Reflection in policing
: a study of how student constables in the Metropolitan Police conceptualise reflection

  • James Wingrave

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Reflection and reflective learning has been established as an effective approach to improving the standards of professional knowledge and professional practice of employees whose work involves a high degree of social interaction; particularly during the training phase of their careers. Published research on reflective learning within health care and education agencies is prevalent, but there is a noticeable absence of literature examining reflection and reflective learning within policing.
This research project fills a gap in that knowledge by answering the questions how do student constables training with the Metropolitan Police conceptualise reflection and what motivates those student constables to reflect? A qualitative phenomenographical approach has been taken to conduct and analyse semi-structured interviews with a representative sample of 24 student constables training in North, Central and South London. Extracts from the interviews have been presented as vignettes to illuminate how students conceptualise reflection including examples of personal experiences from the training environment and real world. Those conceptions range from a superficial awareness of physical surroundings to a profound appreciation of how individual behaviour impacts on public confidence in the police. The research discovered that the students conceptualise reflection in seven qualitatively different ways; distilled from a wide range of contributions made during the interviews.
This research has established that despite inconsistencies with the quality of instruction given to reflective learning during foundation training, reflection is an essential process by which students develop policing skills. Reflection was also identified as an effective means by which training interventions could be invoked; addressing behavioural issues such as inappropriate use of force and how unnecessarily confrontational attitudes can provoke aggression from members of the public. A hierarchical model has been developed illustrating the depths to which reflection is conceived with propositions made as to how potential limitations of reflection can be mitigated and what opportunities there are for further research.
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPhil Clements (Supervisor) & Jane Creaton (Supervisor)

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