Polishing the Mirror

For me, reflection and putting myself as the focus of an investigation into my practice is a new experience. There have been two major findings for me, firstly, that I still have a connection to my values and secondly, how I feel about my career.

Me, Myself and My Career

A good place for me to start is looking at how I feel about my career, where I am now and how satisfied I am. If I look at Bridges model (cited in Bassot, 2020) I can clearly see that I am on the cusp of New Beginnings, however I still feel a sense of loss (most associated with the first stage Endings) from leaving a very hands-on humanitarian fieldwork with direct contact with the results, to working in learning and development in large organizations with multi-layers between what I do and the business results.

I was in the Neutral Zone for well over a decade with a sense of loss nagging at the back of my mind. It was easy to identify my values in humanitarian work, and these are shared by the vast majority of people that I worked with, and are what we strived for on a daily basis. In the corporate world there are values, and I am lucky enough to work for Tetra Pak, an organisation that has and promotes clear identity and values. However, I am not practicing directly in and with these values.

I was involved in managing certification programs where people were certified at different levels of capability (Proficient, Advanced and Expert) with KPIs for organizations based on these. A part of the problem, I can now see, was that I began judging myself not on my values but by the “novice to expert“ type stage models (Dreyfus, Dreyfus and Athanasiou, 2000) that were used in developing learning and certifying or categorizing people.I therefore began to see achievement as the climbing of a ladder and then became disappointed when not successful in applying what I was now “qualified” to do.

An example of this is when I began looking more deeply into learning measurement I googled my way onto the Kirkpatrick’s four levels of learning evaluation (Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick, 2016) and took the certification up to silver level. I had ingested the causal links between the levels (from learner satisfaction to business results) without seeing that the model had limitations in the way that it does not account for the complex environment in which the learners operate and provides a neat fit with budgeting goals of stakeholders, which can lead to conflicts in meeting the ethical duty of beneficence (Bates, 2004) 

I can see that I was working in organizations where, according to Fook (2015) we “unwittingly support a dominant power base, and unwittingly participate in preserving these power relations through the very language that we speak about the world” (p. 445, 2015). I agree and feel Dall’ Allba and Sandberg’s criticism of stage models when they say a key dimension, and in fact the basis, of professional skill development – understanding of, an in, practice – is overlooked in stage models (Dall’Alba and Sandberg, 2006).

Somehow when swapping a t-shirt and four-wheel drive for a shirt and bicycle I had stopped seeing the context and thinking of beneficiaries.

What has brought me to New Beginnings and a reconnecting with values? I can point to three achievements which make up my portfolio:

  1. Learning Measurement: attending conferences and reaching out to experts and being treated as a peer, especially around Learning Measurement. This was crystalized in 2019 by writing a document about learning measurement, with a recommended new way to do learner evaluations based on Will Thalheimer’s LTEM model.
  2. Switch to Online: the Covid-19 crisis and the moving of learning to online, which catalyzed me into summarizing the tacit knowledge I had gained over the years, plus adding some quick research from the explosion of webinars and “white papers” being published by experts, vendors of learning technology and book publishers, into a document outlining how we could achieve a rapid switch from classroom-based to online training
  3. Sharing and Curiosity: sharing what I discover and do and being more curious in my practice.

What does New Beginnings mean for me and how have the above achievements helped me reach there?

The transition is in my seeing a value in being a Learning and Development practitioner, rather than being only satisfied with people seeing me as a valuable contributor. I feel a resonance with Edwards when they say that “professionals increasing work across professional boundaries on complex problems…This kind of relational practice means that practitioners need to be able to label their own expertise; recognize, draw on and contribute to the funds of expertise available; and demonstrate a strong sense of their own identities as practitioners whose actions can make a difference to the world.”(Edwards, 2010) p.1, 2010)


I believe that it is in a dialogue with someone else that we are collectively mining our combined tacit knowledge and externalising it. For me this is how I surface, create and externalise knowledge the best.

When I look at what type of programs I enjoy watching or listening to, a common theme appears – I enjoy it when there are two people who interact and discuss as they discuss and develop an idea or create something. As two examples I can give Mythbusters (IMDb. ), with the interaction between Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, and The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry (BBC Radio 4 – The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry. ) with Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry.

In both of these programs it is clear that they have a great working relationship and that they surface and create knowledge through dialogue.

In their method “Interview to the Double” to articulate and represent practice Nicolini (2009) proposes that you can surface knowledge by imagining that you will have a double that will take your place at work, and you need to brief them so that they are not unmasked.

However, for me in this method I am still surfacing the knowledge myself, with at best another person prompting.

I agree with Hermans and Hermans-Konopka (2010) when they say that dialogue implies a learning process that has the capacity to build on and develop existing knowledge and (p6.) “Dialogue is one of the most precious instruments of the human mind and is valuable enough to be stimulated and developed, particularly in situations where learning is hampered by monological communication”.

This superiority of conversation over monologue is reinforced to me by the fact that when I watched the recording of my conversation with Laureline I heard myself saying that if I really thought back my involvement with learning and development started when I was working in East Timor and took over the Health Education role alongside the pure hardware work, connecting the importance of people to the engineering. I continue to say that Learning and Development is something I’ve been working on when I was doing humanitarian work and it’s just now it continues but it’s in a different setting. This understanding of my values and the connection between my humanitarian work and the work I do now had not surfaced in the individual reflection I had done for my portfolio.

How can I unearth more?

Having a conversation with someone who has looked at this portfolio would be a great way to start digging.


BBC Radio 4 – The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07dx75g (Accessed: Dec 13, 2020).

IMDb. Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0383126/ (Accessed: Dec 13, 2020).

Bassot, B. (2020) The reflective journal. Third edn.Macmillan International Higher Education.

Bates, R. (2004) ‘A critical analysis of evaluation practice: the Kirkpatrick model and the principle of beneficence’, Evaluation and program planning, 27(3), pp. 341-347. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2004.04.011.

Dall’Alba, G. and Sandberg, J. (2006) ‘Unveiling professional development: A critical review of stage models’, Review of educational research, 76(3), pp. 383-412.

Dreyfus, H., Dreyfus, S.E. and Athanasiou, T. (2000) Mind over machine. Simon and Schuster.

Edwards, A. (2010) Being an expert professional practitioner : the relational turn in expertise. Dordrecht: Springer.

Fook, J. (2015) In Joyce Lishman (ed) Handbook for Practice Learning in Social Work and Social Care, Third Edition : Knowledge and Theory. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Hermans, H. and Hermans-Konopka, A. (2010) Dialogical self theory: Positioning and counter-positioning in a globalizing society. Cambridge University Press.

Kirkpatrick, J.D. and Kirkpatrick, W.K. (2016) Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation. Association for Talent Development.

Nicolini, D. (2009) ‘Articulating practice through the interview to the double’, Management learning, 40(2), pp. 195-212.