Reflective practice is a method of examining and assessing our own thoughts and practices, for the process of personal improvement – and plays a large part in modern self-improvement techniques. Reflective practice can be used individually to develop our own skills and approaches or can be used in a coaching sense to aid the progress of others. It is a technique which can use utilised in both adults and children and plays a significant role in Continuous Professional Development (CPD).
Cathy Lasher is an executive and business coach, coaching supervisor and coaching skills trainer based in Nottingham, United Kingdom. She works with a variety of clients, from blue chip corporate clients and professional services firms, to public sector and not-for-profit organisations. She is an expert in reflective practice, something which she has incorporated throughout her impressive career, and she believes that this technique can be used to develop critical, focussed thinking and can be incredibly efficient at helping others achieve their goals.
Her model, EDGE-IT, which she outlined in her 2015 book Better Thinking for Better Results acts as a methodical framework by which one may approach their reflective practice. It is a practical and adaptable five-stage model, designed for leaders and managers within a dynamic organisational context. The model encourages incredibly focussed thinking, and directly associates learning with action. Her framework can be applied in three different contexts:
- For reflecting on past events
- For considering experiences as they occur
- For future goals and aspirations
The model is made up of 4 constituent stages, which make up the “EDGE” portion of the acronym. These are: Experience, Deliberate, Generate and Execute. These should all be approached carefully and methodically, with an open mind, to achieve the most productive results.
Consider the experience itself and describe to yourself or to your coach what exactly is occurring. Be prepared to notice the experience, observe it and describe it in as much detail as you possibly can. These experiences can range from the apparently-innocuous to those which openly and obviously affect you significantly. If you are a coach, your goal here is to coax as much information about the event out as possible – which may require encouragement or gentle questioning.
Take as much time as you need to understand the meaning of the experience. What does it mean to you personally? What do you hope to gain/think you will gain from the situation? Coaches here may begin to question the individual slightly more actively, again looking to encourage true reflection on the meaning of the event, situation or experience.
This is when steps are beginning to be taken towards action. In this stage, draw up a list of ideas or options of your next actions, whilst making an association between action and learning. Think about what it is you wish to learn from your experiences, and how that relates to tackling the problem which you are immediately faced with. Coaching can here help facilitating the brainstorming of ideas, and confirming that their actions and learning opportunities are tightly linked.
Now that you have developed a list of options for action, now is the time to evaluate them, and consider how they will make a difference to your personal performance in the future. From this, isolate those that will be most beneficial to your personal development and subsequently strategise a plan of action. This plan should be made of short, achievable steps, and should always be associated with a specific timeframe.
The “IT” part of EDGE-IT refers to the iterative nature of the process. Lasher encourages that the cycle is repeated in order to embed learning, and in order to make reflective practice a habit of personal development processes. The process should be repeated with new scenarios, problems and opportunities for learning and change.
This model can aid in the process of reflective practice, something which in turn can deepen awareness of a specific situation or situations, and can prompt a rethink of your initial, impulsive thoughts regarding such. It facilitates an individual in re-observing an experience, from a new and entirely subjective perspective. By focussing on reflective practice, one can encourage better results and facilitate meaningful and productive learning. The iterative nature of the model also allows this learning practice to be embedded, so much so that it can become second-nature.