Without reflection, meaningful development can be hard to achieve. It may often seem like a chore or an after-thought, but reflection is a skill in itself. It is a small, but useful process and can be as simple as pausing to think about the activity you have just completed and making a note of how it has benefited your professional development. Learning is a natural process and we rarely think about how we learn. As a result, it can be a struggle to step back and put our reflections into writing.
After completing any CPD activity, you could simply ask yourself, for example:
- What did I get out of this?
- What did I struggle with?
- Did this activity meet my learning needs?
- How can I do better?
New skills, future challenges and areas for improvement can all be identified as a result of reflective thinking. Reflection does not have to be lengthy - you aren’t expected to write an essay after every CPD activity record. One or two concise sentences are, if anything, more effective and focused.
Reflection also helps you learn from your mistakes. Of course, no one enjoys looking back at something that was unsuccessful, but if you don’t, you risk encountering the same problems repeatedly which is damaging to your productivity and self-esteem. However, by looking back and figuring out what went wrong and why, you will become a better learner in the future and be less likely to make mistakes. Equally, reflecting on your successes and achievements helps to create a positive mind-set; don't focus solely on the negatives. Reflection should be about balance.
With a busy workload to juggle, it may sound counter-productive to look back before you move forward, but reflection is important. It helps you grow into a better, more productive learner, identifies weaknesses and celebrates your successes too.
Reflective thinking has enormous benefits – don’t be tempted to skip it!