Reflecting on Reflexive Coppers

April 19, 2012 by
Filed under: Education Matters, Social Brain 

Being reflective means never having to say ‘sorry if these comments come a bit late’. So, after my recommended twenty minutes of reflection, here are some thoughts inspired by  Monday’s excellent Reflexive Coppers report. The Social Brain team said reflexive, I’ll say reflective, even though I am sure that the difference matters to someone out there.

The report demonstrated a real appetite from the police to engage in new kinds of thinking and conversations, and also outlined the barriers, both cultural and institutional, that prevent reflectivity. These barriers are far from unique to the police force.  Even the teaching profession, which by its nature you might expect to embrace reflection as a key pedagogy for pupil and adult learning, finds this difficult. It’s often a case of  ‘Teach first, ask questions later, if at all’.

In my previous job with Creative Partnerships, although the excitement came during the classroom projects themselves, most teachers and practitioners recognised that the most important, sustainable learning came through the reflective processes we built into the programme’s design and values – ‘question, connect, imagine, reflect’. This was often tough stuff , but ultimately it was the reflection that changed teachers’ practices when our circus left town.

My own experience of Action Learning as a powerful tool for solution-focused reflection was that it worked best with people who weren’t only outside your own workplace, but from different professions. Common Purpose‘s model is partly built on this cross-professional approach, but their operation can appear too evangelical and assertive to encourage genuine reflection. It is also expensive.  Are there cheaper, more self-facilitated ways for professionals across different public services to reflect collaboratively, possibly based on the TeachMeet DIY approach, and possibly on particular themes (for instance, children and young people)?

When my sister was training to be a nurse, during one of her first lectures her class of sixty students was told that “half of you will end up marrying policemen”. She neither became a nurse or married a policeman; but if her lecturer was right then reflective, cross-professional pillow talk may already be happening, off -duty, in various rooms of various homes.


  • Georgie

    This article is very interesting. As a student studying an applied theatre degree we are constantly being told to reflect on our work and our learning. This article reiterates the importance of this that we sometimes over look. I for one sometimes lack the motivation to keep a reflective journal of my work, you can take for granted the amount you can learn from your own practise by taking just a few minutes to consider. What went well? What went wrong? What could you do better next time? It is interesting the aspects of this article that discuss reflecting with other professionals I have found some of the most interesting and most useful moments of learning for me at university have been when discussing methods of working with peers. It is really helpful to learn from other peoples mistakes. The Arts award is one scheme for young people that I have been involved in through SCE, it encourages you to reflect on your work. I think it has been really useful in helping me develop this technique of reflecting from a young age so now it is a task that is much more natural and embedded in my routine. 

  • Joy Harris

      ‘question, connect, imagine, reflect’. Absolutely Joe.
    . Although Service Childen’s Education only got access to Creative Partnerships in the last 2 years, sadly, it was the reflection aspect that changed my practice and others involved in the exciting, inspiring projects.
    We have in fact kept CP on on SCE, funding it ourselves, to continue to promote reflection as part of pupils learning.
    Thank you for the important role you played in gaining our students equal access to this opportunity, it really made a difference.

  • Joy Harris

     I agree with Georgie about the Arts Award Scheme re reflection.
    Quote from my Moderators report of yesterday ( Gold Arts Award Moderation Service Children’s Education)
    ‘ The level of reflection  throughout this unit was excellent’

  • Stephen

    Really intelligent piece; the full importance of self-reflection is something I’ve only grasped fully since studying at University, but I wish it was something more encouraged/developed in schools

  • Tori Boyes

    Thanks for that Joe. I’m a teacher new (since it was axed nationally!) to Creative Partnerships- We are following a model here in SCE, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have introduced it within my school. I’d agree that it is certainly a challenge sometimes to really deeply reflect on how you can actually achieve a lasting change; for me as a teacher, it does indeed often seem to be a case of see, react and implement within a very short space of time. Children being children, you have to do this quickly before the impetus is lost, and sometimes perhaps that means deep introspection can be hard to come by. Other professionals force you to rethink your own processes and ways of both teaching and learning; for myself as an Arts Co-ordinator in a relatively small primary school, I relished the opportunity recently to work with a drama practitioner (not teacher!) who wasn’t caught up or in some ways limited by the day to day demands of being a teacher. I’d like to think that we both took something from this, but I’ve certainly taken away something (not yet clearly defined however!) I was forturnate enough to use it as an opportunity to spur on and stimulate drama across the entire school- Our brilliant creative consultant provided additional stimulus for staff and students, and there was a real buzz for the whole week.

    However, of course the million dollar questio is of course: cost. I’d like to think that you could have a cheaper kind of stimulus that can enact a lasting change.. but I’m not convinced. Outside professionals who know their stuff have that instant ‘wow’ factor for children and indeed staff that sometimes you can’t match. Familiarity doesn’t breed comtempt, but the glamour of the new certainly helps you look at your familiar routines and surrondings in a different light.