Creating Space for Reflective Practice by Deven Wisner!

Hello, my name is Deven Wisner! Like many of us, I wear a couple hats, including: Managing Partner of Viable Insights, educator and Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona, and President-Elect of the Arizona Evaluation Network. As we jump into the new year, I want to not only recognize the importance of reflective practice but also share how I feasibly make it a valuable addition to my day-to-day. To kick us off, I’ll share one of my favorite definitions of RP, complements of John Dewey:

The active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends…

For me, RP has played an especially important role in fueling my growth across my roles; it’s really been a method for me to pull back from getting through a day or week and really appreciating and growing from the process. It’s kind of like a #latergram but for personal growth (sorry, had to). Like everything else though, how do I block time off for reflective practice? I’ve come up with a few ways to ensure I’m getting my daily dose of reflective, both individually and collaboratively — see some tips and resources below!

Hot Tips:

  1. Happy hour with my clients:  Feedback from clients is where some of my greatest growth occurs, but no one requires reflective practice to take place in a formal setting; grab a drink with clients and reflect on your work.
  2. Journaling, make it easier — not harder: For the longest time, I was trying to bullet journal. I LOVED it…but I have five half-finished notebooks, and I never had the right one with me. I use my iPad for notetaking, so I invested in Notability. Takeaway: find a mode that works for you (i.e. one that doesn’t take more time and cause more stress).
  3. Zoom with Critical Friends: A lot of my critical friends and mentors don’t reside in the same place geographically, so we setup Zoom dates. Putting something on the calendar regularly makes it easier to maintain this collaborative reflection and Zoom adds face-to-face interaction, a valuable component to reflection.
  4. Breakfast or a hike with colleagues: My business partner and I regularly get out of the office and take a hike or grab breakfast together. This is where some of our best reflection takes place. In other words, you might have to get out from behind the screen, desk, or whiteboard for the magic to happen.

Rad Resources:

1. DATA Model: Stuck on how to start reflecting? Sometimes structured DOES help; check out the DATA Model for a guided process to collaborative reflective practice.

2. 2020 Arizona Evaluation Network’s Annual Conference: join us in Tucson, Arizona, April 2-3, 2020 for some great dialogue around communication, reflection, facilitation, and much more!

3. Stay in touch with Libby Smith (@work_with_libby), Tiffany Smith (@tiffany7001) and me (@devenwisner): we’re launching an online interpersonal effectiveness + reflective practice course.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

10 thoughts on “Creating Space for Reflective Practice by Deven Wisner!”

  1. Hi Deven,
    Like Evan (above), I am responding to your post as part of my course on Program Inquiry and Evaluation through Queens University’s Professional Master of Education program. Your post on reflective practice stood out to me as representing one of the most important ongoing elements of practice available to professionals in any field.

    As a full-time career educator and fledgling learner in the field of program evaluation, I have learned to appreciate the power of reflective practice. It was not part of my experience as a high school or undergraduate student, although it is now a part of everyday learning for my students in high school. I appreciate that you have included a range of ways to reflect on practice which facilitate reflection and don’t stress doing it in a particular way.

    The resources you have included have sent me down a rabbit hole of learning, and I have explored the various Twitter feeds included and the link to the conference website. It is exciting to me as an educator to see the similarities between evaluation and assessment (in my daily work) and to learn about the similarities between the core competencies which guide your practice and those that guide mine.

    As a long time blogger and practicer of reflection, I have often been asked by colleagues why I do all of this if I don’t have to. Reflection is not a part of my employment requirements, as I imagine is the case for many, but it is a powerful tool for professional growth. I wasn’t able to access the full text of the DATA model of collaborative reflection, but have requested it and I agree that sometimes a structures approach is helpful, especially when working with a new team or group and trying to establish common goals. The suggestion of breakfast or a hike is similar to a “walking curriculum” which is being used by some educators in my area, and getting out from behind a desk is a great way to spark reflection.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas and resources – I will continue to follow via Twitter.

    Jennifer Spain

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Thank you for taking the time to reply. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get back on here and reflect back!

      I’m happy to have shared some resources that you find valuable. Unfortunately, as you might have guessed or heard, our 2020 conference has been canceled. However, this is another opportunity to find new ways to reflect, including through different platforms. It’s actually proving to be a bit of an affirmation of offering something in an online format…Libby, Tiffany, and I are excited 🙂 In the meantime, let’s continue the conversation on Twitter!


      P.S. I would LOVE to hear about how you’ve incorporated reflection with your high school students. Would you be up for sharing? Similar to you, I didn’t begin my journey in RP until graduate school. Now, as a faculty member, I’m including it as a component for my undergraduates. I’m excited to hear you’ve taken it back a step further to high school!

  2. Catherine Wadden

    Hi Deven
    I see many similarities in your thoughts regarding reflection, to my own views surrounding the process. I see reflection as an integral part of growth. Within my role as a high school teacher, I am constantly reflecting on my practice to ensure I am providing a learning environment for my students that is beneficial to their success. As a teacher there are several opportunities for reflection, and it is essential to take what I learn during reflection and make improvements and modifications to my teaching practice. Much of my reflection within my career comes from student feedback, collaboration with colleagues and individual consideration. While I feel I have a good handle on reflection in my professional life, I lack the time for reflection within my personal life. I appreciate the suggestions you mention for reflection. Activities such are journaling or breakfast are both simple suggestions that allow for reflection. The key to these suggestions is making time to include the reflective practice. I agree with you, that reflective practice contributes to growth and is a crucial part of that process.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,


    1. Hi Catherine,

      Similar to my comment back to Jennifer, I’m really excited to hear that RP is being incorporated into high school classrooms. In addition to your own reflection, have you found ways to introduce the concept to students?

