Reflecting on reflection: an action research approach to reflective practice

Edward Hall, Shirley Gray

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Introduction Reflective practice has become increasingly popular as a framework for professional learning and as a key characteristic of competence within the epistemology of professionalised practice. For sports coaches the benefits of reflecting on experience have been heralded not only by coaching researchers, but also by practitioners themselves as a mark of effective learning and development. Consequently, coach education programmes around the world now promote reflective practice and various models exist through which a reflective practitioner might explore their practice. However, few studies have directly examined coaches’ experiences of undertaking reflective practice. Ironically then, the coach’s voice has been largely ignored in an area where their highly personal experience is absolutely central to the process of reflection itself. This presentation will provide a more personal account of one coach’s experiences trying to reflect on his practice. Method I (Edward) adopted an action research approach, itself a reflective and progressive process aimed at addressing issues, in order to find an effective approach to reflecting on my coaching practice. Multiple sources of information such as videos of training sessions, session plans, e-mails with colleagues, and personal diary entries were reviewed as I tried to learn from my experiences as a coach. As I engaged in this process, adopting different approaches to reflection, I recorded further diary entries, tracking what I saw, how I felt and what I was learning. From these second-level reflections a series of narrative vignettes were created, which were storied snapshots from different stages of my first-level reflective practice. The coaching situations at the heart of these reflections were experienced from my position as an assistant coach of a senior, regional, representative-level rugby union team. Findings The findings characterise reflective practice as a highly involving and emotional process, through which my espoused theories of coaching and actual practice were thrown into sharp relief. The vignettes provide insights into my experiences of experimenting with different catalysts to reflection including the use of video footage, systematic observations of my behaviours, and a Socratic method of self-questioning. Through the narrative approach features of the reflective process are revealed that may otherwise have been too much taken for granted to be noted, exposing my vulnerabilities, my conflicts and choices, and the multiple layers of my reflective experiences. By reporting these experiences, this presentation poses questions for coaches, mentors and governing bodies wishing to promote and support other coaches’ engagement in reflective practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2015
Event3rd International Coaching Conference - Crewe, UK
Duration: 9 Sept 2015 → …


Conference3rd International Coaching Conference
Period9/09/15 → …
Internet address


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