Developing a learning culture through reflective practice

Sandra StrathieWhich methods do you use to reflect on your professional practice? How do you know what’s working (and what could be improved) in your interactions with colleagues, students, or service users? Many workplaces, most recently Glasgow Psychological Services, have explored the VERP (Video Enhanced Reflective Practice) model. VERP facilitates reflective practice enhanced by the use of video clips of real life situations, focusing on interaction. These interactions might be in the context of assessments, or building relationships with service users. In this article, guest contributor Sandra Strathie introduces the VERP method. To learn more and pose questions about how this technique may be applied to your work, join us for a free dedicated webinar on Wed 26th February 2014.

What is Video Enhanced Reflective Practice (VERP)?

Simply put, it is reflective practice that is enhanced by the use of video clips of real life practice situations. For example a manager films part of a meeting, a teacher films her interactions with pupils, an early years worker films a group activity. The focus is on the interaction in whatever context the person is in.

In some VERP courses such as ‘A Nurturing Approach to Developmental Assessment’ it supports the development of worker’s assessment skills. Courses can be tailored to the requirements of the organisation, for example, ‘The Art of Effective Communication’ was developed for residential workers working with young people, building on relationship-based practice.

What is the research evidence?

VERP is a strengths based method. Coaches involved in the method draw on the research base for Video Interaction Guidance. There is a VERP chapter (by Sandra and co-authors) on the subject in Video Interaction Guidance:  A Relationship-based Intervention to Promote Attunement, Empathy and Wellbeing(2011). Coaches also look at new research being published such as Dr Deborah Henckert’s (formerly Deborah James) work on transformative education for adults in the area of video feedback.  James, D., Collins, L., Samoyloval, E. (2013) ‘A Moment of Transformative Learning: Creating a Disorientating Dilemma for a Health Care Student Using Video Feedback.’ Journal of Transformative Education. SAGE.

What happens on a VERP training course?

VERP courses start with an introduction to interaction theory i.e. what is going on when people interact one to one or in groups. This is demonstrated through video and through the evidence base for attuned interactions. Sometimes the introduction focusses on a particular area of communication such as managing meetings, working with people with ASD, working with young people etc.

It involves the participant in then going back to the workplace and making a 10 minute film of themselves interacting in a situation they wish to look at. The person then returns at a later date with the film and the course group looks at the videos they have brought together in a practice based workshop. The group is facilitated and coached by a trained coach, usually a Video Interaction Guidance Trained Supervisor who also has experience of VERP.

I can remember the first time we delivered a VERP course. We stood outside for a short break in the sunshine while the group of managers on the course got to grips with making a short video of themselves. We could hear the sound of laughter coming from the upstairs window. Laughter and fun has been a feature on every course since. Yes, perhaps nerves played a factor when people are with their peers and filming themselves for reflective practice. However, experience has shown that there is a genuine sense of fun and camaraderie on our VERP courses as well as a deep learning experience in a supportive and strengths based context.

‘The skilful use of VERP allows the development of awareness of positive attributes.  I felt that the coaching was very skilled in terms of allowing us to pick out those kinds of points, and (probing) questions to allow us to think more deeply about what it is that we’re doing.’ (NHS Trainer)

In 2011 our work was recognised through a special commendation from Scottish Social Services and The Scottish Government in the category, ‘Investing in the Workforce, Developing Practice’. Our last VERP course was held in Glasgow Psychological Service and later this year we will again be welcoming people onto this short development programme. If you are a manager or have supervisor responsibility, chair meetings or have responsibility in some way for developing others, then please contact us for more information or to join this challenging and fun course.

‘The good thing about the film is you can stop and replay and examine. Looking at others styles gave me ideas and I feel more able to recognise strengths in myself. I have plans to use it in a conference presentation and suggest attending the course. I have passed on positive views to my team. The accountability and structure of the course does facilitate and focus you.’ (Inclusion Support Service Manager)

Find out more

Sandra will be hosting a free guest BRITE webinar on Wednesday 26th February 2014 12.30pm GMT. Visit the webinar page to make a booking.

Visit Sandra’s website at http://www.verp.uk.com/.

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