The idea of reflecting what you have done and thinking about it later, what you could have done better or what you will do next time seems to come naturally. But there can be more to reflective learning than just have an awareness what is going on around us and to move between action and reflection. Being a reflective practitioner is about deliberate reflective learning which is focused on the future.
Important here is the idea that our assumptions and common sense can be misleading and a barrier to learning. The deliberate part of being a reflective practitioner can make the critical improvements in our lives. The crucial part is to enable myself to do things differently and to evaluate the consequences of my practice/behaviour. Therefore, conscious practice can actually prevent me to run (mentally) in the wrong direction. Additionally, such practice can become a habit and come more natural (although deliberate).
For example, I can learn through:
- reading books,
- performing a task,
- watching TV,
- conversations with others,
- going to school,
- or by swimming (walking, biking…), and let the flow drag my thoughts away.
Which means that sometimes I have to do just about something close to nothing in order to be creative. Kolb‘s (1984) experential learning cycle starts with something like a critical incident:
Learning styles also impact business education in the classroom. Kolb transposes four learning styles, Diverger, Assimilator, Accommodator, and Converger atop the experiential learning model – using the four experiential learning stages to carve out four quadrants, one for each learning style:
- Accommodator = Concrete Experience + Active Experiment: strong in hands-on practical doing (e.g. physical therapists)
- Converger = Abstract Conceptualization + Active Experiment: strong in practical hands-on application of theories (e.g. engineers)
- Diverger = Concrete Experience + Reflective Observation: strong in imaginative ability and discussion (e.g. social workers)
- Assimilator = Abstract Conceptualization + Reflective Observation: strong in inductive reasoning and creation of theories (e.g. philosophers)
Reflection is a crucial part of the experiential learning process, and like experiential learning itself, it can be facilitated or independent. Dewey wrote that:
“Successive portions of reflective thought grow out of one another and support one another.”
[Kompf, M. and Bond, R. (2001) Critical Reflection in Adult Education. In: T. Barer-Stein & M. Kompf (Eds.), The Craft of Teaching Adults, Toronto, Irwin, p. 55]
This is creating a basis for further learning, and allowing for further experiences and reflection. This reinforces the fact that experiential learning and reflective learning are iterative processes, and learning builds and develops with further reflection and experience.