Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

23 September 2011

Reflecting socially

Clark @ 6:52 AM

About ten years ago, now, Jay Cross and I met and with some other colleagues, started what we called the Meta-Learning Lab. We’ve maintained our interest in meta-learning across our involvement now with the Internet Time Alliance, and a component we identified as one of the most valuable activities you can do is reflection.

We don’t mean just navel-gazing, of course, but instead we mean systematically stepping back and reviewing ongoing activity with a view towards looking for improvement. It’s baked into things like Watts Humphrey’s Personal Software Process, and without that level of rigor, it still has benefits.  Even more so if it’s shared.

So, blogging is one way of sharing your thoughts and getting feedback (as I do here).  The social processing that happens when sharing is not just for formal learning, but for personal, self-directed learning as well.  Creating a representation of your understanding is valuable in and of itself, to make your thinking concrete, but sharing and getting feedback is even more powerful.

This isn’t just for individuals, of course, but also for teams.  If teams share their collective thinking (blogs again, or perhaps wikis), they can get feedback not just from each other but also from non-team individuals.  This improves the thinking.

And we can start using richer media than just text.  We can capture our understanding with images, audio or video, e.g. conducting interviews (you think differently creating a response to a deep question synchronously than asynchronously).  You can go out and create a video of something that communicates what you think.  You can even film a performance by the individual or team and bring it back for discussion. What a couple of high-tech firms have done, having outstanding performers talk about or perform on video, and adding their own reflections (‘directors notes’ versions), is really powerful for learners too.

Mobile gives us the capability to be more flexible in our communication capture and sharing, which decouples our thinking from the desktop.  We also may be able to review interactions in a social media system, messages and such, to reflect on our communication patterns and improve. And facilitating all this is, to me, one of the opportunities for the learning professional as we start a) expanding our responsibility for all performance, not just ‘training’, and b) start investing our efforts in proportion to the workplace impact (c.f. 70:20:10).

So, I encourage you to start reflecting personally, of course, but consider also reflecting socially, with your colleagues, teammates, and more.  Learning out loud is a key to moving forward faster and more effectively.


  1. Intriguing post. Thanks. What’s the role of artifacts/models/displays in the shared reflecting process?

    Comment by John Clarkson — 23 September 2011 @ 1:04 PM

  2. John, artifacts such as images and other media I discuss above, capturing performance or narrative. You can create models that you think represent your understanding (e.g. of a system or an outcome). Not quite sure what you mean by ‘displays’.

    Comment by Clark — 24 September 2011 @ 7:25 AM

  3. Something similar is also at play in commenting – the act of reprocessing and laying out thoughts coherently in a blog comment, as well as engaging the social animal in all of us, is an attempt to get to the top of Bloom’s taxonomy.
    In many parts of the world the process of reflection, in my opinion, has been pushed aside by action or the appearance of relentlessly moving forward. However, in southern Europe where I’m currently based, I sometimes see the opposite effect, where re-evaluation, re-consideration and hypothesising can be taken to the extreme at the expense of trial and error and the evolution of ideas through experimentation.
    Kolb reminds us that experimentation goes hand in hand with reflection.

    Comment by TJ Taylor — 27 September 2011 @ 3:48 PM

  4. TJ, you push a couple of my hot buttons. I do agree with trying to get to higher level thinking, and how commenting also requires reflection (see my earlier post on social processing) though usually through application of knowledge to a task and *then* reflection. I just am not a fan of Blooms (literally just off a project creating an alternative, see Brenda Sugrue’s evisceration thereof http://www.performancexpress.org/0212/mainframe0212.html#title3 ).

    And while I agree that you can put too much emphasis on doing *or* reflection (you need a balance), Kolb’s been similarly been found to be suspect psychometrically. c.f. COFFIELD F, MOSELEY D, HALL E and ECCLESTONE K (2004) Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning : a systematic and critical review London; Learning and Skills Network.

    Comment by Clark — 28 September 2011 @ 7:32 AM

  5. […] Reflecting socially- Clark Quinn, September 23, 2011 […]

    Pingback by Best of working smarter for September 2011 — 6 October 2011 @ 3:07 PM

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