Teaching Critical Reflection

Teaching Critical Reflection

Length: 2185 words (6.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Teaching Critical Reflection

The ability to reflect critically on one’s experience, integrate knowledge gained from experience with knowledge possessed, and take action on insights is considered by some adult educators to be a distinguishing feature of the adult learner (Brookfield 1998; Ecclestone 1996; Mezirow 1991). Critical reflection is the process by which adults identify the assumptions governing their actions, locate the historical and cultural origins of the assumptions, question the meaning of the assumptions, and develop alternative ways of acting (Cranton 1996). Brookfield (1995) adds that part of the critical reflective process is to challenge the prevailing social, political, cultural, or professional ways of acting. Through the process of critical reflection, adults come to interpret and create new knowledge and actions from their ordinary and sometimes extraordinary experiences. Critical reflection blends learning through experience with theoretical and technical learning to form new knowledge constructions and new behaviors or insights.

Learning by critical reflection creates new understandings by making conscious the social, political, professional, economic, and ethical assumptions constraining or supporting one’s action in a specific context (Ecclestone 1996; Mackintosh 1998). Critical reflection’s appeal as an adult learning strategy lies in the claim of intellectual growth and improvement in one’s ability to see the need for and effect personal and system change. Reflection can be a learning tool for directing and informing practice, choosing among alternatives in a practice setting, or transforming and reconstructing the social environment (Williamson 1997). Can critical reflection be taught in a classroom? Does the new knowledge created foster change? This Myths and Realities investigates the extent to which critical reflection can be taught to adult learners.

How Do Adults Learn to Be Critically Reflective?

Without agreement on what reflective practice is, it is difficult to decide on teaching‑learning strategies. Reflective practice may be a developmental learning process (Williamson 1997), may have different levels of attainment (Wellington 1996), and may be affected by a learner’s cognitive ability (James and Clarke 1994), willingness to engage in the process (Bright 1996; Haddock 1997), and orientation to change (Wellington 1996). However, there does seem to be some agreement that critical reflection consists of a process that can be taught to adults. Brookfield (1988) identified four processes central to learning how to be critically reflective: assumption analysis, contextual awareness, imaginative speculation, and reflective skepticism.

Assumption analysis describes the activity adults engage in to bring to awareness beliefs, values, cultural practices, and social structures regulating behavior and to assess their impact on daily activities.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Teaching Critical Reflection." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Aug 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Journal Response on Teaching

- I used this quote to introduce a lesson on the different ways of learning to my undergraduate content methods class. I felt the words also spoke to both the essence of our assigned texts and my state of reflection. The readings increased my awareness of the variances of issues facing higher education and the viability of multiple solutions. I realized that it is much easier to shoot an idea down than it is to consider a novel solution. Ramsden’s (1992) use of the Whitehead (1992) statement, “I merely utter the warning that education is a difficult problem, to be solved by no one simple formula” leads me to believe that he holds a similar multi-approach disposition towards higher education is...   [tags: Education, Instruction, Teaching]

Research Papers
1163 words (3.3 pages)

Reflection on a Critical Incident Essay

- The objective of this assignment is to explore and reflect upon a situation from a clinical placement. Reflective techniques will be used to reveal how well or badly the situation was handled. And how the incident, and the reflection has influenced personal learning and professional practice in relation to nursing care. According to Hogston and Simpson (2002, p398) reflection is "a process of reviewing an experience of practice in order to better describe, analyse and evaluate, and so inform learning about practice"....   [tags: Critical Analysis of an Incident]

Research Papers
2406 words (6.9 pages)

Essay on My Reflection On My Critical Thinking

- While the semester is over and the deadline has expired, I thought I would write this to express my true intended thoughts. The goals I set for myself are plenty. There are goals that I am very passionate about. For one, I took a public speaking course this spring semester and loved it. In the letter I wrote that by the end of it I wanted to become someone who could take risks and be a confident individual. Slowly but surely I’m growing into that person. There was a lot of things I wrote that made me realize how upset I was with the person I used to be....   [tags: Thought, Critical thinking, Writing]

Research Papers
785 words (2.2 pages)

Developing Critical Thinking Essay

- A person is not born as a good critical thinker. The first thing that is needed is a level of maturity having the ability to conceptualize and understand the world (Boss, 2010). The skills that are associated with a person that has good critical thinking are: Analytical Skills: recognize and evaluate arguments to filter through to the truth. Effective Communication: ability to listen, speak, and write effectively. Research Skills: ability to gather, evaluate, and create supporting evidence. (Boss, 2010) In teaching critical thinking, Dr....   [tags: Critical Thinking Reflection]

