Reflective Learning: what is it and what are the benefits?
Reflective learning? That’s just a waste of time, right?Wrong! It’s very easy to get caught up in the working world, so people rarely stop to think about what they’ve learned and achieved. Reflective learning is a great way to get yourself into the habit of internalising your learning and experiences. At Flex Legal, we are such huge fans of reflective learning that we’ve designed our SQE Journal to prompt reflective learning amongst users. This blog article explores what reflective learning actually is, and its personal and professional benefits. It also highlights some useful reflective learning frameworks/methods, to help get you started.
What is reflective learning?Chances are you’ve heard of reflection in some form or another. When we talk about reflective learning, we’re not talking about reading a textbook to yourself in the mirror. Instead, reflective learning is an ongoing process, where you continuously reflect on your new experiences and learn to strengthen connections, enabling deeper learning. I know you may be wondering why you need to do this on your qualifying work experience (QWE), as you’re not learning in the traditional sense. But, in order to get the most from your QWE, you need to be reflecting on all the tasks you complete.
There are many different approaches to reflective learning. One is the three stage model, which is made up of retrieval practice, elaboration and spaced learning. Retrieval practice involves continuously attempting to remember what you’ve learnt. This can be done either mentally or by writing everything down, and is one of the most effective learning methods. Elaboration is a learning strategy that clarifies the relationship between new and old material in memory. Making connections between new information and previous information helps to put the new information into perspective by allowing you to understand how it relates to other concepts. Finally, spaced learning is the idea that learning should be completed consistently, over time. To reduce forgetting, information should be revisited with days, weeks or months between each revisal. So, reflective learning cannot be done overnight. It takes time and effort, which is why it’s great to get into the habit of engaging in reflective learning during your QWE.
What are the benefits of reflective learning?Self-motivation
Reflective learning can be great for self-motivation. It’s easy to get caught up in simple admin tasks when completing work experience, meaning you can sometimes finish the day feeling like you haven’t learnt much at all. Reflective learning allows you to take a step back from the more basic tasks and identify what you have actually achieved, motivating you to continue and engage with the work.
As part of reflective learning, you are often required to consider your strengths and weaknesses. Whilst this can be a daunting task for some, it really gets you to drill into your own performance and identify key areas for improvement. This is beneficial for two reasons. Firstly, it allows you to focus your time on developing in the areas that you actually need to improve in. Secondly, it makes any upcoming performance reviews less intimidating, as you’ve already identified the specific areas that you think will be flagged. You will likely have a plan of action to address these areas too, which is even better.
Understanding your learning style
By engaging in reflective learning, you will naturally begin to see how you learn best. You may find that you need to write things down to properly get to grips with them. For some, chatting with colleagues may really help them to take things in. Whatever your learning style is, reflective learning will help you find it and make your future learning far more efficient.
Learning from your mistakes
Let’s face it, no one likes making mistakes. But, the only thing worse than making a mistake once, is making it twice. It’s human nature to brush over your mistakes, and try not to think about them ever again. Reflective learning forces you to consider your mistakes, the factors that led to the mistake, and what you could have done differently. This will help you to avoid making that mistake again and means you can truly learn from it.
Helps you to develop the SRA competences
A final, more practical benefit of reflective learning, is that it will help you to engage with the SRA competences. Competency A2c requires candidates to accurately evaluate their strengths and limitations in relation to the demands of their work. This consideration of strengths and weaknesses is key to reflective learning, as you will see later. Other competences also require an element of reflective learning. For example, competency A4c requires candidates to spot issues that are outside their expertise and take appropriate action. It would be near impossible to do this if you didn’t have an understanding of your own abilities, and the knowledge that you currently have. Do bear in mind that the SRA competences are applicable throughout your life as a solicitor. If you are going to need to engage in reflective learning while you're a solicitor, why not start during your QWE?
How can I engage in reflective learning?By now, we hope we’ve convinced you about how useful reflective learning can be. However, we do understand that all of this can be quite abstract, so here are some methods to help you get started.
Although interrogations are generally something you aim to avoid, you should definitely try elaborative interrogation. Elaborative interrogation simply involves asking yourself questions about the information you are trying to learn or reflect on. For example, you may ask yourself: What are leasehold covenants? Why are leasehold covenants important? Why were leasehold covenants important to the client?
The Flex Legal SQE Journal is great for elaborative interrogation. Our journal entries go far beyond what is required by the SRA in relation to QWE, and ask you to consider various factors, such as your future learning needs and what technical or cultural knowledge you actually acquired from your experience. So, you are automatically engaging in elaborative interrogation by completing your Flex Legal SQE Journal.
One very popular method of reflection is the SWOT analysis. This is where an individual considers their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Whilst these headings are relatively self-explanatory, people can sometimes find it difficult to really pinpoint these ideas.
Whilst assessing your strengths, you may ask yourself: “What did I do better than others on the project?” or “What have other people complimented me on during my QWE?”. When thinking about your weaknesses, you may think about what tasks you actively avoided on your QWE because you didn’t feel confident in doing them. To pinpoint your current opportunities, you could consider how new technology could help you during your future QWE, or whether you have built any new contacts that you could take advantage of. Finally, when identifying threats, you may want to ask yourself what obstacles you faced during your QWE.
Venn Diagram Approach
The final approach is a fantastic tool for visual learners, as it can really help you to visually organise your thoughts and ideas. The left side of the venn diagram contains your current strengths. You may find it useful to ask yourself some of the SWOT analysis questions to determine these. The right side contains your aspirations for your future career. These aspirations may be as big as becoming a Partner at a magic circle law firm, or something smaller, such as mastering LexisNexis on your next QWE placement. Finally, the overlap section contains the immediate opportunities you have, which will enable you to reach your aspirations. To show you how this all works, we have included an example above.
We hope this blog article has helped you to see the benefits of reflective learning, and has shown you why you should get started as soon as possible! To use the Flex Legal Journal for your QWE reflective learning, please click here.
- The SQE Explained – This blog article explains the SQE, including the QWE component, in more detail.
- How to get the most out of your SQE qualifying work experience - Read this blog post to learn more about the work experience opportunities that candidates can take advantage of whilst working towards their SQE.
- The Flex Legal SQE Journal: A Supervisor’s Perspective - To show you what a great tool our journal can be for QWE supervisors, as well as SQE candidates, we caught up with Luana Gomes Medalha and asked her a few questions about our journal.