Gateways: reflective learning

Forms of reflective learning can be accessible gateways to inner practices. Given the marginalisation of some inner practices (often referred to as ‘navel gazing’ or ‘touchy-feely stuff’), reflective learning may be used in a variety of contexts where more emotional modalities may feel challenging, such as workplace and professional cultures. Reflective learning can take many forms, and can be done individually, through groups and in connection with the more-than-human world. Some suggestions are below, and you’ll find more links in the resources section

Cycles of action and reflection are forms of feedback loops, designed to ensure that learning and experience is harnessed and integrated with forms of action. The diagram gives a great overview of the process. 

Image credit: G at Ecodharma
Solo reflective learning

Keeping a reflective journal is a useful way to track recurrent issues, or issues that are tricky. It can help you see your thoughts, and reflect on them, to speculate, and get thoughts and ideas out of your head. Reading your journal out loud can guide you too which parts may be more emotive. 

‘Storyboarding’ is a useful reflective practice, to put whatever you’re facing into a wider context. You can find out more about storyboarding for resilience from Chris Johnstone here: Building resilience courses: with a resilience lens, tools such as storyboarding, emotional first aid, http://collegeofwellbeing.com/ 

 The Active Hope book contains a variety of reflective tools and practices to “help us face the mess we’re in, as well as find and play our role in the collective transition …  to a life-sustaining society”. https://www.activehope.info/ . Active Hope can be worked through in a group setting too. 

Group based reflective learning

Action Learning Sets are conducted through small groups who meet over a number of sessions. Each person takes a turn at presenting an ‘issue’, something they would like to explore such as a problem, or an upcoming opportunity. The rest of the group listens attentively and asks questions which are aimed at developing the learning and reflection of the presenter. 

“Action learning sets are a simple and powerful way for individuals to learn from each other. They are a popular method in the field of action learning. Action learning is a process which involves working on real challenges, using the knowledge and skills of a small group of people combined with skilled questioning, to produce fresh ideas and reinterpret familiar concepts. Initially developed by Reg Revans, it follows the process of explicitly stopping to reflect back on actions taken, drawing out learning from that reflection, and applying that learning to planned practice.” (Source: Action learning sets guide).

Theory U: Otto Scharmer 

The essentials of theory U

Methods for group based learning and change such as Theory U developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology through action research, are widely used in management and organisations. 

Theory U draws attention to the interior conditions – both visible and invisible - of change-makers, encouraging participants to rethink and re-feel the systems and organisations in which they operate, to develop relational awareness and to ‘learn by sensing and actualising emergent future possibilities’. Find out more: https://www.presencing.org/ 

Reflection and group learning through evaluation

Forms of evaluation can be valuable reflective practices, and important gateways to inner enquiry. They can lead to questions about assumptions that are visible or invisible and help to cohere forms of reflective practice within groups or organisations.  

The Action-reflection cycle is a useful practice for groups.

The Transition Network Health check tool is a useful resource for many social change groups. It can help groups reflect on where they’re at, instigate conversations, celebrate, learn and identify areas that need more attention.