1.2 Importance of reflective practice in improving performance and the use of models to support the reflective practitioner

Course: NVQ Level 5 Diploma In Leadership & Management for Adult Care

Unit 6: Professional Development, Supervision & Performance Management

LO1: Understand principles of professional development in adult care settings

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1.2 Importance of reflective practice in improving performance and the use of models to support the reflective practitioner

There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that reflective practice is beneficial for both individual and organizational performance. Indeed, the use of models or frameworks can be a valuable aid to help practitioners reflect on their practice.

One key benefit of reflective practice is that it can help individuals to identify any gaps between their current practice and their desired or ideal practice. This self-awareness can then be used as a basis for initiating change in order to improve performance. Additionally, reflective practice can help practitioners to develop a greater understanding of the dynamics at work within their own individual context, as well as within their wider field of work. This increased understanding can then be used to inform decision-making and future planning.

There are different theories about the specific mechanisms through which reflective practice can improve performance. Some theories highlight that self-awareness is a key element of successful reflection, whereas others put forward that critical incidents are an important trigger for reflection. A third approach suggests that the framing of experience plays an important role in influencing reflection and outcomes (Spencer et al., 2003).

There is also some evidence suggesting that using models or frameworks assists the reflective practitioner. Such models act as a conceptual ‘map’ to help practitioners understand and process their experience (Spencer et al., 2003).

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A well-known model, based on Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, is provided by Schön (1987) in his book titled ‘The Reflective Practitioner’. In this book, Schön describes a model of professional practice that consists of four stages:

  1. Informal, intuitive experience(behavior): This stage involves the practitioner working within their individual context, and integrating tacit knowledge into their actions. They do not plan their work in detail at this stage; rather, they make decisions based on their experience and intuition.
  2. Awareness (insight): During this stage, the practitioner reflects upon the informal, intuitive experiences that they have had previously. They gain an awareness of these best practice examples, which can then be used to develop a set of professional standards. Using these standards as a template, the practitioner then begins to plan their future work.
  3. Conceptual (concept) models (theory): This stage sees the practitioner planning further ahead, and developing a conceptual model to help them understand the dynamics of their field of work more clearly. They use this model to frame or structure their future learning plans.
  4. Reflective practice (action): During this final stage, the practitioner takes action based on the conceptual model developed during the previous stages. This action is then followed by further informal, intuitive experiences and reflective practice.

Schön (1987) suggests that although these four stages appear linear on paper, in reality, they overlap constantly within professional practice. He also highlights that there should be no assumed superiority of any one stage, as they are all necessary to good practice.

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