Reflection is another tool for personal organizational development that is yet to be appreciated by many organizations and employees. The process of reflection in a work environment has got various definitions. However, it can be best understood when described. Most professional practitioners cling to the traditional ways of doing things in the name of professional ways of doing things. They concentrate more on planning and acting on the plans but forget to evaluate their actions and the results of their actions. This is a lack of reflection. On the other hand, some practitioners are able to derive new knowledge from their experience. They are able to think purposively over their actions and make learning and development out of their experiences. This is reflection (Boud 2001). For example, in my work place, there was a situation, when a sample that was required urgently delayed and the end user was asking why it had been delayed. The reason was that the process followed made it to take long before the sample was worked on. For example, it was found out that it is necessary that next time urgently required sample should be tagged urgent so that it can be dealt with immediately. This was an act of reflection that led to new developments in the departments, including both the practitioners and the systems of processing samples in the lab.
There are two types of reflection in a normal work place environment, namely reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. Reflection in action takes place during the time, when one is carrying out an activity, while reflection on action takes place after the activity has been completed.
According to Gibbs model of 1988, reflection is not just an instantaneous action as it appears. Instead, it is a cyclic and continual process, which passes through various stages (Gibbs 1988). The first stage is the description. During this stage of the reflection process, a practitioner simply describes what had happened during his/her experience. In the lab example that has been given above, what had happened was that the urgent sample that was expected to have been done had not been dealt with.
The second stage is feeling. At this stage, the practitioner creates feelings and thoughts in his mind about what had happened. For instance, I felt incompetent and sorry that a sample that was urgently required had not been worked on. Evaluation follows after feeling. During this time a practitioner asks himself/herself about what was good or bad in the experience. The questions about the experience were also asked during this stage. After evaluation, analysis follows. During this time, the practitioner seeks to establish the relevance of the situation. The reason behind the experience is established. The reason for the delay of the sample was the batch process that made the sample to take long before it reached the place, where it could be worked on.
The fifth stage of reflection is conclusion. At this stage, the practitioner probes to establish what other things could have been done or another way of doing things that could lead to a better result. For instance, the sample could have been handed in to the reception by the person who wanted the results urgently and the person should have explained that the case was urgent.
The last and probably the most important stage of the reflection process is the action plan. It is this stage that shows whether there was an effective reflection or not. The practitioner develops action plans to prevent reoccurrence of a bad experience. In the lab example, the action plan in future tags will be provided to mark urgent samples.
The most interesting part of reflection is its ability to challenge knowledge that has been held for a long time. As a result of reflection, one comes up with new invention, which sometimes may not be consistent with traditions. Such inventions may lead to radical developments, which some organization may not like. However, it should be understood that reflection process is not just beneficial to individuals. Instead, groups and organisations also benefit from reflection. For instance, knowledge, obtained through reflection by an individual, can be shared within the organization for better learning and development.
Reflection can affect both the learning and the practice (Kolb 1984). Reflection can motivate the practitioner to learn as he passes through various challenges. The continuous learning and development of an individual leads to establishment of a more refined practice. This makes the individual to be more competent and up to date in his profession. This further adds up to better performance of both the individual and the organization.
The process of reflection is not just obvious as it may appear. There are various factors that affect reflection. Such factors can either enable reflection to take place or hinder it from taking place. Factors, affecting reflection, can be internal factors such as the individual’s values, morals, attitude and self-awareness. Other factors are external such as social, political, economic and organisational conditions; such circumstances determine the outcome of the learning during reflection.
It is also worth noticing that some professions are best suited for reflection than others. For instance, organisations where there is an opportunity for both personal and organizational development encourage reflection (Brockbank & McGill 2006). Similarly, some individual practitioners and some organisations would easier adopt reflection than others. A good process of reflection should, therefore, put into consideration the uniqueness of individual practitioners, professions and organisations. The consideration of all the parties can help to ensure collaboration of the parties during the reflection process and implementation of the outcome thereafter.
As much as individual freedom and independence of thought may be important during the reflection process, supervision is also necessary (Whitemore 2000). Supervision helps trigger and sustain reflection. It also instills a sense of commitment in the process and ensures that all the necessary considerations are made during the reflection.
However, the relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee matters a lot in the reflection process. A bad relationship between the two can derail the process of reflection. The supervisory relationship should be anchored on trust and mutual understanding of one another. Both should understand their mutual benefit from the process. The relationship should clearly create a picture that both the supervisee and the supervisor are on the same side and not oppositions of each other (Kneger et al. 2004). The relationship should aim at building confidentiality and maintenance of trust levels in order to attain mutual respect among the parties. The supervisory relationship should be like a mentorship relationship.
Supervision enables both the supervisee and the supervisor to work together to find learning needs, which can trigger reflection. Such needs should be for both individual and organizational development (Brockbank and McGill 2006).