The best Coaches use a Reflective Learning Journal for a number of very important reasons and it is a sign of professionalism and commitment to good practice.
New Coaches often learn how to use a Reflective Learning Journal as part of their training. It helps them to track their progress, notice patterns in their practice and become more self-aware.
For example, when a new Coach reflects over a series of sessions and notice that there is a pattern in the type of challenge they encounter with their clients they have discovered something very important.
Perhaps they are unconsciously doing something that is triggering their clients and this is the reason for the pattern. The new coach reflects on this and then takes the issue to Supervision for more support.
A common pattern for new Coaches is the unconscious desire to “rescue” their clients. This may mean they stop coaching and start advising. Again keeping a reflective learning journal the Coach is more likely to see this pattern. And, of course, this is a topic for Supervision.
For the more experienced Coach all of this is still important. With experience you may be able to process some of your reflections on your own using your Journal. The patterns and triggers can often be more subtle and a little harder to spot so being able to look back over a series of reflections helps the experienced Coach notice where there may be a pattern that needs attention. Even the experienced Coach will still take their reflections to Supervision. The Supervision dynamic will become more a verbal reflection with the Supervisor helping the experienced Coach identify blind spots.
Your Reflective Learning Journal will also help you to celebrate your development and successes as a Coach. It is just as important that you reflect on sessions that go well, by making a note you can identify useful, helpful patterns that you may want to develop further.
How do you write a Reflective Learning Journal?
There are many ways to do this. As a new Coach I would recommend you use a structure, while the experienced Coach may prefer to use a more diary like version. If you want to work with a structure there are many ways to do this, below are some suggestions you could use.
- Start with a very brief overview of the issue, outcome and approaches used. This can be just a few sentences to provide a context. You may want to also record if this is a first session with a client or a repeat session.
- Start by reflecting on “What went well?” Many people have a tendency to start with self-criticism so by focusing first on what went well you are setting up a positive mindset. This will help you stay focused and creative as you consider what you do want to change.
- “What would you do differently?” Now you can begin noting down things that maybe didn’t go as well as hoped or that on reflection might have been a better approach. Record why you might do it differently and how.
- Perhaps the most important section is “What did you learn?” You may have learnt both from successful approaches, things you would do differently or from other aspects of the coaching dynamic.
- Actions – Make a note of anything that you might decide to do as a result of the reflection process. For example, maybe you get a new idea about something to include in the contract.
Do you already use a Reflective Learning Journal? What has been your most valuable reflection so far? Do let me know how you are getting on with Reflecting on your practice.