Marvellous macroreflection

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Companies are required to adapt to changing market environments quicker and more often than perhaps ever before. This makes it increasingly challenging to achieve success without constant reflection – and the improved mental clarity and intentionality that arise as a result of it. Compared with microreflection’s quick and subtle magic, macroreflection’s might lies in depth and complexity. Read on to explore why fostering macroreflection will be a game changer for your organisation.

The last couple of years have brought an unprecedented pace of change on multiple fronts, putting our ability to adapt to new circumstances to a serious test. In essence, being adaptable means being able to learn, unlearn and relearn. To do so with success requires an understanding of cause and effect and the ability to plan new approaches. For this, reflection is a must.

Macroreflection, when designed thoughtfully, has the power to boost motivation, create more unity and inspire action.

In the past, consistent reflective practice could help propel ambitious individuals and companies to the top. In the future, it may become essential to avoid falling to the bottom. With Covid-19, new armed conflicts, the more and more pronounced effects of climate change, and a looming recession, agility and lifelong learning must be the bread and butter of any organisation that seeks success and growth.

Therefore, it is time for reflection to not only be recognised as a powerful catalyst to learning, but to also be embraced by organisations and individuals on a large scale.

Hands holding concentric mirrors with eyes reflected in the centre

What is macroreflection and why is it so marvellous?

First things first. What on earth do we mean by macroreflection? There are a plethora of different theories about the role, nature and characteristics of reflection.

However, from a practical perspective, when looking for strategic opportunities to include some reflection into client projects, one of the key questions we ask ourselves at Insitu is ‘What do we have scope for?’.

Most project briefs we work with at Insitu don’t explicitly call for including reflection. Depending on the flexibility of the client, budget, learner needs and intended learning outcomes we may only add bite-sized, quick reflection activities that we call microreflection.

However, in many projects, we are able to design more involved reflection activities that require extended focus and deeper thought. This is in essence what we mean by macroreflection: activities and experiences that push learners to consider the bigger picture, understand their current and intended role in relation to what they are learning, set their intention and formulate actionable plans.

Microreflection can certainly be mighty, it has the power to pause the flow of an experience and to sow important seeds in the minds of learners.

But for the seeds to grow into blossoming plants, we have to water them and consistently care for them. This practice is macroreflection and when designed thoughtfully, it has the power to boost motivation, create more unity and inspire action.

5 tips for adding macroreflection to learning experiences

1. Encourage learners to block out time for reflection and planning.

Reflection and planning require the right mindset and environment but many might feel guilty about slowing down. However, these practices can significantly improve productivity and motivation, so consider time spent on them an investment in the individual and the organisation as a whole.

If you can, advocate for nurturing a culture of reflection and try to get stakeholders involved. You can ask leadership about their reflective practice and how it relates to their productivity, for example. Their perspectives can then be woven into the learning program. You could also explore whether adding reflection time to work calendars shared with team members could be a possibility. This could normalise the practice while also raising accountability.

2. Invite learners to explore how they can best articulate their thoughts.

Some like to go on reflection walks, others record audio notes or freewrite. Reflection can be a highly personal process and by recognizing and embracing that we can express ourselves in many different ways, you will be able to get many more learners on board. Allowing for flexibility in the mode of delivery may also help signal that the given activity is not just a mandatory exercise to go through but an experience that was designed to be meaningful for the learner.

If you can only accept one type of response (i.e. written responses), you can still let learners reflect however it works best for them. You could simply ask for a deliverable that would get learners to conclude their reflection with clear parameters. For example: ‘Once you have completed your reflection, take a moment to summarise your process and most important insights and share them below in one or two paragraphs’.

3. Design macroreflection activities that get learners to discuss in small groups.

Reflecting in small groups can be a very powerful practice, raising our awareness to a new level by pushing us to examine not only our own, but also others’ perspectives. Designing a set of guiding questions and a meaningful group-level output can help make these discussions productive, while boosting collaboration and engagement at the same time.

4. Get learners to think through how the learning experience will benefit them.

One of our favourite macroreflection activities is getting learners to reflect on their own goals and aspirations and asking them to think through how the learning experience ahead of them can help them reach those goals and aspirations. This can be especially helpful at the beginning of longer learning programs, such as deeper onboarding experience or retraining employees for a different role.

An additional component can be encouraging learners to share their reflective thoughts with their manager, peers, a coach or mentor when appropriate. Relevance and clarity of purpose are key for the success of any learning experience and unpacking one’s relevant thoughts with someone else can truly empower learners to take charge of their learning. Further, discussing goals and motivations with managers can help fast-track employees’ career progression, helping companies retain top talent. Lack of advancement opportunities is a leading driver of the great resignation, second only to low pay.

5. Guide learners on setting strategic goals and asking strategic questions.

Just as a good idea is only as good as its implementation, reflective thoughts in and of themselves will not move the needle by much either. Knowing how to plan ahead and take steps toward a strategic direction is what will make macroreflection activities truly impactful. Design activities that scaffold the planning process and get learners to think strategically.

Designing and implementing some truly marvellous macroreflection

Designing thoughtful, on-point macroreflection activities is a delicate art and an exercise in macroreflection in itself. If you’re a fellow learning designer, we’d love to hear your thoughts and favourite tips! Let’s chat!

If you’d like your organisation to embrace reflective practice within their learning programs and beyond but don’t know how to get started, don’t fret. At Insitu, we’re on a mission to help people be better at what they do and are always excited to help clients embrace reflection.

The Power of Reflection – a free ebook from Insitu

Reflection is a key component of effective learning.

Inside our free ebook we share:

Why reflection matters

Tips, tools, and examples

How to integrate reflective practice into your business

If you want to understand how to build a company culture where reflection is a valued part of daily operations – this ebook is written for you.

Eszter Mészáros is a Senior Learning Designer at Insitu.