CLE15: It’s Jane and Michele (PH)

by Pamela Henderson on 21/06/2015

Full Title:  Justice for All:  Reflective Practice and Reflective Learning

We had a double act, as this session was co-presented by our own Prof. Jane Ching (who coincidentally has just launched a distance learning LLM in Legal Education) and also Michele Leering, Executive Director of the Community Advocacy & Legal Centre in Canada (and passionate researcher into the links between reflective practice and access to justice).

Michele introduced the session by identifying ‘reflection’ as crucial not just to learning, but also to ‘the fire in the belly’ for justice.

Michele acknowledged the increased understanding of the importance of reflection to learning generally, though legal practitioners may be behind other professions, such as the medical profession, in embedding this in their training and regulatory frameworks.

Jane showed us extracts from a variety of regulatory frameworks (e.g. QAA, BSB, SRA, CILEx, IPReg), all of which are now at least referring to ‘reflection’ in some way.  Query from me:  are they just getting excited about a new buzzword or have they really embraced the importance of reflection to learning and professional competence? Jane also cited research conducted by IFF Research and Avrom Sherr on behalf of the SRA into reflective learning that is happening in the workplace.  That is a positive in my opinion – getting independent experts to provide evidence based recommendations on how the regulator should move forward.

Of course, reflection comes in many guises – evaluative, critical, transformative, productive and more.  Jane told us that individuals may be quite good at evaluative reflection, but not necessarily critical e.g. they can identify that something did not go as well as they had hoped, but may struggle to identify what they might do differently next time that should have a positive impact.

Apparently, much valuable reflection actually takes place in tea breaks.  I can totally relate to that.

Michele then took centre stage to share with us her findings in relation to the evolving recognition of the critical contribution of reflection to learning.  A key message here was: reflection on experience is what results in real learning, not just having the experience per se.  Research explodes the myth that, in order to get better at something, you just need to do more of it!

I was fascinated by the way Michele took us through the reflective practitioner, the critically reflective practitioner and the self-reflective practitioner, before showing the importance of integrating these three components to begin to create the ideal:  the Integrated Reflective Practitioner.  However, there is another aspect that is critical to our theme of access to justice, which is reflecting in the community.

To this list, Michele added this:  TAKE ACTION.  Well, I did take action.  Specifically, I took a photograph of the slide and – in the process – a totally unintended Selfie.  Aaargh, how did that happen?  I look like the shadowy figure in the Psycho shower scene – many would say that is an improvement on my usual appearance!


There were some very interesting thoughts around what reflection is as a concept. Is it ontological?  Does it have a tendency to focus on the negative?  Can it exist in the abstract or must it be linked to action, thought or other experience?  Will students want marks for reflecting?  Is reflection an aspect of self-care, that can help to build resilience?

Delegates generally agreed that reflection is important, but not that we all do it!  I was hoping for fisticuffs or at least a good old slanging match at this point, but the people attending this Conference are just too darn nice!




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