Experiences of recent graduates: reframing reflection as purposeful, social activity

21 Mar 2020

Warman, S. M.

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During the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS) Professional Development Phase, graduates are required to reflect on their progress. Reflection is often conceptualised as a solitary activity, which may contrast with day-to-day reflective activities in the workplace. This study drew on cultural-historical activity theory to understand how recently graduated veterinary surgeons engage in reflective activity.


Data comprised RCVS documentation and semistructured interviews with 15 recent graduates from one veterinary school. Thematic analysis was used to describe a collective system of reflective activity and to identify contradictions in the system with the potential to limit outcomes of reflective activity.


Two overarching themes of contradictions were identified: ‘social reflection’ and ‘formalising the informal’. Graduates need opportunities for talking and/or writing to progress worries into purposeful reflection, underpinned by a shared understanding of reflective activity with colleagues, and by working practices which prioritise and normalise reflective interaction.


These findings identify potential avenues to better support veterinary graduates as they negotiate the transition to working life, and suggest that reconsideration of the formal expectations of new veterinary graduates and their employers is timely.