CPD – reflective practice made easy

CPD – reflective practice made easy
29 August 2018
If you struggle writing reflections, it's just about finding a method

Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, once said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” Was he writing a CPD reflection for his HCPC audit? No. But he raises a good point. Reflection can often seem like an add-on when we’re doing our CPD. We think of our activities as the stuff of our learning and developing - not the writing up. However, if we’re doing it properly, our reflective practice should also help us to remember and fully understand what we have learnt and how we have developed.

You might not be fully convinced by this. CPD reflection can often seem like a difficult creative exercise that requires skills that are otherwise not needed in our working lives – so we struggle with it and can’t think what to write. We know that our knowledge is current and that our practice is good but we don’t have the time to think about how we can prove it. If this is the case for you, then maybe you just need to find the right method so that you can write up your reflections in an easy but meaningful way. Once you’re doing this, you might even begin to take more from writing them.

If you are one of those who struggle with your reflections, it’s worth remembering that there’s no special hidden reflective skill. You don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike. Like writing up in science, producing a reflection is just a way of conveying information. Remember, the person auditing you at the HCPC doesn’t know anything about your activities or why you think they count as CPD. All you have to do is present that information quickly and clearly.

The “STAR” acronym for interview techniques (Situation – Task – Action – Result) is so popular because it’s easy enough to remember while you’re writing or talking – so you can actually use it in action. It’s also helpful because it helps you cover the bases of what most interviewers are looking for. In the same spirit, here’s an acronym that will have you steaming ahead (sorry) on your CPD reflections: STEAM

It breaks down like this:

Situation               – What happened?

Thoughts             – What were you thinking / feeling?

Evaluation            – What was good or bad about it?

Analysis               – What relevance did it have to you / your practice?

Meaning               – What changes will you make / conclusions have you drawn?

Here’s a very simple example of how easy a good reflection can be using this method:

(Situation) I watched a TV program about a laboratory in Geneva. (Thoughts) I noticed that the way they tested for a viral infection was much more efficient than the way we do it in our laboratory. (Evaluation) It occurred to me that we could get through a lot more tests and help a lot more people if we did it their way. (Analysis) The only problem was that they had an expensive piece of equipment that we don’t have so I knew that we wouldn’t be able to implement their method straight away. (Meaning) However, I decided that I would draw my laboratory manager’s attention to the machine in the next staff meeting so he could look into the costs and added value it would bring, and perhaps then raise the issue with the funding/budget team.”

Obviously, this is a bare-minimum example and it’s better to learn and develop in broader and more meaningful ways but the principle behind the reflection is solid. As part of a varied portfolio of evidence, this could easily be counted as a “Self-Directed Learning” activity.

Just remember, the HCPC have no idea whether the training you listed actually trained you or not – so you have to help them understand that it did. Just break your reflection down into the five simple parts of “STEAM” and you’ll get through it in no time.

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