Reflecting Back and Forwards:
A Decade of Reflective Practice in Sport
Mrs Emma Huntley
Dr Brendan Cropley
Prof Dave Gilbourne
Prof Andrew Sparkes
Dr Zoe Knowles C.Psychol
[email protected]
Rationale & Aims
Over ten years of reflective practice in sport, mostly within
• Sport psychology (Anderson et al, 2004)
• Coach education (Knowles et al, 2001)
Borrowed principles and ideas from other, more established ‘educare’
Mann et al (2009) conducted a similar study within health professions
education to identify ‘gaps’ and explore implications for future practice and
a) A systematic search of reflective practice in the sport-based literature to
explore the commentary and empirical evidence to date.
b) The outcomes were used to explore international perspective on reflective
practice within sport psychology with a view to inform future policy,
practice and research on reflective practice.
[email protected]
Setting the Scene
Lots of ‘grey’
literature available…
…but present study focuses
on peer-reviewed papers
[email protected]
Method (a)
Online databases and search tools (e.g., Sports Discus, PsychInfo, Web of Science)
Search terms: reflective practice, reflect OR reflection AND sport within title, abstract or
Inclusion criteria:
• English language resources
• Published between 2001 – 2012
• Peer reviewed journals only
• Must include one or both of the following
• process “brings together deliberate exploration of thoughts, feelings and
• outcome (e.g. preparation for change, action based, or confirmation/rejection
of a theory/practice skill option
(Knowles & Telfer, 2009, p. 24)
Resulted in 160+ outputs reviewed independently by team (EH, ZK, BC).
Final agreed sample: 68 papers
[email protected]
Key Results (n = 68)
Type of Study
n = 59
Sport Coaching
n = 20
Sport Psychology
n = 43
n = 53
[email protected]
Four focal points:
a)Reflective practice research is predominantly conducted within the
b)Reflective practice is mostly researched within a sport psychology
c)Reflective practice research is primarily explored using qualitative
techniques and representations; and
d)A lack of consensus on the definition of reflective practice appears to
be evident.
[email protected]
Method (b)
The key findings from part (a) were used to form a semi-structured
interview guide, including questions about understanding, methodology,
and policy.
Established sport psychology practitioners and/or educators, involved in
curriculum design or practitioner education were contacted via email to
To date: One participant from each of the UK, the US, Canada and
Australia (n = 4) were interviewed via Skype or telephone.
Semi-structured interviews lasted approximately 30 minutes were
transcribed verbatim.
[email protected]
Preliminary results
Formal requirements to evidence reflections or reflective practice?
“required to demonstrate reflections in reports throughout 2 years, on experiences,
meeting, ethical situations, evaluating impact of consultancy… Not asked what model of
reflective practice do you engage in or employ. It’s more about individuals reflecting on
their competence, ethical development and understanding. Reflective practice is more a
by-product” (UK)
“for all psychologists in the country, to maintain registration, not only do you have to do
continuing professional development but at least 20 hours of that have to be peer
supervision, which isn’t directly reflective practice but obviously usually part of it”
“I don't believe there is any requirement as far as this term is concerned in the United
States at this point in time” (USA)
“as far as I know we don’t have any professional training to become a sport
psychologist... I'm not aware of any applied training programmes for sport psych… I'm
not aware of any applied degrees, one place might have an undergrad degree… you
don’t need a qualification to work as a mental skills trainer” (Canada)
[email protected]
Lack of evidence-based research?
“Early research starts out almost as vignettes, or storytelling approach, ‘this is how I’ve
managed to develop my practice…’ I tend to use the frameworks of Gibbs, Ghaye and
Johns, as driven by my supervisor. I’m not sure if there is an appropriate framework in
our field. We need our own model in sport and exercise psychology. We can steal from
others to inform our reflections, but literature is now at a level of maturity for that to
take place, but I’m not sure anyone has grasped it yet” (UK)
“reflective practice is a personal practice, and how I do it and what it involves and what I
get out of it might be very different from what somebody else gets out of it. So to try and
quantitatively measure the effects of it, there is some real individual differences there
that could be complex” (Australia)
“you need different people, asking different questions, using different methods for it to…
have life… the same people asking the same questions using the same methods… then it
dies eventually” (Canada)
“my vision is that from now on if there is a study that tries to evaluate the efficiency of …
psychological training programme, there will be questions that will be measures of who
the consultant is, what they do, how they make decisions, how they reflect, how they
learn from what they do.” (USA)
[email protected]
Lack of understanding?
