How do I…

Reflect on my learnings

Optometrist and head of professional advancement and governance at Hakim Group, Claire Slade, advises on how to get the most out of reflective learning

lightbulb and notepad

It is important for practitioners to reflect on their learnings regularly in order to keep developing themselves both professionally and personally.

Setting goals and reflecting on them at intervals during the year enables you to really think about your career, where you want to get to and, most importantly, how to get there.

Claire Slade
Claire Slade
However, as professionals we are busy; we have a day job and family commitments to balance, and, as with many things, reflective learning is something that we can put off. It isn’t something that we learn how to do at university and as it requires us to be creative, which is very different to our clinical skillset. The thought of it can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be.

Reflective learning, put simply, is about thinking ‘I would like to do this, and I would like to be that.’ The next step is then about talking those thoughts through and giving yourself the time and space to develop them into a goal or an ambition. Finally, you have to think about how you are going to make things happen in order to achieve your goal. Nobody wants to have burning ambitions sat on a shelf and years later wish you had tried to achieve them.

I encourage all practitioners to carve out some time to sit down and think about what they want to achieve. Set goals at the beginning of the year, log them, and sit down and reflect on them part way through the year. Choose a process that works for you and stick to it. Generally, setting goals in the New Year is what most people do. You will get a lot out of this process.

Goals can be broad and wide ranging – in fact, that is what I would encourage


Goals can be broad and wide ranging – in fact, that is what I would encourage. They don’t solely have to be about CET; for me personally, it is much broader than that. While it could be expanding your knowledge in a clinical area such as optical coherence tomography (OCT), it could also be about networking with your peers, finding a mentor or a buddy in practice, or expressing a desire to become a practice owner. It’s an educational journey that allows you to invest in your future and take responsibility. The process of writing your thoughts down, setting goals and reflecting on them will allow you to move forward with your ambitions and reach them sooner than you otherwise might.


When it comes to finding the time to reflect on your learnings, I would encourage practitioners to be disciplined and be selfish. I set myself reminders and during that month I will ensure that I make the time for myself. I find a quiet space, I make a coffee and a snack, and I sit down and reflect over the last period. I’ve not met anyone in the industry who isn’t passionate and in love with what they do – reflective learning helps practitioners retain this passion by giving them the time and space to turn their ambitions into reality.

It’s an educational journey that allows you to invest in your future and take responsibility


My reflections

I’m a very structured person and I love a process. I like working through a cycle. Therefore, for me it’s important to log and keep track of my ambitions and goals on a platform. This won’t work for everybody, but it does hold you accountable and gives you a structure and timescale to work to. It also helps you to be disciplined in setting yourself a day and time to sit down and reflect. Without these processes, I have found that time slips by. I know that around particular months that I set, it’s my reflective time.

Personally, I use the reflective learning system on the General Optical Council’s website to set out my goals and, as new aspirations come up, I log them.

An example of this for me in the past was OCT because, when the technology came to the forefront, I realised that it was something I really wanted to get into and learn more about. On making that decision, I added an objective for myself on the system stating my goal of starting to use OCT. As a result, I went off and proactively created learning experiences for myself over time, which I know would have been harder for me to achieve had I not set myself the goal and recorded it to hold myself accountable. Other objectives that I have set are a lot smaller, such as joining discussion forums in order to have conversations and monitor what others are doing in a clinical area, which can all be part of your reflective learning journey.


Reflective learning doesn’t have to take up a lot of time and having a list of my goals and reflecting on them during the year holds me accountable and helps me keep pace in my development as an optometrist.

I try to advocate reflective learning as much as possible as I see the value of it. I’ve long worked in a corporate environment and it’s obvious to me now that you reflect in order to develop. However, as a profession, I don’t think it is something we do enough of.

The benefits of reflective learning are rarely discussed, but I feel that reflecting allows you to take control of your career – it has certainly helped me get from A to B in my career.