The EmployID Perspective

(adapted from the DoW)

Reflection support for the changing professional identities requires creativity to develop new concepts of personal development.

Creativity support can be provided by guiding people through phases, which help them to develop new ideas or by creativity techniques which provide impulses for new way of thinking.

There are numerous ways of differentiating phases during creative work. One of the earliest stems from Wallas (1926): preparation, incubation, illumination and verification.

For groups, Osborn’s differentiation between mess finding, data finding, problem finding, idea finding, solution finding and acceptance finding is useful as is pointed out by Maiden et al. (2004).

Shneiderman (2002) proposes his own scheme (collect, relate, create, donate). For collaborative creativity (Mamykina et al., 2002), the combination of work in solitude and in groups as well as during their work or in separated workshops has been found helpful.

There are also an overwhelming number of creativity techniques supporting divergence (brainstorming, variation) as well as convergence (synergy, merging, combining) by building analogies, provocation, or random based impulses (Knoll & Horton, 2010).

The thinklet approach (Briggs & de Vreede, 2009) describes an advanced set of computer based methods of ideation which includes creative idea finding.

However, creativity techniques are most appropriate for formal communication such as in workshops.

The challenge is to overcome this barrier and to trigger the employment of creativity techniques in the context of work-related situations. Moreover, the integration of creativity procedures and techniques with reflection of the personal situation requires new ways of conceptualizing tools, as the subject of creative problem solving is often a technical problem – practitioners (Kelley & Littmann, 2001) point out that creative work has to refer permanently to prototypes.

In professional identity change, the personality of users and their peers are the subject of interest. It has to be investigated how scenarios and articulation within the role plays and other methods can help to overcome the lack of prototyping possibilities. An appropriate approach, which is closely related to the support of reflection, is to deliver specific kinds of prompting (Santanen et al. 2004). Prompting can be technically conveyed and can help people to leave established ways of self-perception and thinking about themselves, leading to new ideas and insights on changing the way they work. For example, cases of other people having changed their professional identity successfully serve as prompts for others to get inspired. These cases should on the one hand be similar to their own situation but also be different enough to represent an impulse of how things could change.

Little is known on how reflection, creativity and other learning solutions such as e-Coaching can interact with each other. It is most likely that reflection outcomes can be beneficial for coaching sessions and vice versa, and that both mechanisms can benefit from creativity support, but this has not been explored systematically. Moreover, the combination of reflection and explicitly set goals, e.g., for identity transformation, are a typical means of personnel development, has also not been regarded so far. Although both aspects are integrated in coaching concepts as supporting methods – reflection is used to understand the situation and the environment as well as to set goals to bring the coachee from her/his new developed solution(s) to action – there are no tools supporting this and other combinations.

The potential of combining these methods can be seen in support for different types of informal learning, in the rhythms reflection and coaching sessions happen in and in the guidance of the respective learning process. Eraut (2004) differentiates between implicit, reactive and deliberative learning, which may happen with respect to past episodes, current experience and future behaviour. While reflection is mainly bound to past or current experiences, coaching can also support critical thinking about the future, including plans and opportunities it may provide. Moreover, while reflection can also support deliberative learning, in contrast to coaching it also supports implicit and reactive learning situations, from which it needs to be sustained and transferred into other approaches (see Prilla et al., 2012a).

E-Coaching is such a structured approach, which can take the input of reflection sessions and help people to make sense of it in a more structured setting. This also fits the typical rhythms of situations in which reflection and coaching can be applied.

While spontaneous reflection and reflection in action occur frequently and multiply per day, coaching sessions are well-prepared and happen much less frequently – even coaching on demand as possible with e-Coaching needs coordination and preparation for coaching sessions. Concerning the structure of the learning process, reflection can be considered as a process from which the understanding of work practices emerges through re-assessment of experiences in the light of current knowledge mainly left to the people engaged in reflection.

Coaching, in contrast to that, provides a structure for dealing with the understanding of work practice, from which people can benefit when they think about work. This coverage of typical rhythms and structural needs by combining reflection and coaching can enable a fruitful combination of these approaches.

Expected progress and progress indicators

In the context of EmployID, reflection and e-Coaching may then support each other on two levels, resembling the concept of single and double loop learning as described by Argyris and Schön (1978):

Reflection tools and e-Coaching as mutual amplifiers: Reflection not only happens on its own, but needs to be triggered (Daudelin, 1996; Verpoorten et al., 2011). On the other hand, e-Coaching sessions should not only rely on ideas and thoughts created during the session, but should also use insights from reflection happening between coaching sessions.

Creating a sustainable repository for ideas and thoughts that can be used throughout reflection and coaching sessions as well as aligning triggers for reflection and triggers used in coaching sessions will allow individuals and groups in PES to better understand their work practice and to adapt their professional identities to internal and external needs (e.g., developments on the labour market or communicational skills for the consultation of clients), enabling single-loop learning on professional identities.

e-Coaching to enhance the reflexivity of individuals and groups in PES: Coaching not only enhances the reflexivity in certain sessions, but may also help individual and teams to become more reflexive in their work and thinking. Showing people the benefit that stems from reflection on their professional identity and giving them the means to do so (e.g. showing them how to stimulate reflection in sessions without a coach) can support double-loop learning on reflection for ID transformation.

In the context of transforming professional identity, creativity support needs to complement this combination of e-Coaching and reflection, supporting PES practitioners in their communities of practice (Wenger, 1999), adapting their professional identities to continuously changing demands of PES clients, especially, as the labour market represents a situation of “learning when the answer is not known” (Fischer, 2004) – people need to understand their practice and adapt to its demands without knowing the direction for change or whether their insights and plans for change are right. This creates a “wicked problem” (Rittel and Webber, 1973) of changing one’s professional identity, which can neither be described completely nor have a single best solution – solving such problems needs iterative approaches for understanding the problem and a rich set of information and contexts for the problem. Both for learning when the answer is not known and for solving wicked problems, the combination of reflection and coaching lacks support for the creation of solutions: a PES practitioner may get insights from reflection of several client interactions and from two coaching sessions that she needs a change in her way of working, but she may not know the direction for change. Creativity support, especially when idea generation is done in groups, can help people to create ideas for such solutions and to synergize common solutions for different experiences.

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