Reflective practice and consultant effectiveness: an examination of sport psychology practice
University of Wales
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The emergence of professional status within the field of Applied Sport Psychology (ASP)has resulted in a greater need for ASP consultants to consider the effectiveness of their practice and thus attempt to meet the increased levels of accountability that are associated with their professional standing. As a result, this thesis provided an in-depth examination of effective practice and the potential contribution of reflective practice for the development of effective ASP service delivery. Utilising both emergent qualitative research methods and a more traditional staggered single-subject multiple-baseline intervention design, the programme of research presented in this thesis comprised three empirical studies that collectively aimed to: (a) examine the potential links between reflective practice and the development of consultant characteristics associated with effectiveness; (b) generate a more holistic understanding of effective practice in ASP and the role of reflection within the concept of effectiveness; (c) examine how reflective practice can be taught; and (d) investigate the effects of developing skills in reflective practice on the effectiveness of ASP support. In an attempt to achieve these aims it was important for the researcher to first become immersed in professional ASP practice and develop an understanding of and skills in reflective practice. In doing this, Study 1 reported the author's personal reflections-on-practice, which provided the basis for an exploration of the link between reflection and the development of consultant characteristics associated with effectiveness. The findings derived from the author's experiences provided support for the notion that reflection improves self-awareness and generates awareness and understanding of knowledge-in-action that can enhance ASP service delivery. In order to investigate effective practice and its potential relationship with reflection further, the purpose of Study 2 was to develop a more encompassing definition of effectiveness in ASP. The definition that emerged encapsulated a multi-dimensional process that focused on meeting the needs of the client and engagement in evaluative and reflective practices. Through further exploration of the concept of effective practice, reflection emerged as a vital component in the development of effectiveness, with participants also highlighting the seminal role of reflection in experiential learning. Finally, Study 3 attempted to provide support for and build on these findings through the investigation of the effects of enhancing reflective practice skills on ASP service delivery effectiveness. Specifically, the findings from a 14 week staggered single-subject multiple-baseline intervention provided support for the effects of the training programme on participants' (n = 3) ability to reflect on their practice, the learning outcomes gained through reflection, and the effectiveness of their service delivery. Participants' reports, and their client's perceptions, supported the notion that by developing reflective skills they were able to generate practical and professional knowledge, improve self-awareness, make sense of their approach to ASP, and begin to understand the impact of their judgements and decisions on practice. This prolonged research programme has resulted in substantial support being generated for the relationship between reflective and effective practice within ASP. Indeed, the findings of this thesis are thought to have initiated an evidence-base that: (a) confirms reflective practice as a process allowing consultants to develop a range of characteristics associated with effectiveness in ASP; (b) identifies reflective practice as a framework for experiential learning and thus an integral aspect of the process of effectiveness; (c) exemplifies the need for practitioners to engage in reflective practice training; and (d) supports the notion that enhancing reflective skills results in the improvement of service delivery effectiveness. It is thought that these findings have the potential to direct future developments in professional training and education programmes within ASP, which could help to ensure neophyte practitioners are better equipped to engage in the process of reflective practice and enhance the effectiveness of their service delivery.
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