Learning from experience – setting a course towards professional goals

As a 3rd year student (level 5) I wanted to share my experience of Nutrition in Action (level 4 module) and my first introduction into the practice of reflection. Through the opportunity to explore nutrition in the wider community, based on observations within a local school and keeping a reflective journal, I was encouraged to review my learning experiences.

Taking on something new, as was the case when embarking on this course, inevitably involved change and so I used this as a starting point to reflect on how I felt. Through this process I was able to identify with various stages of change and the impact it had on my personal view of the world. I overcame the phase of anxiety at the start of the module by seeking a better understanding of the subject. This was followed by a phase of engagement, enabling me to move forward to make a positive change and assisting me to work through future implications when faced with further changes during the course of my studies and career in nutrition.

For me, acquiring relevant professional knowledge and experience was the key factor in bridging the gap between theory and practice. Through the observational studies at school I was able to connect and apply classroom knowledge to a “real life” setting thus strengthening the theoretical components of nutrition and adding more meaning to my academic study. It was an ideal environment for increasing my confidence. Reflection helped me to focus more on the outcomes to help me to see the end result more clearly, I was also able to recognise the capability of developing my own coping strategies to overcome negative feelings and to keep motivated to maintain personal vision. Additionally, I came to value the relationships built with fellow students and others, as these ‘critical friends’ can support and help us through challenging attitudes and behaviour.

As a learner, I was able to identify my learning style preferences, increasing self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses, thus enabling me to learn in new ways. I recognised the ‘reflector’ within me, preferring to gather information first hand then to reflect, the ‘pragmatist’, liking the relevance of the real world and feedback from those I perceive as knowledgeable on their subject and the ‘activist’ in need for perfection to get things organised. Whilst I enjoy the theory, I have learnt that engagement with others enhances my learning. Moreover, it led me to identify skills for further development, enabling me to develop my personal development plan.

Going forward the ultimate goal is to become a successful practitioner. Experiential learning has enabled me to become aware of the importance of building my professional network to enhance my knowledge, skills and abilities. At the beginning of this module it was a challenge to understand the purpose of reflection, I now acknowledge that as part of professional development, reflective learning is a lifelong commitment that can keep me motivated and help me to grow personally and professionally to enhance interpersonal skills and develop critical thinking. Exploring nutrition in the wider community it has enabled me to develop an awareness of others needs and a greater understanding of my role and potential contribution to my community.

Kalpana Ratcliffe – Year 3 Nutritional Therapy student


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