Archives for posts with tag: reflecting

What happens after you’ve participated in a development event?  Do you put together an action plan to implement what you have learned or do you take your time and apply your knowledge/skills as and when they are required?  I know that I’ve been guilty of completing an evaluation form immediately after a workshop, identifying three things I will do as a result of attending and then months later I haven’t actually followed through with my grand plans.  Sometimes this is because priorities change and other times it’s because I haven’t taken the time to properly reflect on the outcomes of an event and whether or not I will ever put them into practice. Read the rest of this entry »

Last week provided me with a double of interesting events that made me think about the importance of ‘engaging’ (with learning, people and change).

There are various definitions on but for me engaging is a conscious act, one of opening up oneself to new information, ideas or opportunities. From this can come the act of engagement, characterised in a multi-way transaction in which all parties are actively involved and inevitably, something changes as a result.

On Thursday, I attended a TUoS Engaged Learning Network event. Professor Brendan Stone, who introduced the session, describes engaged learning & teaching as, “combining academic rigour and disciplinary knowledge with opportunities for students to learn with and from external partners, ‘real-world’ challenges, and experiences outside the University.” (‘Engaged Learning Sheffield’, 2016).

The keynote speaker, Dr Ira Harkavy from the University of Pennsylvania, talked passionately about the need for academia to use its considerable resource and standing to foster community engagement and cooperation to enable genuine research impact in the local environment.

In the Q&A at the end, an impassioned colleague pointed out that this type of engagement, whether in Undergraduate learning or in core research, needs to be woven in to the fabric of the institution, rather than be seen as the activity of a few ‘out there’ individuals on the margins.


What all of these positions reminded me was of the need for researchers to look beyond the day to day activity of research to consider who they will need to engage with to create change (no matter how big or small and whether in their own lives or beyond).

This contemplation was then reinforced on Friday when I attend a meeting of the nascent University-wide researcher society. Once again, impassioned colleagues talked, this time the focus being the benefits of engaging with researcher networks/associations for skill development, social connectivity, profile raising and to support collective change.

Both of these events had a common undercurrent, the certainty that collaboration and collective effort can be a force for change. For me, the very desire for ‘engagement’ implies that either an individual wants to improve something, be it personal and directly related to themselves or for the wider benefit to others.

I guess what I am trying to say (in a muddled philosophy kind of way) is that my choice to engage in both of these events, provided me opportunity to hear others’ visions, reflect on my own values, think more broadly about the role of research in society and be reminded about the potential for change that comes through a collectively engaged ‘voice’.

Time well spent, I’d say.

(Image credit: The University of Edinburgh)



Christmas – a time for reflection. Obvs.

The ability to reflect on experiences is a valuable skill, which allows you to gain insight into your personal, professional and academic development throughout the course of your career but the term “reflective practice” or “self reflection”  can sometimes seem a bit vague or off-putting. So, what is it?

Simply put, reflective practice is taking the time to think critically about your experiences, actions and feelings, and applying your understanding of them in order to inform your actions in the future.

We all think about (reflect upon) situations that have occurred or experiences we have had: what went well? What didn’t? Why? Often, we don’t do this consciously; our thoughts and feelings about something gradually emerge and we may or may not choose to act (or react) differently in future similar  situations.

Recent research from  Harvard Business School suggests that taking the time to reflect effectively on our work improves job performance in the long run. But when you’re up to your eyes in writing, teaching, marking and, ohwhat’sthatotherthing, right, research, it can be a real challenge to make the time to reflect at all, let alone effectively. But as we approach the Christmas break and the end of the year, reflecting back on your experiences in 2015 can be an important element of of getting geared up for a new year, and of finding your way out of the sluggish brain-fog of too many festive films. Read the rest of this entry »

Group 7 of SUGS 2015During last week, I took part in the delivery of the Sheffield GradSchool (SUGS), a 3-day development programme for PhD students from across the University. For me the most important aspect about the programme, is that it gives PhD researchers the opportunity to ‘pause’, park their PhD for a few days and give them permission to think about themselves. Read the rest of this entry »