What is Reflective Practice?
Reflective practice is the process of examining one’s own experiences to see what can be learned from them. Reflection can take many forms – mentally reviewing the day or keeping a learning journal are techniques any individual can use to create a structure for reflection. In this section we will examine reflective practice as a group activity, and how it can benefit individuals, organisations and inter-agency working.
‘What we’re trying to do is look at cases where things haven't worked …and look at why that is and what we need to be doing differently’
‘RP was about having space to think; in statutory services we don’t really have time to think, to reflect on things other than focusing the job. For me it was about having some space to really think about my case load and how I could improve my practice. The sessions did help me with that, to really think about my young people…’ [Participant 3].
Why use Reflective Practice?
Engaging in reflective practice as part of a group allows us to share learning and explore alternative ways of approaching case work. We can think about what has worked well and what hasn’t, and continuously review progress. Reflective practice groups can provide a safe environment in which practitioners can honestly assess their practice without fear of judgement or reprisal. When this is achieved, the impact can be seen both in more effective practice, leading to better outcomes for young people, and improved staff wellbeing, supporting greater individual and organisational resilience.
Reflective practice is evidenced based, and has been shown to improve outcomes for staff and outcome for service users as outlined in the papers below:
- Significant improvements in critical-thinking skills and communication ability in teams (Kim et al, 2013)
- Reduced stress and improved care in for service users, as well as a tool for professional development (Lutz et.al 2013)
- Increased engagement in self-reflection and enhanced reflective thinking in practice (Asselin & Fain, 2013)
- Significant, long‐term changes to clinical practice resulting from RP (Paget, 2008)
Who can take part in Reflective Practice?
Reflective practice groups can be set up in a number of ways depending on the desired objectives. Groups may be made up of colleagues who work together regularly or be structured to include representatives from different teams or even different agencies. Reflective practice can benefit staff who work directly with young people and those who don’t and bringing these two groups together can be a great way to build understanding of the way different roles make a contribution to a shared vision.
Take a look at some of the challenges and benefits of different group structures here.
It is important to note that reflective practice groups are non-hierarchical in nature. It can be hard for staff to step outside the hierarchy of their day to day roles, and attention needs to be paid to this when structuring groups in order that all participants feel comfortable to share their experiences safely.
Below we share some of our tips for making reflective practice work for you.
Seven tips for setting up Reflective Practice
- Gain leadership / management buy in
If leaders and managers at all levels are not committed to the idea of reflective practice, it will be very difficult for staff to prioritise the time to attend sessions. When setting up multi agency groups, commitment is needed from all levels of an organisation and from every organisation involved.
- Plan and prepare
Allow time to plan the process – how much time will depend on the number of people and organisations involved. Key aims for the planning phase are to gain agreement on the aims and objectives of reflective practice and the overall structure and frequency of the groups.
- Identify what success looks like
How will you know if your reflective practice is working? Identifying the measures you will use before you begin, can provide the beginnings of a review structure.
- Consider how groups will be facilitated
This could be by an external facilitator, an internal facilitator or by a peer facilitation model. Click here to view the benefits and challenges of each model.
- Train staff in reflective practice techniques
Some individuals find reflection comes very naturally, whilst others will find it uncomfortable at first. Training supports staff to understand the benefits, engage confidently and make the best use of the sessions.
- Allow time for groups to become established
Setting up a functioning group takes time. Participants need to get to know one another and build trust in order to be able to make use of the reflective process. Consider what can be done to help this process, particularly where multiple agencies are involved.
- Promote ownership
Within the parameters you have agreed in your planning process, each group should be encouraged to take ownership of the process in a way that works for them. For example, in a multi agency setting, consider giving ownership to the group of when and where sessions happen – tools like Doodle Poll can help with this.
Benefits of Reflective Practice
Whether at a team, organisational, or multi agency level, regular reflective practice can bring great benefits. RP sessions provide practitioners with a safe space to think about and discuss work which is often complex and emotionally demanding;
'People remind each other of previous cases, saying come on, you can do this … it gives you that extra bit of energy to approach things in a different way, approach young people in a different way, that both of you appreciate' [Participant 5, F4M evaluation]
Reflective practice can also be a safe and accessible way to tap into the ‘wisdom of crowds’;
'It feels good when somebody else shares what they think or has done something that you have. Helps you feel ok about yourself. As practitioners, sometimes you forget about the wealth of knowledge we have' [Participant 4, F4M evaluation].
Providing reflective practice has a positive ripple effect – by safeguarding practitioners’ wellbeing and maximising their confidence and effectiveness, we create an environment in which young people will get the most consistent and considered support we can offer.
To learn more or find out about various PIE related training we provide, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.