Your Story Matters: Tapping Into Your Wisdom of Experience

By Craig D. Cox, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS

Do you take time to learn from your experiences? Is there something you have experienced that would be helpful to share with others? A new manuscript category, Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning’s (CPTL) “Wisdom of Experience”, is looking to capture these moments and provide a platform to share with the academic community.

We experience new things every day – some good, some bad. However, not every experience has the same impact, some incidents we never forget, while others are fleeting. Memories attached with emotional significance tend to stand the test of time. Maya Angelou said; “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Similarly, Mezirow asserts that “experience makes no sense without meaning”.1 One way to gain meaning is through thoughtful, critical reflection, which this category aims to support.

Many of our experiences are not formalized learning events. Learning is not just a result of a well-designed study or an excellent continuing education program. Often, it is the result of things said in a hallway or over the phone in a casual discussion with a colleague. Learning can occur as a result of a single incident or can be the accumulation of activities that occur over the span of several days, months, or years. The more formal the experience does not necessarily lead to more impactful learning; rather, informal moments throughout our lives can become the most important. We welcome comment on formal or informal learning in Wisdom of Experience articles.

A critical learning moment is a significant teaching and learning experience that you have learned from and that, when passed on, provides valuable knowledge and wisdom to others. Moments can occur in a variety of settings including problem-based learning groups, didactic lectures, laboratory instruction or experiential rotations. They may also have nothing to do with the act of teaching but instead be insight into a curricular design principle, administrative structure changes, committee interactions, among others. Authors are encouraged to consider a range of learning experiences, including single moments to multiple moments that culminate over time. Authors may choose to explore focal areas such as:

  • What do I think or believe?
  • How have I grown or changed?
  • What have I learned?
  • What inspires me?
  • What incites me?
  • What challenges or concerns me?
  • Where do I see excellence or where have I failed?

To ensure readers gain meaning from an experience, authors will not simply recall their story, but rather critically reflect on how and why it has impacted them.

Several models for critical reflection exist; authors will select the one that best fits their story. Examples include Gibbs Reflective model2, Borton’s Development Model3, Atkins & Murphy’s Model4 and Brookfield’s critically reflective lenses5. Benefits and challenges of these models are provided in Table 1.

Table 1. Models of Reflection

Reflective Model

Benefits of Model

Challenges of Model

Gibbs Reflective Cycle2

  • 6 distinct stages (description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion, and action plan)
  • Easy to understand
  • Does not require as much in-depth analysis (fewer thought provoking questions as part of model)

Borton’s Development Model3

  • 3 levels – (What? So What? And Now What?)
  • Very straightforward
  • May be too simplistic and not provide level of detail that is sought

Atkins & Murphy Model4

  • 5 distinct steps (awareness, description, analyze feelings and knowledge, evaluate relevance of knowledge, and identify any learning)
  • Deeper reflection is warranted versus other models.
  • May be too complicated for individuals who are new to reflection.
  • Reflection will take time to consider all pertinent areas.

Brookfield Model5

  • Looks at event through four lenses (self, learner, peers, and literature).
  • Promotes deeper reflection from broad input.
  • Feedback from multiple entities may provide too general versus specific, targeted feedback.

Aside from critical reflection, authors will be asked to take a scholarly approach to their writing. Wisdom of Experience is not targeting formal research activities; however, supporting your experience with nuggets from the literature will add credibility to your reflection. Authors should ask themselves: Does evidence already exist to support my strategy? Or am I blazing a new trail?

Engaging in critical self-reflection to share your experiences can have a number of positive benefits both on self and others. Developing a reflective practice will encourage life-long learning habits that will positively impact future individual growth. Sharing also helps individuals to connect with other academy members with like interests and facilitates a process of transformative learning1by which life events become true learning experiences.

This new category within CPTL will allow experiences, once destined to be hidden from public view, to be openly shared with the academic community. Faculty, preceptors, staff, residents, and students are all encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity. We are ready to hear your story!

Acknowledgement:

I would like to thank Dr. Kristin Janke and Dr. Cherie Lucas who were instrumental in the development of this new “Wisdom of Experience” category with CPTL.

References:

  1. Mezirow J. Transformative learning theory. In J. Mezirow, and E.W. Taylor (Eds), Transformative Learning in Practise: Insights from Community. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass;2009:18.
  2. Gibbs G. Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods. 1st ed. Oxford, UK: Oxford Brookes University; 2013, Accessed October 2nd, 2019.
  3. Rolfe G. Reach touch and teach. Terry Borton. Nurse Educ Today. 2014;34(4):488-89.
  4. Atkins S and Murphy K. Reflective Practice. Nursing Standard. 1994;8(39):49-56.
  5. Brookfield SD. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass;1995.

Craig D. Cox is a Professor and Vice Chair of Experiential Programs at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy. Educational scholarship interests include preceptor development and quality assurance/improvement in experiential education. In his free time, Craig enjoys attending sporting events and traveling the world.


Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning

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