At school, I found history to be rather dry when compared to other subjects. It was all about dates and chronological events. Needless to say, I dropped it when I had to choose examination subjects. Yet, reflecting on my reading habits over the years, history and historical topics have consistently been my main focus. Since childhood, I have preferred biographical accounts and personal stories covering the major events of the 20th century. But now I also enjoy historical analysis and I am trying to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of earlier periods. Reading about the Reformation, I was totally unprepared for the author to state that the dissolution of the monasteries was down to lack of reflection on the part of the monks. They were too comfortable and ‘in their comfort’ they assumed that their security would continue, even in an era of evolutionary social and religious change.

A lack of reflection. No wonder it made me stop and, yes, reflect. The author applies the same reasoning to the sudden decline of the northern industrial cities following the industrial revolution: at the peak of their wealth, was anyone reflecting on what may happen in the future? The other surprising aspect of this, for me at least, was the reference to reflection looking forward. As I illustrate in the first paragraph, the most common use of reflection is in looking back. Reflecting on what was done, what went right, what went wrong and what could have been done differently. When we make the time, we tend to be good at this. Turning the reflection to face the opposite direction is something we are not so good at and possibly less likely to do, unless prompted by time away on holiday, New Year’s resolutions or a particular life event. The forced lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis caused many people to reflect forward on what they wanted out of life.

I started thinking about reflection in the context of developing professional experience. Just before writing this, I watched an interview with Luke O’Nein, the Sunderland AFC defender. Providing an example of the change within the club, he described the team getting together mid-season to see what they needed to change going forward. He said that instead of having a post-mortem at the end of the season, they had a pre-mortem, so that there was still time to identify and implement changes to affect the outcome. This is the crux of reflection. It is not just an activity performed in isolation, although freedom from distractions and noise are beneficial at a personal level. Its purpose is to identify and lead on to future action.

As I have mentioned many times, continuing professional development (CPD) is required of all of us working in the NDT profession. BINDT provides guidance on what constitutes CPD (see: Points are assigned to various activities with a view to giving an indication of what may be an expected level of CPD for the year. Guidance on how to record CPD is also provided. However, the key to extracting maximum value from CPD activities is reflection: the reflective statement requirement. Information on writing such statements is available online from a number of sources. The questions to answer on each activity, including work activities, are:
  • What have I learned?
  • What went well and why?
  • What did not go too well and why? How could I have done it differently?

Then to look forward and ask:
  • How can I transfer this learning into my role on both a day-to-day basis and in the longer term?
  • How can this help my job performance and improve my behaviours?
  • What other development activity could help me achieve this?

Putting the answers to these questions down in a digital record, or even with pen and paper (you may wish to do so in the box below), will feed your reflection and allow necessary actions to be identified. Do not forget to take time out for reflection. The consequences of not doing so can be significant.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Jacobs or BINDT.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX, UK. Email: or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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