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What is Reflective Practice?

By Jen Ainoa
Updated Feb 19, 2024
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Reflective practice can occur in many forms. It may be an informal part of a person’s daily routine, or perhaps a required element of a job or class. In one informal type of reflective practice, an individual uses the moments just before sleep to recall events of the day. This type of reflective practice can help a person to decide what the priorities for the coming day should be. While reflecting on conversation or other occurrences, the individual may find uncomfortable emotions surfacing. Reflecting on these emotions may help to address an underlying issue. In this way, reflective practice is a means to organize actions and reduce the stress of daily life.

The ancient Hawaiians believed that navigating into the future was like walking backward. Just as a person walking backward must judge his next step based on the experiences and surroundings that have come into view from his previous steps, so reflective practice relies on the past to navigate into the future. This highlights the Hawaiian belief that reflective practice is essential to a well balanced life. Looking to the past can assist in making better choices in the future. This is at the heart of any form of reflective practice.

Writing in a journal or diary is a form of reflective practice that may be formal or informal, depending on who will read the writings and how they will be used. Journal and diary writing performed simply for the pleasure of expressing emotions on paper, or to record the events of the day, are informal methods of this practice. This can be very therapeutic for those who enjoy writing.

Some individuals may practice more formal journal writing as a part of counseling or treatment. Formal journaling as means of reflective practice usually involves a specific template. Writing may be analyzed to spot patterns in behaviors and emotions, or to do some type of cause and effect study of habits.

Professional educators may use various forms of reflective practice to gauge the relative success or failure of lessons. This evaluation may offer insight into what is working and what is not working in the classroom setting. It may also be useful in determining the preferred learning styles of individual students. This method is often considered a successful teaching strategy.

Reflective practice may provide an informed means for self-evaluation. It may help an individual to avoid repeating mistakes. It may also aid some individuals in personal or professional development and growth.

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