Spotlight on the RDF: “Self-reflection”

In the second of our occasional series of spotlights, we take a closer look at a specific descriptor from the RDF.

In this series of “Spotlight on…” posts, we’ll be delving into the detail of the descriptors in Vitae‘s Researcher Development Framework (RDF).  Each one of the sixty-three descriptors is a characteristic of an excellent researcher, and we’ll be looking at how UoB PGRs can develop these characteristics.

reflection-1205794_1920If only self-reflection, in the context of becoming an effective researcher, were as easy as looking in the mirror!  In fact, the ability to reflect on your experiences, strengths and weaknesses, and to seek and respond to feedback is a hugely important quality you will develop as a researcher.  Effective self-reflection allows you to keep moving forward by careful evaluation of the past.

I’ve chosen to focus the spotlight on self-reflection at this time of year, because many of you will be completing your Development Needs Analysis (DNA) forms around now, and self-reflection is a key part of this process.

The RDF puts self-reflection in domain B (personal effectiveness) and sub-domain B1 (personal qualities) and the five phases of development for this descriptor are:

  1. Makes time to reflect on practice and experience;  Develops strengths and improves on weak areas;  Seeks personal feedback;  Learns from mistakes.
  2. Has heightened awareness of own strengths and weaknesses;  Strives for excellence, seeks and takes personal feedback on performance and acts on it.
  3. – 5. Continuously seeks ways to improve own performance and that of less experienced researchers and/or team/department/institution;  Encourages self-reflection in others;  Leads by example.

How does your current behaviour compare to these phases?  Do you regularly make time to evaluate your past experiences?  Are you aware of your strengths and taking positive action to address your weaker areas?  How do you respond to feedback, from your supervisor and others?

If you think you could do more in this area, here are some ideas for ways you can improve your self-reflection:

  • Complete your DNA form thoughtfully, reflecting on both your existing strengths and weaknesses (from your past experience) and your planned future direction.  For more support with your DNA, discuss it with your supervisor, see the UGS webpages, or come along to a DNA workshop.
  • Look out for opportunities to reflect on the skills you have developed as a researcher, such as the upcoming workshop “Transferable Skills for Postgraduate Researchers“, part of the Westmere Careers Series.
  • Block out time in your calendar at regular intervals to reflect on your recent activities and practice and to consider what you have learnt from them.  Ask yourself, for each activity: What?  So what?  Now what?   Do this regular self-reflection in writing, and you’ll be developing your writing skills at the same time!
  • Actively seek feedback from others.  If you’ve got a presentation to give, ask a “critical friend” to come along and provide feedback.  Make sure you consider what they’ve said carefully, and make a note of actions you can take to improve your next presentation.

Have you benefited from self-reflection?  How do you make time for this activity?  Share your effective self-reflective practices below!

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Helen Kara

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