      I agree about reflection being an integral component of growth. It’s been a method for continuous improvement in my work but also an affirmation of things went well. It creates space for me to stop, consider the how and why, and recreate the positive experiences. It’s not a substitute for consciousness/being present in the NOW…but it is certainly complementary.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share your experience. I hope we get to continue the conversation 🙂


  3. Hi Deven,

    Thank you for sharing your tips on how to include reflective practice into your daily life. As an educator, I definitely see the importance of teaching my students to reflect on their learning and their practice. It allows them to recognize whether or not they’ve done a good job on their assignment/project, or if they’ve been progressing well in the course. But I think the best thing about reflective practice is that there is often an aspect of what can we do next? How can I improve still? I think it teaches us that it’s ok to make mistakes, while allowing us to reflecting on why we ended up where we are now, and whether or not I have achieved my goals. If so, great! What can I do next to further my learning? If not, that’s ok too! What did I manage to achieve anyways? What can I do next time so that I can meet all my goals?

    However, I agree with you that RP takes time, so I really appreciated your tips on how you incorporate it into your life. I loved your idea of a journal to document your reflections and your growth. This made me realize that reflective practice doesn’t have to be long and elaborate. I’d love to try journaling with my students to record their growth in my class! Thank you for the idea!


    1. Hi Maggie,

      Thanks so much for sharing back!

      YES! I think reflection provides a great opportunity for students to participate in their growth. In one of my courses, I use a reflective exercise to gauge student perceptions of what happened during our live discussions; specifically, what went well and why, and what improvements should we aim for next time and how will we get there. This not only creates a level of self-awareness that might not have otherwise been cultivated, but it also establishes their ability to share in the shaping of our dialogue.

      Thanks again for sharing, and I hope we get to keep the conversation going — #ReflectOnEval!


  4. Hello Deven,

    I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on reflective practice and its value in “fueling growth”. Back in my BEd program, I remember my instructors placed great emphasis on being reflective as it was considered to be one of the best tools for professional growth. I journaled everyday throughout each practicum, as this was a requirement, and the most widely accepted and easiest way to document learning. This activity was supposed to encourage professional growth, but I found it became more of a chore because it didn’t suit my reflective preferences. Finding the right tool for reflection, and making it a priority in an already busy day can prove to be a challenge.

    Your article on creating space for reflective practice was rejuvenating as well as current, and relevant. Writing in a journal after every day wasn’t my style when it came to reflecting, but I appreciated your sentiment that reflection shouldn’t “take more time and cause more stress.” Instead, it is important to find a mode that works best for you, as opposed to one that works against you. The idea of reflecting by taking a walk or a hike (alone or with a friend/colleague) was a strategy that resonated with me. This strategy would allow me to create space for daily reflection while also encouraging physical activity, which is something I try to fit in everyday. Furthermore, I also read that exercise can help sharpen one’s focus, which is often needed to recharge and regroup after a busy and demanding day.

    Thanks again for your thoughts, and for allowing me to share my connections!


    1. HI Lauren,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and being honest!

      I love that you were able to identify a mode of reflection that wasn’t most conducive to your growth. Too often, I think it’s easy to assign feelings of guilt when we don’t find ourselves fitting into the traditional box. The reality is the reflective practice has no box. It’s a very personal experience, which means how we engage in it should resonate with us.

      You reminded me to think about journaling and how my relationship with it has changed. Like I mentioned, bullet journaling was GREAT for a certain period of time in my life…however, now I feel like short reflections and flow of consciousness benefit me more. As life progresses, who knows — bullet journaling might come back. At the heart of this, I think maintaining that level of self-awareness is key. By doing so, we can continue to explore new ways to engage with ourselves (and others), which contributes to evolving our work.

      Thanks for your thoughts!


  5. Hi Deven, thanks for sharing your thoughts on reflective practice. I am responding to this article as a part of my Professional Master of Education program through Queens University. I picked this post because I resonate with your message about the importance of reflective practice, but struggle to implement RP into my daily routine. In my mind, reflective practice is an essential ingredient to success in any context, and so I have made it a goal to be a reflective person in all aspects of my life. I like that you have distinguished between individual and collaborative reflection and highlighted the importance of both. My schedule should leave room for individual refection as well as reflection with likeminded educators from my school or larger educational community. I appreciated how easy your hot tips would be to implement. It might be hard to schedule a meeting for “reflective practice” with co-workers but getting together for drinks or going on a hike will lead to similar results. I also agree with your assertion that consistent journaling is about finding what works for you. It is a practice I have recently started, and I am really enjoying the reflective benefits.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Evan Fisher

    1. Hi Evan,

      I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my blog post. I’m glad you were able to find resonance with making RP, especially collaborative reflective practice, more accessible through everyday things. You prompted me to consider a class I’m taking on mindfulness and consciousness. A component of class includes identifying and analyzing a program that incorporates mindfulness. The program I focused on is delivered online. At first, it appeared counter-intuitive, as you think about these interpersonal activities needing to be in-person, but the faculty member responsible for the program made a strong case for it allowing for students to make mindfulness their own — in a place and at a time that made the most sense to them (leading to more vulnerability and transparency). I share that because I think RP shares a lot of similarities. It’s important to emphasize that there is not necessarily an incorrect way to do it. Instead, where we miss an opportunity is when we don’t engage in it, which certainly happens because we get lost in an attempt perfect the process.

      Also, as a complete aside, I’ve never considered using a response to a blog (like AEA365) as an activity in my classes, but I love the idea! I might just have to implement that 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Evan!


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