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Reflective Practice

Martin Hill, Senior Tutor, BSC

Martin Hill, Senior Tutor, BSC

Reflective Practice – a phrase that you may have encountered numerous times as you conduct your own coaching practice, but what does it actually mean?

Take a moment to recollect the most successful coaching interventions that you have conducted – what did the client do to make the success occur. I would suggest that what the client did was reflect on the challenges and interventions in the coaching session and then implement that learning, having adapted it to suit their own style and goals.

Julie Hay in “Reflective Practice & Supervision For Coaches” (2008) Open University Press- Coaching In Practice series states “Supervision is the process of helping you to step back from your work so that you can take a meta-perspective or broader view of your practice…. Reflective Practice refers to the same concept as supervision but without the benefit of a supervisor or colleague”

I use reflective practice as a tool to make my own supervision more effective. Indeed Hay makes the point “Prior analysis of your own practice saves supervision time and enables supervisors to operate at a higher level when they support and challenge you.”

Reflective practice needs planning on your part in order to be effective and efficient. One of the key tools that I use is ensuring that I capture my own learning and reflections from a session as soon as possible after the session whilst still fresh in my mind. In this age of technology there are a myriad of options – using a smartphone voice recorder or dictaphone; making a selfie-video – personally I prefer using a notepad. I initially simply record as much as I can recall from the session in a “stream of consciousness” flow- not taking time to reflect or review what I have captured at that stage. I then leave it for 20-30 minutes or overnight and then reflect on that as I write up my own coaching journal notes. Try to focus on what you did; what you felt or what you thought rather than capturing the content of the session. Watch out for making broad statements which simply set out the outcome – drill down to examine and reflect on what happened ; what you did- how the client and how you reacted; feelings etc. What could you have done differently? What can you adapt or improve? What made that particular tool/interaction unsuccessful? This provides a rich seam of learning to mine to continuously improve your own practice.

When you initially start off, the reality is that you will be reflecting on what you have done in the PAST – the last session and previous sessions. Hay states “The point of reflection is how to enhance capability so time spent reflecting on how to behave in FUTURE situations allows you to identify more options and to plan for increased flexibility, with specific clients, and more generally.”

Give it a try – you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain!!