Socio-economic and cultural context

In this increasingly dynamic and competitive socio-economic and cultural context, it is not enough for students to acquire theoretical or practical knowledge in particular academic areas (Fallows & Stevens, 2000). Students need to develop their personal capabilities to be able to interact within their environment in an active, critical and reflective way. They need to learn to analyse real situations and reflect on them in order to propose solutions and add value to the business.Employers are looking for people able to think critically, to identify their own gaps and weaknesses and to challenge their own ideas in order to implement best solutions to help the organisation to grow. Critically evaluating my learning logs I will determine why students and professionals need to reflect.

The first question to ask is: what does reflective practice mean to me? I have identified two types of reflexivity: personal reflexivity and epistemological reflexivity.Personal reflexivity is “the process of internally examining and exploring an issue of concern, triggered by an experience, which creates and clarify meaning in terms of self and which results in a changed conceptual perspective” (Boyd & Fales, 1983). It therefore involves thinking about how the research may have affected and changed us. Epistemological reflexivity encourages us to reflect upon the assumptions (about the world, about knowledge) that we may have made in the course of the research. Ontology and epistemology have influenced my reflexivity and my learning during the course.I believe that I belong to the critical realism group as for me things exist even if I cannot see them or if I do not know them. I believe that my culture and education have influenced the way I am thinking and reflect on me.

In my opinion how you see the world depends mainly on how people close to you see it and the environment in which you grow up, your culture, your beliefs. For me entities exist outside what I see and know. Looking at my learning log I have identified one lecture which was influenced I believe by the way I see the world.

Indeed I have attended a session on representation at work. It was interesting for me to talk about a subject that I do not know at all. I have never been confronted to trade unions and I do not know exactly how it works in practice. I took this as an opportunity to think how having a trade union in my organisation would change the way we manage conflicts. I tried to determine what would be the advantages and disadvantages and thought that it could help to encourage dialogue and therefore to resolve conflicts in a way that suit both the employees and the company.

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Reflection is essential for critical thinking to occur and in the meantime critical skills are fundamental to reflection. The connection between the two concepts is evident and reflection can help to improve critical thinking ability over time. In my opinion, learning logs or CPD are a useful tool to encourage students to reflect and therefore to develop their critical thinking skills.

My approach whilst during my learning logs has changed.My log on “Organisation forms and their management” is fairly poor and demonstrates a lack of reading on the subject and a lack of thinking. I did not ask myself the right questions and did not relate theory to practice.

I looked at the upskilling and deskilling approaches as interesting concepts but did not consider their practical application. However, I believe that my learning log on “HRM and ethics” demonstrate some new perspective and critical thinking that would probably classify me as a critical reflector as defined by Wong and Kember (1997, 1999).Indeed I identified the importance of ethics in HRM especially due to the decline in trade unionism and focus of HRM on welfare image and I was able to relate it in practice by thinking of the role that ethics play in my work environment. The HR advisor in my organisation is in my mind a highly ethical person. Her judgments are based in fairness and when she deals for example with Employees Relations issues her ethical view does conflict with the business needs.

My manager often told her that although her decisions were ethically right and fair they were not acceptable for the business and therefore overruled her decisions.This made me realise that ethics and HRM are often conflicting and that it is hard in practice to find the right balance between ethics and business needs. My learning log on “work” gave me the opportunity to reflect back on the meaning of work and the reasons for working.

I asked my colleagues whether they were considering being part of the social events team as work. The majority of people did not consider it as work because it was not rewarded financially and because they thought it was enjoyable. However few people argued that it was work because it was requiring time and efforts.

My assumption was that work has to be rewarded financially. My point of view was challenged by my colleagues and I now understand that people perceive work differently and according to the situation. In week 6 we looked at the different roles of HR and the relation between HR and line managers. HR is currently playing a role of adviser within our organisation and I tried to determine how to become players. Line managers are slowly becoming more involved in HR practices and this is in my opinion the way forward.Once the managers will be able to see HR as service provider that they can use to provide specific HR assistance then HR will be able to “play in the game not at the game” (Ulrich, 2001) and add value to the business by focussing on business demands and needs. Three levels of reflection can be identified: non reflectors, reflectors and critical reflectors (Wong and Kember (1997, 1999).

I believe that when I first started doing my learning logs I was probably between the non reflector and the reflector.I did not make the effort to expand on how my readings enhanced my existing knowledge. However I was showing curiosity and was aware that concepts were new to me and that my lack of readings and knowledge of the subject did not help me to participate actively in class and therefore to learn. Awareness is the first stage of reflection (Scanlon & Chernomas, 1997) and corresponds to the second level of Wong and Kember model if we merge the two models (K. Thorpe, 2004). By understanding more about the concept of reflexivity and critical thinking I believe that my learning logs improved.I was able to demonstrate some new perspective (Scanlon & Chernomas, 1997) and I made the efforts to seek out the why of things and to critically review assumptions.

To summarise, I consider myself as being able to act and think as a critical reflector but I recognise that I need to develop my critical thinking skills further in order to feel totally comfortable with the process. Reflexivity is a new concept for me and although I see reflexivity as a help to improve my results it is still a challenge to apply it to theoretical learning.I prefer work based learning (Nikolou-Walker, 2004) and I believe it will suit me more to reflect on work rather than on academic learning.

Practice means more to me than theory and reflecting on real life experiences challenge me. I can really see it as a way to develop and grow within my role and my organisation. I am conscious that I need to reflect on my own learning and actions to be able to achieve a culture in which I have the skills to adapt and cope with issues as they arise.