Empowering Growth Through Self-Reflection

Introduction:

Reflection origins are normally attributed to Dewey John (Leung and Kember, 2003). His most frequent quote is his observation that “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience” (Knapp, 1992; Dewey, 2019). Subsequently, self-reflection is a review of experience utilised as a reference to the current decision (Nurhamidah et al., 2019). It refers to getting mindful of our presuppositions and challenging our established patterns of thinking (Jarvis et al 2003; Mezirow, 1990). Indeed, when we use self-reflection, we learn and get a better understanding of ourselves, behaviours and motivations. Accordingly, it helps us to respond to our future circumstances in more effective ways, for the purpose of ceaselessly improvement (Burr et al, 2016). Thus, I will reflect upon my recent experiences during a work placement at the foodbank in Newton-le-willows. In addition, action plan that emerge from the experience reflected upon will be included, to take realistic steps towards future goals (Adeani et al, 2020).

Reflection model:

After the experience there occurs a reflection phase, it is when individuals recapture their experience, mull it over, and evaluate it (Edwards et al, 1996). Therefore, according to Markman (2003), the consequence of reflection is that standard-reliable cognitions about self become extremely accessible, in this way yielding affective assimilation.

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The process of reflection helps to bridge the gap between theory and practice (Oviawe, M.J.I., 2020). Accordingly, Graham Gibbs’ six-stage reflective model is widely used for educational purposes (Rolfe et al 2011, O’Donovan 2006), various studies found that application of it enhanced individuals’ perception towards their previous experience and helped them to gain insight into the future experience (Knowles et al, 2006; Oviawe, M.J.I., 2020). The purpose of this reflective model is to enable individuals to know what they did right or wrong during their previous experience and see how they can improve on the areas towards fostering their skills and competencies (Oviawe, M.J.I., 2020). However, Gibbs (1988) reflective cycle proved to be a helpful model and basis for structuring the content of the reflections. The use of it turns challenging situations into valuable learning experiences (Markkanen, et al, 2020).

Gibbs reflective cycle
Placement’s background:

Employability module was as part of my second-year studies of BSc (Hons) Business and Management at ……… , to complete this module, a placement was necessary. Therefore, the placement gave me the opportunity to develop employability skills and gain knowledge, which are required for the future career. It was challenging while keep attending the workplace and dealing with university’s class work to meet deadlines and to keep up to date.

I got a placement at the foodbank, based in Newton-le-willows at Newton community Centre that works on behalf of St Helens foodbank. St Helens foodbank is part of The Trussell Trust’s network, which supports churches and communities to open foodbanks across the UK (The Trussell Trust., 2021). Thus, foodbank is a charitable organisation which collect and distribute donated food free of charge to people in need to bring hope to individuals and wider Communities (Teron and Tarasuk, 1999). Foodbank relies heavily on volunteers like myself to respond to problems of hunger in the community, and to get emergency food to people in crisis. We work together in teams of 2 to 3, to make a real difference to individuals’ life, and to support them both in terms of receiving emergency food, also getting advice on wider issues related to mental health and financial wellbeing.

Communication:

In the foodbank, it is usually busy, and most clients feel anxious when they turn up to the foodbank centre. Accordingly, friendliness and communication are often combined with a willingness to welcome and serve every individual in need. Therefore, communication both verbal and written is an important skill to have as a volunteer. Thus, verbal communication should be clear, specific, and precise as written communication (Sen, 2007). One that was emphasised during the placement period was to communicate either in writing and talking in a clear and concise manner. In this, as pointed by the management and colleague, would avoid confusion while importantly ensuring all team members were in the same page, in terms of goals, objectives, and tasks given. For instance, the team leaders kept emphasising if one had a question and seeking clarification on a given subject or task would be able to express it out and not to shy out. In addition to building relationships among the team members and across the foodbank, a clearly communicated task ensured everyone understood what was required from them. Building assertions made by Husain (2013), communication need to be effective where information passed from one individual to other is transferred without any confusion but rather received as intended as best as possible.

Teamwork

In the foodbank, we were placed in the teams of 2 or 3s working together to address a given tasks or problems. A team, as described by Salas et al. (2015), encompasses a group of employees working together towards a shared and common goal. The collaboration among the team members might be either temporary or teamed together to accomplish a particular objective in a long period. Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself” With a team of two individuals, we were required to coordinate working together in tackling assigned tasks. The idea behind teaming together people from different backgrounds was aimed at brainstorming and coming up with ideas to a given problem, hence widening the solution scope (Khan, and Mashikhi, 2017.). In addition to working together in search of solution to a challenge and problem faced, team working helped us to build morale among by value the input of each individual (Sanyal, and Hisam, 2018). We would come up with an idea then evaluate its efficacy by evaluating, critique, and modify the solution to fit the objectives. In the foodbank, we would delegate tasks based on individuals strengths and weaknesses, for instance, one person would handle inventory of the food we were distributing while another others handed out and engaged with the people in need. Through such collaboration, we would not only complete tasks in a timely manner, one would build individual strengths and also identify weaknesses in a supportive environment.

