In exploring how reflective practice can support your personal development, it is important to acknowledge that learning is individual. All dental professionals will start from their own position of knowledge and have their own set of experiences to draw upon. A key point to consider is that learning is relational. In order to make sense and achieve a deep understanding of knowledge and experiences, dental professionals need to relate new information to existing knowledge and experiences. Another key point to acknowledge is that learning is developmental. Having made sense of new information and integrated it into an existing framework of understanding dental professionals can then make informed choices about what to do next and how to develop their practice.
Reflection helps learners to:
- understand what they already know (this is individual and personal)
- identify what they need to know in order to advance understanding of the subject in relation to professional development
- make sense of new information and feedback in the context of their own experience
- guide choices for further learning to support future development
Quite often, reflection takes place on a daily basis, but this is often by way of personal thoughts. The main difference between this and formalised ‘reflective practice’ as a tool for supporting learning and development is that evidence if reflection is recorded. This can be demonstrated in the form of a learning log, diary or personal development portfolio. Individuals engaged in this structured, evidence-based activity may be described as ‘reflective practitioners’.