Reflective or experiential learning has been an important development in the education of a number of professions. Progressing from the academic research carried out on the topic in the early 1980's, it has become an integral part of professional training in medicine, nursing and teaching. Many of the traditional professions have a well-defined training route, including acquisition of the underpinning academic knowledge combined with supervised practice to develop the necessary skills to operate as an independent professional. Reflective learning forms a key part of this initial professional development, and the skills in becoming a "reflective practitioner" then endure throughout a career and are applied in continuous professional development.

Learning from your on-going professional practice is just as important as initial technical training. However, for those working in HSE as Practitioners and managers becoming a "reflective practitioner" may not have formed part of their initial development. Hence very few HSE Practitioners recognize the significance and power of using reflective learning tools, which denies them the opportunity to maximize the significant development opportunities from their own practice which would in turn make them better HSE Practitioners. Our own research among safety professionals suggested that formal reflection was not a concept they were familiar with, despite it being a requirement of the continuing professional development program of their professional membership body.

Since the 1990's reflective papers have been a part of the assessment of many undergraduate and graduate degrees in UK Universities. Even where a reflective paper was not an assessment component in its own right, reflection on practice may form an element of other formal assessed assignments upon which the student's final degree or grades depend. Evidence from research in higher education suggests that many students, particularly those international students from cultures where discussion with tutors is not the norm, struggle to understand what is required in reflective learning. However, many universities have developed techniques to assist in the process.

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