Reflective learning: Building a more engaged industry

Reflective learning is an active process, something which has purpose. It is about being critical in a constructive self-reflective way and where the self-reflection is documented. This in itself can then be reviewed later on if need be as part of a further self-reflection activity. ‘What additional learning has taken place since I last reflected on this activity?’ ‘Have I added additional value in some way?’

One aim of reflective learning is to help gain better insight into an activity or behaviour (such as a state of mind), making connections and associations between activities, thought processes and outcomes, for example:

  • Why did the material affect the turf the way it did?
  • Why did my colleague respond in the way she did?
  • What were the consequences of aerating the turf under those ground conditions?
  • Why am I mowing the grass at this particular height?
  • Why do I feel the way I do?

Most self-reflection will be on a prior experience (called experiential learning), however, it could focus more on developmental learning by giving consideration to what might happen if an action is undertaken, ‘Why do I think that applying this material will improve the quality of the sward?’

Self-reflection in an environment that is free from criticism and which the learner has ownership of, can help to foster a positive and engaging self-reflective experience.

If a large body of self-reflected work is made available, such as through personal blogs or magazine or journal articles, then a wider community of practice can evolve which can positively help others within and outwith the industry to increase their knowledge and understanding. This will also help to promote a more professional and open industry, potentially helping to break down barriers to expanding the diversity of workers in the industry.

Within the groundsmanship industry – whether sports or amenity turf focussed – the wealth of experience and challenges available for self-reflection is vast. If we consider the range of different surfaces and sports, along with the wider range of materials and applied working practices, available finances as well as the experiences of different age groups within the industry, then the opportunity to provide a critical self-reflection of all these features is almost limitless.

  1. Capture the experience or potential activity by documenting it – write it down, making sure it is as clearly described as possible and it is entire in its scope.
  2. Think, critically, about what it is you are reflecting on.
  3. Question and challenge your thoughts on your reflections. What insights can you discover?
  4. Evaluate the experience and describe the learning outcome. This might, for example, be an identified need for a change of working practice.

I encourage everyone within the industry, no matter where they work or level of experience, to start some form of reflective learning – but make sure it’s written down. This activity is also an important part of continuing professional development, which is an underplayed aspect of aiding workers in the industry to better develop their careers.

Chris Gray, December 21, 2016

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