Watching a cow devour freshly minted hay may appear mundane but the process of digesting it is more than just a rudimentary exercise. In fact, it's a relevant example of the significance and value of reflective practice.
Each bite is chewed just enough to swallow it where it then travels to the first of two stomachs to be stored until the cow feels full. After a brief rest, the cow later begins to cough up bits of the unchewed food called cud to chew on it again until it is fully broken down and swallowed again. It then lands in the third and fourth stomachs where it is fully digested.
According to Professor David Boud, effective learning will not occur unless you reflect. To do this, you must think of a particular moment in time, ponder over it, chew on it again, and only then will you gain new insights into different aspects of that situation which can then lead to trying out new ideas about ways of doing things in the future.
High performance individuals, coaches, and teams have known this for years. It’s the reason practice and game film is so frequently used. The cycle of learning—observation, self awareness, critical analysis, synthesis, and evaluation—are powerful tools for getting better.
When is the last time you took the time to practice reflection? Who or what have you used in place of practice or game film?
A lot of attention has been given to the importance of recording events and experiences using reflective diaries and journals. High performance individuals turn that attention into implementation.
So, get chewing!
· Set aside time for writing.
· Allow time for sifting thoughts and ideas.
· Don’t worry about grammar and style or presentation.
· Remember the purpose is to facilitate reflection on practice. It should be honest, useful, a cue to memory, and enjoyable.
· Find evidence to back up your thoughts or for what you have just written.
Some crucial questions to ask in getting this conversation started:
· What was I trying to do when I did that?
· What did I actually do? How would I describe it?
· Why did I choose to do what I did?
· What information informed my practice?
· What was I really trying to achieve?
· What did I do next and what were the reasons for doing that?
· What was the outcome and was it successful?
· What assessments am I using to evaluate success?
· What alternatives were available?
· Could I have done any better and what would I change if I could do it all over?