“Do you think Library staff at all levels should do reflective practice, and why?” asked Leesa via email.
To work in a library, one has to continue to learn. One must identify what one needs to learn and be able to work out how to learn that – whether through asking peers, requesting formal training, banging things together until they work or synthesising older knowledge and applying it to a new situation.
My students will tell you that I am big on reflective practice – and that this is the part of their classwork that they often find the hardest. Not to do, just to sit down and get into it.
I have them identify three learning goals at the start of the semester. Two are goals for the unit and I deliberately give examples that vary widely - such as “to pass this unit with the least amount of work” or “to use my excellent technological skills to help others in the class to learn”. WHY? I want them to learn that in any situation everyone involved will have different goals and that if they identify why they are there, and what their aim is then they will be more effective at achieving it.
The third goal is a BHAG, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal . This is something like “To be the family tech guru and teach my auntie something she doesn’t already know about computers” or “To be sought by employers on graduation for my excellent technological skills”. WHY? I want them to think about aspirational goals – those that may not be achievable but that can define the spirit and hopes of any enterprise.
Each week I require them to write a very small amount about whether they are closer to achieving their goals. At the outset I let them know that they may need to modify their goals as the semester goes on. Very, very interestingly the most common modification is a goal that changes from something like “to find out more about technology needed to work in a library” to “to work out how to use technology to fit my users’ needs”. WHY? To understand that one needs to constantly refer to goals and that sometimes they need to be modified.
I also have the students reflect on what type of position in what type of information service would do use the type of skills/topics covered since their last reflection. And I ask them what they have learned about how they, other people or the information services professions approach technology. WHY? I want them to stop and think how they can fit what they are learning into professional practice. I want them to understand that in some cases information (especially about technology) may already be known to them, but it can be who is presenting it and the slant that they put on it that gives one a political idea about what is happening. For example, some (very few) articles I set them to read are deliberately shallow or marketing puffery, and I want them to realise that sometimes we in libraries do not actually analyse or comprehend well the impact of technology.
So, yes, I believe strongly that reflective practice makes one a better learner. From personal experience, being forced to formally articulate something can sometimes be the best way to find out what one actually thinks and to identify great gaps of logic or ridiculous presumptions that one holds.
Tomorrow, or the next day, or ..well….sometime…maybe… I will answer Con’s last question to me: Do you procrastinate? Assuming you do, how do you get over it?