One would expect that the professional you deal with is always learning. Right?
Doctors, nurses and medical specialists are learning about new drugs and their effects, disease treatment, surgical techniques and treatments, etc…
And lawyers too, are learning. They learn about new legislation, litigation and precedents, etc.
But what happens when things go badly? When a critical incident occurs? How do they learn from that? Do they reflect upon what they learnt? Or not?
Firstly, what is reflective learning anyway?
Defined succinctly, it is analysing one’s learning rather than merely absorbing it! It usually happens when learning does not work as well as one would expect. See Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning by Jack Mezirow for the full academic treatment.
And why is it useful?
Often it results from a critical incident where the normal learning failed to work or new learning occurred. The participant is encouraged to reflect upon what they learnt and use it in the future. Often this is seen in sport, for example, a batsman in cricket has a certain weakness which is then exploited. Once the batsman realises the weakness, changes in technique can be applied.
The subject arose during aTwitter discussion on reflective learning for lawyers. The discussion centered around the necessity of reflective learning. That discussion led to the following article which talked about reflective learning in the context of legal studies.
Upon reading the article, it proved to be a brilliant example of the power of reflective learning. It showed how students can extend their knowledge by expanding the scope of their learning. Truly Transformational adult education.
But it sounded like a new-fangled idea! Professionals applying reflective learning? Who would have thought?
Donald Schon did!
I can remember trawling through the library researching an assignment on adult learning. On one of the shelves was a leather bound book. I took it down and blew the dust of its pages.
It was Donald Schon’s The Reflective Practitioner. Underneath the dust was a treasure of wisdom.
Schon takes the view that professionals need to be less reliant upon theory but be continuously learning through improvisation and reflection to remain professional.
While he explicitly mentions architects, engineers, town planners, management and psychotherapists his advice is easily expanded to accountants, medical staff, information technology specialists, consultants and lawyers. Perhaps even adult educators.
It’s still relevant today, perhaps more so, in our short attention span world.