Reflective Practice: a message from Lee Davies

This is the first in a series of short articles on reflective practice in continuing professional development (CPD) from CIPA’s Chief Executive, Lee Davies. In his life before CIPA, Lee set up the Institute for Learning, then the professional body for further education teachers. Lee was the architect of ‘REfLECT’, the online e-portfolio built on reflective practice, and of CPD based on the dual-professional identity (teacher and subject expert) of further education teachers. Lee was the author of ‘Towards a new Professionalism’ (2007), which transformed further education teacher training.

Here Lee explores reflective practice in its simplest terms and offers some practical tips for reflecting on practice.

Reflective practice

The requirement for patent attorneys to maintain ongoing competence is set out in IPReg’s regulatory arrangements. On 1 July 2023 this requirement changed. Rather than carrying out a minimum of sixteen hours of CPD, patent attorneys will be expected to reflect on the learning they undertake and evaluate how that learning has contributed towards their professional development.

Reflective practice helps professionals become more self-aware, enhances critical thinking, and promotes continuous improvement. There are many models for reflective practice; they all place the individual at the centre of their learning. CPD is personalised and based on a cycle of reflecting on practice, identifying areas for development, planning learning activities and reflecting on how that learning impacts on practice; in simple terms: plan; do; observe; reflect.

The maintenance of a diary, reflective log, or an e-portfolio is essential for the recording of learning and the development of professional practice. Reflective practice acknowledges that not all learning is planned, and that adventitious or serendipitous learning is of equal value and can be recorded. Reflective practice for continuing professional development works best when you:

  • Reflect regularly: set time aside to reflect on your experiences, activities, or interactions with clients or colleagues.
  • Maintain a journal: a log of your learning experiences and your thoughts and reflections on your professional practice.
  • Seek feedback: from peers, colleagues, mentors, or others to gain different perspectives on your professional practice.
  • Set clear learning objectives: based on your reflections and identifying specific areas for improvement or action.
  • Learn systematically: engage in learning activities such as reading, workshops, courses, webinars, or conferences to expand your knowledge and skills.
  • Share learning: engage in professional conversations with peers, colleagues, mentors, or others to reinforce your learning and to encourage collaborative learning and exchange of ideas.
  • Apply learning: take what you have learned through reflection and through learning activities and apply it in your professional practice.
  • Monitor progress: regularly review your progress towards your learning objectives and adjust your action plan accordingly.

Reflective practice is more than evaluating the impact of a single learning activity in isolation. Moon (1999) describes it as ‘an active, dynamic action-based and ethical set of skills, placed in real time and dealing with real, complex and difficult situations’. In professional life, maintaining a reflective journal enables more meaningful discussions about career development and contributes towards appraisal.

Further reading

Bolton, G. (2014) Reflective Practice: writing and professional development, Sage, London.

Fook, J. and Gardner, F. (2007) Practicing Critical Reflection: a resource handbook, Open University Press, Maidenhead.

Moon, J. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: theory and practice, Kogan Page, London.

Schön, D. (1992) The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action, Routledge, London.

Thompson, N and Thompson, S. (2018) The Critically Reflective Practitioner, Red Globe Press (Bloomsbury), London.

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