I was recently contacted by someone who wanted my advice on asking the right questions in a coaching context. He explained that he worked as a coach and regularly used certain questions to encourage his clients to think about how they can move forward with their work and their learning. He asked me whether I thought they were the ‘right’ questions to ask. Of course, I had to reply by saying that it all depends on the context. What will work in one set of circumstances will not necessarily work in others. I went on to explain that this is what reflective practice is about – having a ‘reflective conversation with the situation’. That is, we have to think carefully about the situation and work out what questions to ask based on what we find. I also suggested that he should consider going a step further into critically reflective practice – in other words, asking questions that encourage reflection not only on current practices within current parameters, but also on how those parameters could be changed, on how new ways of approaching our work and our learning can be developed by looking at the wider and deeper picture (critical breadth and depth). He didn’t reply to thank me for my comments so I can only assume that wasn’t what he wanted to hear, that he just wanted me to affirm that he was on the right lines – hardly a solid basis for coaching!
To find out more about Neil’s views on critically reflective practice, see the book he co-wrote on the subject: http://astore.amazon.co.uk/neilthomp-21/detail/0230573185