Using reflection techniques is especially important and crucial during these troubled times. Especially in the midst of COVID and social injustice, reflection is an essential component in one’s development. Several reflection techniques are available to assist us in achieving the best results, no matter what the situation. Some techniques include keeping a journal, critically reflecting and asking key questions, using group reflection to discuss experiences, and using reflexivity to turn the questions back on oneself.
To explain further, reflection is a meaning-making process, or how we make sense of knowledge, experiences, ourselves, relationships with other people, and essentially the world around us and can help us understand the connections between our experiences and our ideas. Critical reflection can take one’s growth a step further by categorizing reflections into three categories: 1. The What? 2. So What? 3. Now What? to help us understand how experiences relate to and even impact ourselves and other people. Furthermore, reflexivity can be used to help us think beyond the tangible experiences and explore underlying beliefs and assumptions affecting how we understand those experiences.
To help differentiate, reflection refers to the “what” of the experience while reflexivity refers to the “how” of the experience. When practicing critical reflection and reflexivity, assumptions and beliefs are acknowledged and understood, which can help us gain new perspectives and insights and allow us to think and choose differently. Critical reflection can help provide a framework to think differently about:
- A past experience (reflect-on-action)
- An incident as it is occurring (in-the-moment or reflect-in-action)
- An issue, obstacle, or anything you would like changed that you will be or would like to address in the future (reflect-for-action)
Let’s Try It!
Try using critical reflection to make purposeful, focused changes for improved results. Experiment using these questions the next time you contemplate and critically reflect on a situation:
The first step is to describe the issue, how you play a part or your role, observations, feelings, and reactions. These are your initial observations about how you feel and what you think about the issue. Use the questions below to guide your description during this step.
- What happened?
- Who was involved?
- Where, when, and why did it happen?
- What did you do?
- What were your expectations?
- What was your reaction?
In the second So What? step, we are trying to understand, on a deeper level, why the issue is significant or relevant and the possible meaning behind it. Information from the first step can be used along with any previous experiences and knowledge to help you think through the issue from different perspectives. Consider the following questions:
- How did the experience enhance, confirm, or challenge your understanding of yourself, others, the organization, or system?
- Why does the experience matter?
- Were your previous expectations met or challenged? What surprised you and why?
- Where might your views come from; how and why were they formed the way they were?
- What were the sources and degrees of power, who benefited, and who was harmed?
- What changes would you suggest?
In the Now What? step, we explore how the experience will shape our future thinking and behavior and what changes we are willing and able to make. Use the following questions to guide your thinking and actions:
- What are you going to do as a result of your experiences?
- What will you do differently?
- How will you apply what you learned?
- What do you need to do to address challenges that surfaced during this experience?
When we can be in the mindset of continuous learning by consistently using critical reflection to question and help us be more open and receptive, transformational learning is achieved. When we understand where we are coming from, then we can make better choices for where we want to go. We can choose differently because we understand the motives driving our decisions and actions. Critically reflecting on our experiences can provide new insights, opportunities, and more awareness to parts of the experience that may have gone unnoticed otherwise and allows us to choose differently next time. Meaning-making is an intricate process, which develops over time through experiences, and when we stop to reflect, we engage in continual and transformational learning.
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