The Role of Reflective Practice for Managers & Employees

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  • 0:04 Think About What You've Done
  • 0:36 What Is Reflective Practice?
  • 1:41 The Reflective Cycle
  • 2:28 Getting Started in…
  • 3:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Reflective practice harnesses the power of critical thinking for workplace situations. In this lesson, you'll learn more about this practice, its benefits, and how managers can encourage their employees to participate in it.

Think About What You've Done

Did you ever hear those words as a child: ''Go to your room and think about what you've done!'' It surely felt like a punishment at the time but, believe it or not, this directive may have practical application in your life today. No, nobody's going to send you to your room hopefully, but if you find yourself in a position of leadership managing people, you might think back on that idea of going to your room to think when you're learning about the tactic explained in this lesson. That tactic, reflective practice, is a useful tool for improving job performance.

What Is Reflective Practice?

Reflective practice is the act of thinking about your workplace experiences in an effort to improve those experiences. Sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day assignments and tasks that we don't give much time to reflecting on what we're doing, how it made us feel, and the ways in which we could make things better or more efficient. That's where reflective practice comes in. It offers a more focused, structured system of thinking back on workplace actions.

The downfall of thinking back on things that have transpired in the workplace is getting caught up in a particular interaction or a decision you were unsure of, and developing lingering doubts about those moments. That's not what reflective practice is about. Instead, it's designed to help employees think more deeply about an experience, how it made you feel, and what you can learn from it. In that sense, reflective thinking becomes a practical tool to help make more informed decisions or brainstorm solutions to problems. The benefits of reflective practice, then, are building confidence, learning to trust your own decisions, and overall becoming a better employee.

The Reflective Cycle

A professor named Graham Gibbs thought so much of the idea of reflective practice that he developed something known as the reflective cycle to help people learn more from their experiences.

The original cycle, developed in the late 1980s, had six distinct phases. Later versions focus on only four:

  1. Description: What happened and where? Who was there? How did you react? What did others do?
  2. Feelings: How did this situation make you feel? How do you think others felt? How do you feel about it now?
  3. Evaluation: What are the positives and negatives of the situation?
  4. Conclusion: What else could you have done? What would you have done differently? How can you better manage this type of situation in the future?

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