Challenges Faced During the Placement

During the placement period, I encountered several challenges. One major was reflecting the learned concepts and theories the class to real workplace application. Profoundly, as I came to face during the placement, the skills and knowledge gained in the class and the requirements in the workplace have little correlation. Although the skills and knowledge gained in the class aid in understanding some aspects of tasks, I came to realise that the fundamental attitude required by employers goes beyond that concepts attained in class but inclined towards personality, problem-solving attributes, being a team player, ability to coordinate and engage with others, being efficient, and productive. For me, it was a challenge delinking the concepts learned in class, and then applying into practical scenario such as working in teams, fostering, and constantly working with divergent views.

Although we were volunteering, the pressure of working on schedule and delivering the food within the set time was quite challenging at first. The concept of time management was core attributed that the organisation required all employees to adhere to, and, in my case, juggling schoolwork and assignments with observing strict schedule gave a toll to my physical and mental wellbeing. Over time, I experienced severe burnout. Another challenge faced during the placement period, fitting into organisation culture. As pointed by Connolly et al. (2017), each organisation has unique identity and ways doing things, under the mantra of ‘our way’ embodied in traditions and practices observed. Foodbank had a set of rules and guidelines in which all employees were required to observe while and during their employment period. This included my placement period. I was required to accustom myself with the practices and guiding principles of the organisation, particular as a charity entity. In addition to adjusting to new norms and practices, working with people from different backgrounds was a challenge that is it took some time to develop a bond and understand individual personal beliefs and opinions, hence creating a working relation.

Failure during the Placement

One of the areas I failed to master during my placement period was time management. I was occasionally found being a bit late on schedule. Although this was due to handling both the classwork and organisation’s tasks, I would occasionally fail to meet deadlines. During my placement duration, I found myself failing to prioritise that including placing tasks that needed immediate attention at the top of priority list and delegating those that we could handle as a team. Multitasking being my weakness, I need to build my time management skills on planning better and proper scheduling of tasks. According to Häfner and Stock (2010) concept of time management is rooted on discipline, focused behaviour, and ability to prioritise tasks. Secondly, I had failed to recognise the importance of collaboration as building block of a team. In a team, people from different backgrounds with varying skills levels, experiences, insight, understanding of certain concepts, and having different interests, and passions come together to form a team. Recognition diversity in a team makes its strong and effective in achieve objectives given (Eckel, and Grossman, 2005; Shin et al., 2012). From the start, I had failed to understand the weaknesses and strengths of each team member. Thirdly, initially I had overlooked the essence of moulding a strong work ethics that include discipline, accountability, and integrity.

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Conclusion

Employability concepts is founded on developing skills required and necessary in the workplaces, and this goes beyond those acquired in the classroom incorporate such values as personality, attitude, work ethics, and time management discipline. Placement is ideally structured to infuse the skills and knowledge attained through classwork with real workplace practices and demands. From my placement, I observed that the work environment particularly what was required of us, and the concepts learned in class to be quite different. The essence of communication and teamwork was emphasised as core organisation culture similar to time management. However, during my placement period, I encountered several challenges, biggest being transferring the knowledge acquired in class to the field (practical problems and challenges), and taking advantage of strength and weaknesses of my team members.

References (additional)

Connolly, L.Y., Lang, M., Gathegi, J. and Tygar, D.J., 2017. Organisational culture, procedural countermeasures, and employee security behaviour. Information & Computer Security.

Eckel, C.C. and Grossman, P.J., 2005. Managing diversity by creating team identity. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 58(3), pp.371-392.

Häfner, A. and Stock, A., 2010. Time management training and perceived control of time at work. The journal of psychology, 144(5), pp.429-447.

Husain, Z., 2013. Effective communication brings successful organizational change. The Business & Management Review, 3(2), p.43.

Khan, S. and Mashikhi, L.S., 2017. Impact of teamwork on employees performance. International Journal of Education and Social Science, 4(11), pp.14-22.

Salas, E., Shuffler, M.L., Thayer, A.L., Bedwell, W.L. and Lazzara, E.H., 2015. Understanding and improving teamwork in organizations: A scientifically based practical guide. Human resource management, 54(4), pp.599-622.

Sanyal, S. and Hisam, M.W., 2018. The impact of teamwork on work performance of employees: A study of faculty members in Dhofar University. IOSR Journal of Business and Management, 20(3), pp.15-22.

Shin, S.J., Kim, T.Y., Lee, J.Y. and Bian, L., 2012. Cognitive team diversity and individual team member creativity: A cross-level interaction. Academy of Management Journal, 55(1), pp.197-212.

Smith, K., Clegg, S., Lawrence, E. and Todd, M.J., 2007. The challenges of reflection: students learning from work placements. Innovations in Education and teaching International, 44(2), pp.131-141.


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