every day we all receive feedback directly or indirectly on actions we take and for those who reflect future decisions change because of that feedback.

So are these things available to you in your community and are you doing this in a way which will help your community?

Filed under: Local Government Tagged: reflective practice

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