Concrete experience

Megan: “I’m a new first year student and had to attend my first seminar group last week. I was a bit anxious about the idea of talking in a small group, and on the day of the seminar I had problems finding the tutor’s room. By the time I got there everyone was sitting chatting to each other. I walked in, sat on a chair on my own, and kept myself to myself. I didn’t open my mouth during the whole seminar. I felt so stupid and embarrassed.”

Reflective observation

Megan: “Afterwards I had the chance to talk to people, and to my tutor, and to think things over. I realised that everyone was new, and were feeling just as anxious as me. Because I was late I thought the tutor would be angry, and since the class had started I couldn’t interrupt. In fact the tutor had been waiting for everyone to turn up before starting and always makes allowances for people getting lost on the first day. It turns out the way I acted gave the wrong impression to some of my class mates who thought I was being distant and unfriendly.”

Abstract conceptualisation

Megan: “I am naturally quite a shy person, especially when meeting people for the first time and this isn‘t the first time my shyness has been mistaken for unfriendliness. Funny thing is that I’ve been reading about body language as part of my course, and the impact of first impressions when working with service users or other professionals. I think this is probably an issue not just for my course but for my work as a social worker. The 'use of self' as my tutor call it.”

Active experimentation

Megan: “If this happened again I think I would do things differently. For starters I would take time to check the venue and leave in plenty of time to get there. I also need to try to become aware of the impression I’m creating and try to smile and have some eye contact to let the other people know I’m approachable. I could also use ‘small talk’ just to introduce myself, or ask a question if I’m not clear what’s going on. I know it won’t be as easy as it sounds but I’m going to have a go and see what happens. If I freeze up I can always talk to my tutor afterwards.”

Your reflection

Have you ever had a similar experience? How did you react? How did you feel? Now, what might you do differently? Using the headings below, try noting down your own reflective account about a recent learning experience from a course, placement, or practice. If you have the opportunity, use the results in a portfolio or to discuss with your colleagues, tutor or practice teacher.

  • Concrete experience
    The lived experience of an event or situation
  • Reflective observation
    Tour thoughts and reflections in the experience
  • Abstract conceptualisation
    Generalisations made from the experience to other situations based on theory or other generalisations
  • Active experimentation
    Applying new approaches to the same situation to improve the outcome