Research Papers
1129 words (3.2 pages)

British Literature Lesson Reflection Essay

- I Introduction Since my subject is British Literature, there has been a lot of thought regarding the priorities of the course. On one hand, my main aim is to help learners enjoy the artistic part of written language. On the other hand, I have been tempted by the idea of using my time to give a more language oriented lesson. The session used to write this essay is one of my first attempts to pursuit the second. When choosing the materials, I picked a short comedy written on the fifties (Pinter 2006, 1254-1259) basically because I thought It could be appealing to my teenager group....   [tags: Reflection]

Research Papers
1361 words (3.9 pages)

Guided Teaching Inquiry Essay

- Guided Teaching Inquiry “I think I notice things more. I notice how much children don’t listen to instructions. (…) it’s made me far more aware of their learning … but … you can’t tell if it’s affected your teaching really. I don’t think it has but it certainly affected the way I see their learning”. (Baumfield & Oberski, 1998, p. 49 cited Baumfield, 2006, p. 1)). In light of Baumfield’s statement it is clear that the way I teach affects the way students learn. For example, the learning intention was not clearly explained, or the process was not effective and the success criteria were not met....   [tags: teaching practice reflection]

Research Papers
681 words (1.9 pages)

Reflection Paper On Teaching And Learning

- Teacher content knowledge is significantly essential to the development of teaching and learning. How a teacher processes curriculum and their teaching style go hand and hand towards a student’s education. A teacher’s pedagogy and curriculum impacts and affects student achievement and the student’s education that they are teaching. I know that when I first started teaching my pedagogy was direct instruction. This paper provides a brief overview of my pedagogical content knowledge of math, describes my motivation to be a better instructor and ideas for whole school improvement....   [tags: Problem solving, Education, Teacher, Mathematics]

Research Papers
1740 words (5 pages)

A Reflection On Teaching Philosophy Essay

- There are four teacher qualities I consider to be essential: thorough knowledge, skills in effectively conveying knowledge, the ability to engage and motivate learners, and a honest concern for students ' wellbeing. These four qualities are pertinent to my own teaching philosophy, and form the foundation of how I teach my students. Teachers often come to be a source of encouragement, advice and support for their students, and as a result I believe that teachers truly have the invaluable opportunity to transform students ' lives....   [tags: Education, Teacher, Learning]

Research Papers
749 words (2.1 pages)

Research Study of Mild General Learning Disabilities Essay examples

- To introduce this task I wish to firstly identify the material I chose to research for my research role in this assignment. I chose to undertake a research study of Mild General Learning Disabilities (MGLD) to find out more information on what exactly it is, how it affects students and what can be done to fully include these students in our classrooms. This role allowed me to take a deeper look at what exactly my assumptions were relating to this and how I was going to change them given the evidence I had discovered....   [tags: Educational Systems, Critical Reflection]

Research Papers
3210 words (9.2 pages)

The Importance of Content and Process in Teaching Essay

- Student success depends on the teachers love of the material and a willingness to convey that love and knowledge to the students. However, when content matters more than anything else, teachers are sidetracked from using methods or strategies that enhance student learning. This hurts students and faculty as well because neither are reaching their full potential. Some teachers think the best way to improve their teaching is to develop their content knowledge. When teachers have this outlook on teaching they end up with high levels of knowledge, but do not have the instructional methods and strategies needed to relay their knowledge to their students....   [tags: education, teaching, didactics]

Research Papers
2018 words (5.8 pages)

Related Searches

Assumptions may be paradigmatic, prescriptive, or causal (Brookfield 1995).

Assumptions structure our way of seeing reality, govern our behavior, and describe how relationships should be ordered. Assumption analysis as a first step in the critical reflection process makes explicit our taken‑for‑granted notions of reality. Contextual awareness is achieved when adult learners come to realize that their assumptions are socially and personally created in a specific historical and cultural context. Imaginative speculation provides an opportunity for adults to challenge prevailing ways of knowing and acting by imagining alternative ways of thinking about phenomena (Cranton 1996). The outcome of assumption analysis, contextual awareness, and imaginative speculation is reflective skepticism‑the questioning of any universal truth claims or unexamined patterns of interaction.

