In our team meeting today we talked about reflection and how could we encourage students to reflect on what they are learning in class as well as in their work and personal lives. Why should we help students to reflect though? As a mature student and someone who has been in the workforce for nearly twenty years (did I just write twenty..?!) I feel I can say with some certainty that reflection is very useful, not only professionally but personally. It helps develop self-awareness and from a careers perspective it can help students recognise and develop their employability skills.
For my programme of study we have to write a reflective journal entry every week. We reflect on our readings, our assignments, our work life and even our personal life if it is impacting on our work and study. I have also kept a personal journal on and off for several years. This means I am in the habit of reflecting and that I choose to do it voluntarily. As a result I feel I know myself well, I know what my skills are, my values, how I work and therefore I know what I can offer an employer.
I’ve discovered though that there is reflection and there is reflection! Using a process like the DIEP model or the ‘What, So What, Now What’ model among others has meant my reflection through my study has been so much deeper. When we go deeper we discover so much more about ourselves. We have an ePortfolio tool in Victoria CareerHub which I have been meaning to use for a while now as it’s a great tool for using in the reflective process. Victoria students and graduates can talk to us about how to use it. Of course it’s not the only tool out there so find one that suits you.
What happens when we reflect?
From a personal perspective when I sit down to reflect I am really analysing what has been going on for me, what am I learning about myself and what, why and how can I improve. I always thought my communication skills were pretty good but when I started something new at work I realised that my verbal communication skills needed some improvement. I reflected in my journal that they weren’t very good. That’s a start! Using the ‘What, So What, Now What’ model I continued to write about why I didn’t think they were very good, using some examples, and how this was possibly going to cause a problem if I didn’t get some help. The ‘Now What’ bit can be a bit tricky. I know I need to do something but what can I do? Reflecting on possible ways to overcome this – such as talking to my manager, engaging in role plays – are some ways I can help myself. Engaging in this reflective process saw my level of self-awareness increase and now I’m working on making sure my verbal communication skills are spot on.
Reflecting on a regular basis does take time and energy and like any new habit can take up to a month to become part of your regular routine. I do think the pay offs are worth it though and while I’ve focused on reflective writing in this post it would be worth exploring what works for you be that reflective speaking, drawing or acting! Give it go!