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Critical reflection
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Critical reflection


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  • 1. A Brief Introduction
  • 2.
    • In professional fields such as law, medicine, architecture and education, professionals develop their knowledge through reflecting on their professional experiences (Jack Whitehead has written on this in education, and Donald Polkinghorne in psychology)
  • 3.
    • Jurgen Habermas discussed three ‘human interests’, or domains of knowledge
      • The technical interest is concerned with prediction and control – physical science
      • The practical interest is concerned with relationships and communication – human and social sciences, arts
      • The emancipatory interest is concerned with freedom and power – politics and activism
  • 4.
    • A number of authors, including Jennifer Gore & Kenneth Zeichner in the US and Morwenna Griffiths and Sarah Tann in the UK, have applied Habermas’ ‘human interests’ to reflection
    • These authors often use the term ‘critical’ rather than ‘emancipatory’ for the third interest
  • 5.
    • Griffiths and Tann talk about the on-going reflective dialogue between the ‘public theories’ – constructivism, learning theories, pedagogical theories – we encounter in university and our reading, and the ‘private theories’ we construct out of our practice and experience
    • Thoughtful reflection facilitates this process
  • 6.
    • In teaching, technical reflection focuses on the ‘what happened, and how can I do it better?’ type questions.
    • This is not confined to the technical details of equipment, but also touches on the ‘techniques’ of classroom management or lesson planning.
    • Technical reflection is necessary but not sufficient
  • 7.
    • In teaching, practical reflection is concerned with the deeper issues of communication, culture and relationships. It addresses questions such as ‘how am I being understood by these students?’, ‘how can I translate scientific culture to better fit with their culture?’ and ‘are we building relationships of openness and respect?’
  • 8.
    • In teaching, critical reflection is concerned with challenging assumptions and taken-for-granted beliefs and practices that disempower students and teachers, and at removing blocks to effective communication and good relationships
    • That is, the critical interest serves the practical
  • 9.
    • Critical reflection is most often valuable when it is turned inward. We can support colleagues in the process of examining their assumptions, but we can’t change their minds for them!
    • Reflection on our own assumptions, values and beliefs, and ways they might be either supporting or blocking our growth, is crucial