In our first post for this discussion topic, we said that “the importance of reflection on our professional practice cannot be overstated”. What do we mean when we talk about reflective learning, and why is it so important?
Simply put, reflective learning is about reviewing the experience you had, and asking yourself “What did I get out of this?” It’s not an essential part of learning – we can learn something and not be aware that we have learned it – but it is an essential part of our professional development, as it allows us to be conscious of what we have learned and then to actively seek to build on that. It also allows us to articulate what we have learned to others; this is important when providing feedback or reporting to your manager about your development.
How do I do reflective learning?
Reflective learning can be done on a spectrum from informal to formal.
Informal reflective learning might be as simple as taking a moment to think about the course you did, the conference you attended, or the discussion you had. This can take just a few minutes – try it on your next #librariancommute and reflect on what you learned that day. Some questions you could ask yourself:
- What did I learn today?
- What worked well today?
- What could I have done differently today?
- How could I use that information?
- What other situations would that be relevant for?
On the other end of the spectrum are formal reflective learning practices including completing worksheets, written reports or action plans. Some believe that for learning to be truly reflective, an articulated and measurable action plan must follow – but this may be intimidating when reflecting on every day, informal learning.
We strongly encourage you to reflect on your experience in the ILN, and share that reflection with your partner. It’s the best way to ensure you gain the most from your participation!
Further reading on reflective learning
- The NHS Library and Knowledge Services (United Kingdom) produced a Reflective Practice Toolkit aimed at library staff, that includes links to books and scholarly articles on the topic
- Donna Watt over at Halfpint of Hard Earned Wisdom writes about the difficulties of doing real, useful, strategic reflective learning
- Reflective teaching for librarians by Char Booth, who has written extensively on the subject of reflective learning
- An overview of reflective learning from the Australian Library and Information Association – includes a link to a very practical Reflective Practice Writing Guide
- For those interested in theory, here’s the Wikipedia page on reflective practice, complete with lots of historical theory to trawl through!