Learning about reflection
This longitudinal study investigated the ways in which participants reflected about their
practice as they progressed through a three year programme as students in adult nurSing and
in the first years following graduation. The method was qualitative, with data gained from
written critical incidents based on practice experiences, classroom discussions and interviews.
A mixed methodology was used, combining the constant comparative method outlined in
Grounded Theory and Narrative Analysis.
The aim was to unravel the complexities of reflection; what participants reflected about, how
and why, as they progressed through important stages of professional development. Analysis
of content data revealed the range of issues perceived as most important for practice and the
multifaceted skills, knowledge and attitudes required to deal with them. Strong themes
emerging from the data related to the complexity of learning what it means to be a
professional and, in consequence, what they learn about themselves.
Categories exemplifying the use of forms of knowledge and influencing processes such as
cognition, memory and language were also uncovered. These categories showed the diversity
and complexity of reflecti ve skills and the common use participants made of 'storytelling' .
Because of this, a decision was made to reveal the function reflection served through
undertaking narrative analysis using Gee's model of analysis. 'Horizons of meanings' were
identified leading to the conclusion that reflection was a means of: exploring possible self
images; constructing and conveying a personal value system; understanding the meaning of
the professional context and fitting the learning jigsaw together.
The research process is delineated as a journey of discovery requiring the adoption of
theoretical pluralism to discover meaning and a logical reconstruction of reflection. A
reconsideration of reflection as an integrative model of personal progress has been advocated
and implications this has for nursing practice, management and education outlined.