Discuss the importance of reflection in relation to professional development.

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Hello All,
As part of my CACHE Early years Educator Level 3 I have been asked to share my research about theoretical perspectives on the relation in professional development.

Please read the following researched;

Theoretical perspectives on reflection in professional development.

The term ‘reflective practice’ is used to describe the process of thinking about the work that a professional practitioner does. It involves observing, questioning, evaluating and making improvements to a practitioner's profession and own practice and that of the practitioner's colleagues in the setting. Reflective practice is important because it helps the practitioner to:

a) Monitor the practitioner's own practice and the practice of his colleagues.
b) Evaluate the effectiveness of the practitioner's practice, identifying strengths and areas for improvement.
c) Review and revise the practitioner's practice and implement new ideas.
d) Enrich the quality of practitioner's provision in the setting and improve outcomes for children and their families.
e) Improve practitioner's perspective and professional behaviour.
f) Observe and learn from children.
g) Communicate with and learn from colleagues and others.

Reflection is also a very useful tool for developing best practice and identifying areas for improvement and it should be part of a practitioner's everyday work with young children. Professional reflective practice should be based on sound, evidence-based research. This ensures that the best available research results are used in the process of making decisions and improving practice. Furthermore, reflective practice can contribute to the ongoing research process by challenging ideas and encouraging critical thinking.

The following are theorists based on cyclical models, which encourage the process of ongoing reflection.

1. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (1984)
One of the theorists' theory is Kolb's learning cycle. Kolb’s learning cycle is said to be very easy and straightforward to understand and to follow.

David Kolb's experiential learning theory involves the acquisition of abstract concepts that can be applied flexibly in a range of situations. In Kolb’s theory, the impetus for the development of new concepts is provided by new experiences.

Kolb's experiential learning style theory is typically represented by a four stage learning cycle in which the learner 'touches all the bases’:

Concrete Experience: Immerse yourself in the experience. What happened?
Reflective Observation: What did you notice about the experience? What did it make you think about?
Abstract Conceptualization: How might you change things?
Active Experimentation: Try out you new ideas.

2. Gibbs Cycle of Reflection (1988)
Gibbs’ model was developed from David Kolb’s 4 stage experiential learning cycle. Kolb’s model is referred to as an experiential learning model, which relates to learning through experience, Gibbs’ model is referred to as an iterative model, which relates to learning through repetition. In theory, the reflective process follows the 6 steps of the model so that each step informs the next. The aims of using Gibbs’ reflective cycle are to:

a) Challenge a practitioner's assumptions.
b) Explore new ideas or different ways of doing or thinking about things.
c) Promote self-improvement by identifying your own strengths and weaknesses and taking action to address them.
d) Link theory and practice by combining doing with thinking.

Description - What happened?
Feelings - What were you thinking and feeling?
Evaluation - What was good and bad about the experience?
Analysis - What sense can you make of the situation?
Conclusion - What else could you have done?
Action Plan - If it arose again, what would you do?

3. Schon’s process of continuous learning (1995)
Donald Schon suggested that the capacity to reflect in order to engage in a process of continuous learning was one of the defining characteristics of professional practice. He described two distinct processes of reflection:

Reflecting-in-action: thinking ‘as you go’ about what you are doing, how well you are performing and how successful you are with different tasks.

Reflecting-on-action: thinking ‘after the event’ when you have completed a task you can consider afterwards what worked well, or how things could have been managed differently.

Schön believed in the concept of improvisation and incorporating life experiences into the process of learning. In this way, through experience, learning and practice, practitioners can continually improve our work and become true 'reflective practitioners'.

4. Johns’ five stage model (2000)
Christopher Johns model is based on five stages that enable you to break down your experience and reflect on the process and outcomes. This model encourages the reflective practitioner to explore how experience has changed and improved their practice. The stages are as follows:

Description of the experience: what were the significant factors?
Reflection: what was I trying to achieve, and what were the consequences?
Influencing factors: what factors affected my decision making?
Could I have dealt with it better? What other choices did I have?
What will change because of this experience? How has this experience changed my knowledge and personal awareness?

These models examine the process of reflection in slightly different ways however, they are all based on the same basic principles:

a) Begin with the concrete experience, ‘describe what happened’.
b) Review the experience by reflecting on ‘what went well?’ and ‘what didn’t go so well?’ (identify strengths and areas for improvement).
c) Analyse what has been learned from the experience, ‘what could be improved or changed?’
d) Implement a new plan to try out the different strategy or approach.

Most theories of reflection encourage the process of ongoing reflection.

Thank you and I welcome all comments
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