A similar process called expressive inquiry has been described by Willis (1999). Critical reflection involves three stages: dispositional, contextual, and experiential. The values, preferences, and characteristics of the adult influencing an action is termed dispositional reflection. Contextual reflection focuses on the cultural forces shaping an experience. Forces might include race, gender, ethnicity, institutional policies, personal expertise. Experiential reflection involves remembering the event as it occurred and the associated feelings and thoughts‑a revisiting of the experience. The outcome of the process is to reveal and resolve contradictions between expectations and reality.

Can Critical Reflection Be Taught in the Classroom?

Critical reflection is viewed by some educators as a learning strategy that can be taught using such tools as diaries (Heath 1998; Orem 1997), action learning groups (Williamson 1997), autobiographical stories (Brookfield 1995), and sketching (Willis 1999). However, some educators question the usefulness of classroom teaching, citing lack of empirical data to support claims of individual and practice improvements. A weakness in the use of critical reflection is the lack of a consistent way to measure the depth and outcome of critical reflection. Kember et al. (1999) developed a scale to distinguish levels of reflection in a consistent manner. The scale classifies statements as habitual, thoughtful, or introspective (nonreflective) or as content, process, or premise reflection (reflective). Although the coding scheme had acceptable interrater reliability, applications of the code to determining the level of reflective thinking were not reported.

Another rubric for differentiating levels of reflection has also been designed by Wellington (1996). Five orientations were identified: immediate, technical, deliberative, dialectic, and transpersonal. Reflection can be a learning tool for directing practice, informing practice; choosing among alternatives in a practice situation, or transforming and reconstructing the practice environment. The issue here is that learners exist at each level. Reflections are bounded by the ability of learners to confront their individual beliefs about a situation. How effective are the tools that may be used to help learners confront their beliefs?

Of the various tools available to educators, diary keeping or journaling is a popular means of recording events and reactions to events (Heath 1998; Mackintosh 1998; Orem 1997; Williamson 1997). Diary writing does have serious limitations. Writers may suffer from selective recall of events and may be reluctant to express thoughts that others may read (Mackintosh 1998). Learners may be unable or unwilling to confront or seek disconfirming information about themselves or implicitly held knowledge. Bright (1996) suggests that to be able to write reflectively, learning to be reflexive in one’s thinking is a necessary prerequisite skill, “because it is the practitioner’s understanding which is the window through which a situation is understood and interpreted, an essential feature of ‘reflective practice’ is the need for the practitioner to be aware of her own processes in the development and construction of this interpretation. In this sense, ‘reflective practice’ is reflexive and involves much self‑reflection on her own practice” (p. 177). Resistance to going beyond technical descriptions of experience as expressed in diaries may be due to lack of writing skills, expressive skills, or the inability to confront comfortable assumptions (Heath 1998; Orem 1997; Wellington 1996).

Description of critical incidents has also been advocated as a tool for teaching critical reflection. Hunt (1996) taught reflective practice processes by having learners select critical incidents arising from the practice environment. Learners engage in a reflective practice discussion group under the guidance of a tutor. The use of groups is essential if implicit assumptions and practices are to become visible. However, using reflection results in a journey for which neither the instructor nor the learner can chart or predict the outcome. The discussion group may provoke anxiety and inhibit learning for some. Creating a safe and structured climate does seem to increase learner willingness to share (Haddock 1997). Although advocating the development of reflective learning modules, Hunt does not provide any data to suggest that learners grow in their ability to reflect and act on newly formed knowledge constructions. Critical reflection may result in ambiguous and unclear learning for some learners.

Graham’s (1995) action learning group used small group processes to share experiences, personal insights, and ideas among practicing nurses and midwives. The group followed a three‑phase process: preparatory, experiential, and processing. The action learning group helped learners associate, integrate, validate, and appropriate the new meanings produced. Professionals participating in the group did develop new strategies for improving professional practice. Future studies will investigate if transfer of learning to the practice situation does occur.

Reflection should help learners make meaning out of content applied in a specific practice situation and better understand the complexity of how one acts and might act in a future situation. However, in a study conducted by Lee and Sabatino (1998), reflection skills used in the classroom did not correlate with performance on field projects. There was no significant correlation between use of guided reflection and the learners’ application of content. However, attitudes toward guided reflection were positive. Learners indicated that reflective practices help to connect prior experience to new content. Mallik (1998) noted that the use of journaling and reflective discussion groups did not move novice practitioners to deep levels of critical reflection. Novice practitioners stayed at the technical and practical levels of critical reflection. Guided reflection may make an interesting classroom but it did not improve practice.

