Holding up a mirror to ourselves

Interim assistant director (workforce and education) Nina Paterson shares why the dawn of a new year is an ideal time for self-reflection


We’re at the start of another year which for me always brings about a time of reflection and looking forward. I know from our ePortfolio stats that many of you are doing the same. So I wanted to talk about learning and using self-reflection to go beyond surface learning. 

I happen to be on a course where I apply these skills, but the principles apply equally well to learning on the job or when working with a mentor (check out the feature on mentoring if you’re interested in learning more about this).

I started the course in September to develop as a coach. Being coached is a fantastic way to carve out time to problem solve, reflect, generate ideas or plan. It is so versatile and I’ve benefitted every time I’ve been coached over the course of my career. I’ve been keen on becoming an accredited coach for a while but I haven’t made time for it until last year, when

I put aside my excuses. After all, I am always going to be too busy, and it is never going to be quite the right time! With support from CSP, I found a course that met my learning needs but also one that would take me out of my comfort zone. 

I’m not going to pretend it has been easy. Life has definitely got in the way and the course itself is challenging. 

It is stretching me to use different methodologies and lenses with which to view the role of a coach. And so much practising! It is nowhere near 1,000 hours but…

No surprise, too, that it is also continuously assessed with formative and summative feedback coming in the moment, and non-stop!

Challenge your preferences

An occupational hazard for me is that when I return to study I have to stop myself evaluating the teaching, learning and assessment strategies being used. So I have switched off that part of my head and simply immersed myself in the learning experience. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve advised others that their learning styles and preferences are just that – preferences. Now I’m living it again, learning in real time in a style that’s often outside of my preferences – and it is good for me! 

The content is exposing me to new things – that was the plan; so, so far, so good! Some approaches don’t sit naturally with me, and some are so familiar that it’s like slipping on my favourite hoodie after work. But I’m learning to lean into the approaches that challenge me and use them to question my preferences and my biases. 

Expose yourself to new ideas

As the course covers a range of approaches, I could be strategic and stick with what I know or am naturally good at. I even tried justifying it to myself that I was concentrating on the approaches I considered robust, evidenced and logical but that was a bit of an excuse for me to hide behind. 

With some honest self-reflection, the real answer is that I’m just not keen on those that I’m not instantly an expert in, or find hard even though they might be more effective for the coachee. I’m getting a very personal insight into how willing (or not) I am to expose myself to new ideas, to be a novice again, to open myself up to feedback and I’m discovering whether I’m willing to be flexible and crucially person-centred in what I’m doing. 

The point of the course is not about whether I get a merit or a pass, it’s about whether I’m willing to see past myself to the person I’m coaching to put them at the centre of what I’m doing. It comes back to the impact for them – am I better able to meet them where they are? When I see a smile light up the face of someone I’m coaching as they say ‘I know what I need to do!’ it makes all that self-reflection worth it.

Whatever learning experiences you immerse yourself in this year, go beyond the surface. It’s worth it! 

My learning - going beyond the surface

Nothing stifles learning more than having already made your mind up about something, so stay curious. Even when you think all you’re learning is ‘another technique for the toolkit’ stay self-aware and remember that what matters is the person behind the skill/ability. It’s not just about what and why but also the who and how. Make reflection a habit – if you haven’t yet made a resolution how about making reflection your habit for 2022? A great way to encourage reflection is to keep a journal or blog (audio, video or written – it’s up to you!) 

Find out more

If you are looking for a private space to reflect on your own development throughout 2022, CSP’s ePortfolio, which captures your work, reflections and achievements online,  is free to all CSP members here.

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