I have just got back from the 14th International Reflective Practice Conference in Rotorua, and I have been reflecting on my experience of the conference.
Aims for attending
My main aim for attending was to present my paper on blogging and reflective practice, and to get feedback on what people think of the concept. And of course, there's always the brownie points you get from giving a conference presentation.
My other aim for attending was that I wanted to find out what other educators were doing, and to see if I could pick up any tips for my online reflective practice course I am developing for midwives.
My first impressions
I didn't really know what to expect but I think there was just a little too much navel gazing for my liking. I didn't really feel there was enough exploration of how theory could be applied to practice. There seemed to be a lot of sessions that involved self-reflection, and it just didn't 'teach' me anything. There was poetry reading, excerpts of readings from books and drama presentations. All very touching, but not useful for my purposes. I am not saying that the conference was bad; it just didn't meet my needs, which are to know the outcomes of reflective practice with regards to education.
On further reflection
I started writing this blog post on Saturday, and now it's Wednesday, so I've had a few days to think about my experience of the conference, and it's been fascinating to monitor my thoughts over the last few days.
I came back from the conference reasonably disgruntled because I felt I had spent a lot of money to attend and hadn't really got anything from the conference. If I wanted to spend over $1000 to have a theatre experience, I would have booked tickets to go and see 'Phantom of the Opera' in Auckland. But having said that, I have done nothing ever since but think about it, reflective practice and how I reflect.
The one thing I did start to think about was my understanding of reflective practice. I have viewed reflective practice in terms of 'solid' outcomes, particularly in relation to critical incidents. Something happens - you reflect and tease apart the issues - identify your learning - come up with a plan for the future. Michele Martin talks about this in her post 'Debriefing yourself'.
Is it really possible to deeply reflect in an open blog?
This approach has always suited my particular learning needs and is what I teach my midwifery students. But now I am wondering if I go deep enough. And if I don't, why is that? Am I too afraid or unskilled? I certainly need to go back to the theories of reflective practice and find out more.
And I am also wondering if it really is possible to deeply reflect in an open blog. Yes, I am very comfortable reflecting on how a teaching session didn't go as well as I thought it should go. But I couldn't write my reflections on my relationships with colleagues, students and clients if they were particularly 'negative', which brings me right back to the privacy debate. So now I am wondering if I am practicing what I preach.
Reflective practice - just another educational fad?
The conference has got me thinking and wanting to learn more, which in turn will inform my teaching. So it must have been a lot more successful for me than I first gave it credit.
I would certainly like to see more evidence about outcomes with regards to using reflective practice frameworks in education. So if you use it, both on a personal level and in your teaching, please let me know your thoughts and experiences.