Reflection and Personal Development Planning

Daniel O'Connell

Not so long ago, this writer received a hand-written addressed letter. On confirmation that there was indeed no obvious tell-tale “window” with a printed name and address that usually denotes some bill to pay, the ext thought was: “Who is still taking the time to hand-write a personal letter?? Memories of typewriters and cassette players began to stir!!! On reflection – which is the point of this whole article -- the writer of that (5 page) letter - in order to establish clear communication - had obviously taken time and employed a certain level of reflection in order to achieve that.

Broadly speaking, it is generally accepted that reflection is a process that involves careful and long consideration of thought. Synonyms to reflection range from consideration to cogitation, contemplation to meditation, or from rumination to deliberation. The bottom line is: one gets involved with whatever concept is relevant to the moment.

Reflection is a cornerstone to Personal Development Planning (PDP). It offers a bridge where theory and practice can meet, and from within that engagement, knowledge can form. However, is reflection being employed in an age when information is rampant, and perpetually changing? Are we in fact drowning in information, with no access to reflection skills that may serve to anchor theory and practise into knowledge, and thereby deepen our own understanding of our studies, plans, and life? Is this the case for international students who may have had no exposure to this skill? Future articles will delve more into this matter, but for the moment, indications to date point toward the affirmative.

The need for PDP is not yet generally understood by students across the spectrum. As Beigal (2006) reported for the University of Chester – and I here paraphrase -- the need for PDP was not always seen, and consequently, students did the minimum amount of work in their e-portfolios in order to pass. Furthermore, students dropped the whole concept altogether at it’s completion. Additionally, Lynch (2008) reported – and I again paraphrase -- that international students found PDP and Reflection unfamiliar, and were hesitant in revealing reflection in their portfolios.

To respectfully borrow a word that is universally understood, though not academically tolerated, PDP in this fast-paced world of business is simply not “sexy”. Marketing, Finance, and perhaps even Statistics when considered from an overall IBA perspective, are indeed that. However, PDP is often relegated to other fields that come closer to Freud or Jung, or beyond!!

What is closer to the truth is that knowledge can only be personally claimed by reflection. Without that, one has only facts...facts from other minds that may be lost if unused. If used, for example in Marketing, this
inter-action of concepts between minds will lead to further questions, practise, and research. Through this process, knowledge gains hold - in this case, the knowledge of Marketing. This is a major contribution to the “special spark” concept, as mentioned in the previous article on this series. The world-at-large may not know about PDP, but professionals know when people are simply regurgitating facts, or proposing newer concepts based on existing research. What side would you prefer to stand on?

As with that 5-page letter, it is extremely beneficial to give time and reflection to what one is involved with. For students, this means a focus upon the units of information that is being given and to actively turn it into knowledge. Reflection, as a PDP tool, allows for this.

Daniel O'Connell, Student Tutor and PDP Lecutrer, 28-11-11

(Edited by Peter Birdsall - original submission Saturday, 3 December 2011, 02:24 PM)

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