22 November 2013

On reflection and defences.

It was, of all things, a programme about a choir which tipped me to write about this. And given all the critical stuff I have written about "reflection" in the past (principally here) and my research on resistance to learning, I am frankly ashamed not to have got the point.

The singer selected as soloist for the Birmingham City Council choir is a social worker in child protection. I've known and worked with scores of people with similar roles, including specialists with the NSPCC, and brilliant supervisors of students on placement. We have had in-depth discussions about reflective practice. But...

All our discussions took place inside a bubble (the jargon is a "discourse") within which the desirability of reflective practice is a "given" (i.e. unquestionable). But Gareth Malone is a choirmaster (par excellence) and he talked to Siobhan (her name is public in the programme) as such. He asked her to draw on her experience to add depth to her singing, and she rose to the challenge, to the extent of tears--and emerged with a more mature voice.

But her tears said a lot. I'm sure she's a great practitioner, but she goes home at the end of each day with more losses than "wins". Not her fault.

Can she afford to be "reflective", as commonly advocated?

I keep returning to Isobel Menzies' classic study of nurse socialisation. (Brief account here.)

I was also reminded of this by a brief conversation in class earlier this week with a student from the military. The course has only recently started, and so there is quite a lot of reference to reflection, but we haven't been into it in any great depth. In the past, some (not all) military personnel have not really got it--they have gone through the motions and faked it for the assessments (hey--"faking reflection" is an interesting idea--I may come back to that...) but they haven't taken it on board, and you can understand why.

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