“Reflection is used in a lot of situations that have nothing to do with reflective practice, or even
applied practice at all… they’re using it as a synonym for our thoughts about or what we think, it’s
not actually reflective practice. But I don't think they intended it to be what we think of as reflective
practice, either. I think it’s a word has multiple uses and it’s used outside of the reflective practice
context a lot” (Australia)
“People make a total hash of it… people use the same term to define different things… on the other
hand, ‘reflections on…’ … that’s just a diary… it’s useful and insightful… but for me that’s a totally
different literature and it probably devalues the work of people working in reflective practice as a
main area because it makes it look like anyone can do it… I’d make a distinction… if there's a
conceptual or theoretical framework or not, and if not, they're ‘reflections on…’” (Canada)
“[Practitioners will say] ‘I reflect… it helps me…’ but do they know how? What model do they employ?
Do they take a holistic view… or a performance view? Some nitty gritty bits need establishing. How
do people reflect? Do they use a process or chain of events to work through? Or a more haphazard
manner? Do they reflect as individuals or in groups?” (UK)
Self reflection is a very personal and intimate process... there could be some anxieties, uncertainties
involved in sharing that with the wider public… one thing is to talk about that with your supervisor;
it’s a different thing when we share the instances of failures or successes from our practice with our
students within the classroom. So this is when that reflection could go deeper potentially in a natural
way. So it takes some guts, if you will, it takes some professional risk-taking and honesty, integrity,
to be able to be really self reflective on all those elements (USA)
[email protected]
Developing intrinsically motivated reflectors?
“I take extra time or extra comments on a self reflective piece to appreciate what [students
have] done, how they link facts and then reinforce the movement towards being more self
reflective… We apply it into assignments, we apply it into their work and then we value it,
value, value and value it, and appreciate it. So develop a culture… To begin with, we
devalue the idea of grades” (USA)
“they [students] do it because they want to be better practitioners… But I think I have the
advantage… I have them face to face for two years, and also they share an office and it’s
part of the culture of the programme. The new ones coming in understand that that's
what’s done and that's expected and it’s not questioned” (Australia)
“if we had evidence that demonstrated the effect of reflective practice, for example, ‘this is
how reflective practice can directly enhance practice’… as many examples as possible… to
demonstrate the direct association in increasing ones capability as a practitioner, the
better” (UK)
[email protected]
Future improvements?
“If I had already found something I’d needed to change I would have already changed it”
“trainees [could] reflect on case studies, lessons learned [at a dedicated slot at the DSEP
conference, for example]. Why has reflective practice helped you? It would be a perfect
model to share best practice, and show that it’s ok to screw up, it helps you develop. But
we are insular to have a warts and all approach. Are you prepared to put your hands up?
It shows that you're not the only person to screw up, it’s actually ok… opportunity for
people to give something back. Or for future trainees contemplating starting the process”
“I am a part of a group that's called The Coalition for the Advancement of the Training for
the Practice of Sports Psychology… We produced a couple of documents, we made a
couple of presentations… and one of the competencies now that you want for the students
to be able to demonstrate… would be the competence in self reflective practice… producing
a… golden standard vision for how professionals in our field could be or should be
trained” (USA)
[email protected]
Conclusions (so far…)
Future research may focus on research informed policy and motivation,
efficiency, and effectiveness of reflective practice for users.
Whilst the UK is recognised as pioneering in reflective practice research,
international discussion, dissemination and collaboration is warranted.
Inspiration and evidence can be gained from ‘best practice’ in educational
programmes and these may be ‘local’ and hidden to professional training
curriculum policy makers such as the BPS
Difficult to compare programmes across
countries due to professional training
To date only one individual perspective as
representative for each country included
in research.
[email protected]
Huntley, E. & Kentzer, N. (2013). Group-based reflective practice in sport psychology: Experiences of
two trainee sport and exercise scientists. Sport and Exercise Psychology Review. 9(2) p.57-68.
Huntley, E., Cropley, B., Gilbourne, D., Sparkes, A. & Knowles, Z. (under review). Reflecting back and
forwards: the ebbs and flows of reflective practice research in sport.
Knowles, Z. & Telfer, H. (2009). The where, what and why of reflective practice. In: Heaney, C.,
Oakley, B. and Rea, S. Exploring Sport and Fitness: Work-based practice. Oxon, UK: Routledge.
Mann, K., Gordon, J., & MacLeod, A. (2009). Reflection and reflective practice in health professions
education: A systematic review. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 14(4), 595-621.
Rhodius, A. & Huntley, E. (2014, in press). Facilitating reflective practice in graduate trainees and
early career practitioners, In: Knowles, Z., Gilbourne, D., Cropley, B., & Dugdill, L. (eds.).
Reflective Practice in the Sport and Exercise Sciences: Contemporary Issues. London, UK:
Thank you for listening
[email protected]

A Decade of Reflective Practice in Sport