Critical reflection skills learned in the classroom may be different from the skills needed in the everyday world (Ecclestone 1996). Perhaps the value of classroom learning is to move learners from one orientation to another in a developmental sequence (Wellington 1996). Instructors must recognize the proficiency of each learner to use reflective tools and their individual capacity for growth. Yet the question of how to teach to different levels of critical reflection is still in need of additional research. Is there any evidence to suggest that teaching strategies employed in the classroom do promote critical reflection? The answer is unclear (Ecclestone 1996; Graham 1995; James and Clarke 1994; Mackintosh 1998).

Critical reflection holds out the promise of emancipatory learning, learning that frees adults from the implicit assumptions constraining thought and action in the everyday world. Through critical reflection, adult learners can act on the forces creating inequality in professional practice and in the world (Imel 1999). At an individual level, critical reflection does bring about awareness of the need for change. Unfortunately, the research does not indicate that critically reflective learners become change agents. The use of critical reflection has had more success in the classroom than in the practice world. How to bridge the transition from classroom to practice is still a challenge for adult educators.


Bright, B. “Reflecting on ‘Reflective Practice.’” Studies in the Education of Adults 28, no. 2 (October 1996): 162‑184.

Brookfield, S. Training Educators of Adults. New York: Routledge, 1988.

Brookfield, S. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey‑Bass, 1995.

Brookfield, S. “Critically Relective Practice.” Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 18, no. 4 (Fall 1998): 162‑184.

Cranton, P. Professional Development as Transformative Learning: New Perspectives for Teachers of Adults. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1996.

Ecclestone, K. “The Reflective Practitioner: Mantra or Model for Emancipation.” Studies in the Education of Adults 28, no. 2 (October 1996): 146‑161.

Graham, I. W. “Reflective Practice: Using the Action Learning Group Mechanism.” Nurse Education Today 15, no. 1 (February 1995): 28‑32.

Haddock, J. “Reflection in Groups: Contextual and Theoretical Considerations within Nurse Education and Practice.” Nurse Education Today 17, no. 5 (October 1997): 381‑385.

Heath, H. “Keeping a Reflective Practice Diary: A Practical Guide.” Nurse Education Today 18, no. 7 (October 1998): 592‑598.

Hunt, C. “Function, Fascination, and Facilitation of Reflective Practice in Continuing Professional Education.” In Diversity and Development: Futures in the Education of Adults. Proceedings of the 26th Annual Conference, Leeds, England, July 2‑4, 1996. Standing Conference on University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults, 1996. (ED 398 408)

Imel, S. How Emancipatory Is Adult Learning? Myths and Realities no. 6. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1999. (ED 436 663) <http://ericacve.org/fulltext.asp>

James, C., and Clarke, B. “Reflective Practice in Nursing: Issues and Implications for Nurse Education.” Nurse Education Today 14, no. 2 (1994): 82‑90.

Kember, D. et al. “Determining the Level of Reflective Thinking from Students’ Written Journals Using a Coding Scheme Based on the Works of Mezirow.” International Journal of Lifelong Education 18, no. 1 (February 1999): 18‑30.

Lee, D., and Sabatino, K. “Evaluating Guided Reflection: A U.S. Case Study.” International Journal of Training and Development 2, no. 3 (1998): 162‑170.

Mackintosh, C. “Reflection: A Flawed Strategy for the Nursing Profession.” Nurse Education Today 18, no. 7 (October 1998): 553‑557.

Mallik, M. “The Role of Nurse Educators in the Development of Reflective Practitioners. A Selective Study of the Australian and UK Experiences.” Nurse Education Today 18, no. 1 (January 1998): 52‑63.

Mezirow, J. Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood: A Guide to Transformative and Emancipatory Learning. San Francisco: Jossey‑Bass, 1991.

Orem, R. “Journal Writing as a Form of Professional Development.” In Proceedings of the 16th Annual Midwest Research‑to‑Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education, edited by S. J. Levine. East Lansing: Michigan State University, 1997. (ED 412 370)

Wellington, B. “Orientations to Reflective Practice.” Educational Research 38, no. 3 (1996): 307‑315.

Willis, P. “Looking for What It’s Really Like: Phenomenology in Reflective Practice.” Studies in Continuing Education 21, no. 1 (1999): 91‑112.

Williamson, A. “Reflection in Adult Learning with Particular Reference to Learning‑in‑Action.” Australian Journal of Adult and Community Education 37, no. 2 (July 1997): 93‑99.

This project has been funded at least in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education under Contract No. ED-99-CO-0013. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Myths and Realities may be freely reproduced and are available at <http://ericacve.org/fulltext.asp>.
Return to 123HelpMe.com