The challenge for nurse educators is to implement teaching methodologies which help learners to view learning as a continuous process grounded in experience. Reflective practice is an instructional strategy that helps learners connect life experiences to what they are learning, as well as provide a different outlook to challenge existing thoughts, feelings, and actions; thus, allowing new approaches to learning situations to emerge. Further, if the reflection is facilitated through a reflective dialogue where learners are both supported and challenged, the process holds great promise to develop a dynamic process of thinking in practice. Reflection through dialogue involves recalling learning experiences and interpreting these prior learning experiences in light of understanding the present situation, which can impact future action. A structured evaluation process will provide evidence to inform not only what faculty teaches but how they teach, thus closing the gap between theory and practice.

Reflective practice in the context of this series of blogs means self-examination which involves looking over what has happened in practice or clinical situations in an effort to improve knowledge, skill, confidence, and clinical judgment. Reflective practice is understood as an active learning strategy which assists the practitioner to access, make sense of, and learn through work experiences to achieve more satisfying work, thus developing professional actions that are aligned with personal beliefs and values. Finally, an important role of reflective practice is to act as a conduit that prompts the learner to step back and think of the best approach to take to solve a problem or to achieve a desired outcome. Thus, the reflective practitioner can see his/her practice in light of this illuminating process.   

Reflective practice is not a new concept; matter-of-fact, reflective practice is an old and flexible concept dating back to Aristotle who emphasized the importance of reflection on the real world and developing experience from it. Aristotle also implied that emotions and feelings are part of reflective thinking. More recently, Schon has inspired a renewal of interest in reflective practice in the field of education. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the application of using reflective practice is poorly developed. Likewise, there is a lack of empirical evidence to support using reflective teaching to meet student learning outcomes. Some studies have highlighted the effectiveness of reflective practice in clinical education as an instructional tool.

See you next week with more on becoming a reflective practitioner.

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