Reflecting from scratch can be a daunting task. Just you and blank sheet of paper. Where do you start? With work? University? Extra-curricular activities? What’s important? What’s not? What’s useful for sorting out your career? Or valuable to tell potential employers? How much detail is enough? How do you take action on your reflections to recognise your strengths, make improvements, make decisions about your future?
Grossman (2009) sheds some light on the process of reflection, the characteristics of ineffective reflection and discusses some of the ways we can become more skilled and effective reflectors. One of these ways us through the process of scaffolding (if you are a GTA, you may well have come across this concept). Scaffolding is an important strategy we use to help learners develop from novices to experts in skills, knowledge and understanding in your subject area – we use techniques and activities to bridge gaps in knowledge and ability. There are career management tools which can scaffold career development and help us become experts in ourselves. Using these tools can help us make the most effective use of a blank sheet of paper by giving us some parameters for our thinking and a bit of guidance.
We should be experts on ourselves already, shouldn’t we? After all, who knows us better? Grossman found that students asked to reflect on their development most often wrote inferences without providing any supporting evidence or insight into the intellectual and practical processes that enabled the student to do or understand something. From the point of view of careers consultants, something similar often happens when we begin to explore career possibilities with students by asking opening questions such as ‘What are you good at?’, ‘What do you enjoy?. Students may not be sure what they are good at or what they enjoy. If they can state what they enjoy or what they are good at, some may struggle to provide the evidence to uphold those statements.
We can make reflection more productive and accurate by providing structure – scaffolding – in the form of some very simple to use tools that are available on the Careers Service website:
- Assess your personality styles and preferred working styles using The Type Dynamics Indicator.
- The Career Interests Inventory provides ideas and suggestions of preferred careers based on the pattern of interests (your personality or identity) suggested by your answers.
These are not predictive tools – their value does not lie in telling you what your career will be. Their value lies in providing an opportunity to think in a focused and constructive way about who you are and what you might like your future to be like – and then take the steps to get there.
You could also complete one of these assessments as preparation for meeting with a careers consultant – the results may give you specific topics you would like to focus on.
Grossman,R . (2009) Structures for facilitating student learning. College Teaching, 57(1), 15-22. http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/CTCH.57.1.15-22
Although this paper is written from the point of view of faculty member who is training teachers, the insight into the reflective process is valuable and, significantly, accessible to a non-expert in pedagogy or cognitive psychology.
Morin, A. (2004) A neurocognitive and sociological model of self-awareness. Genetic, Social & General Psychology Monographs,130(3), 97-224. http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/MONO.130.3.197-224
A more technical paper, but Dr Morin’s work on the nuts and bolts of reflection and self-awareness is insightful and thought provoking. Figure 1. in the paper, a diagrammatic representation of Morin’s model of self-awareness, is particularly interesting. How often do we recognise that some of our self-awareness arises as a result of books we read, programmes or films we watch, seeing ourselves in mirrors or through interacting with people?