Effective Reflection: a Mirror to our Learning and Development
The conference theme of ˜Train, Reflect, Learn and Train Again' puts reflective practice at the core of this year's event. But how many of us really understand what it means ˜to reflect', what research has been conducted on applying reflective theory in the military sector, and know how to make best use of the insights that good reflective practice reveals?
The author has been working on a UK MOD-commissioned, externally-delivered defence educational programme and this paper draws on his research on the military application of reflective practice and learning cycles and his practical experience designing and delivering reflective assessments for military candidates.
The paper offers a summarised literature review, followed by a review of military case studies, with ethnographic elements. Following an etymological analysis of the word â€˜reflect' and its contemporary use in military training and the TRLTA cycle, the paper draws on literature from a range of disciplines to demystify what reflective practice is, demonstrate how at the lowest level it is something that we all do but at the highest level can transform personal and organisational outcomes, and explore how to integrate good reflective practice into our people, processes and doctrine.
Tracing the development of academic thinking on reflective practice from John Dewey's work on learning cycles in How We Think (1933) through Kolb and Fry's model of experiential learning (1975) to Gibbs' well-known ˜reflective cycle' (1988), the paper summarises the author's review of the development and definitions of reflective practice from a broad range of sources in the psychological, educational, and professional development literature. It then considers the military context, focusing on research in three main areas: skill acquisition and specialisation; ethical decision making and tactical judgment; training simulation and successful debriefs. It discusses the implications and applications of this knowledge base in personal, professional, organisational, and commercial spheres for military stakeholders.
The paper finds evidence that good reflective practice leads to ˜increased confidence, skill utilisation and self-awareness' in learning new skills, ˜more informed and thoughtful outcomes' in ethical decision making and ˜positive practical effects' in simulation and training. The author proposes that implementing or improving reflective practice would bring significant benefits for our people and our organisational outcomes, both military and commercial, including increases in productivity, autonomy, motivation, personal and professional development, judgement and decision making, and subject matter understanding; encouraging effective reflective practice is an investment in people that will improve the design and implementation of technological systems and enable enhanced personal performance and professional development.