Topic 1: Rationale for critical reflection

In this topic we introduce the notion of critical reflection and define its scope and uses.

Why is critical reflection needed?

Critical reflection is a key analytical tool that can help cultivate an educational culture which is responsive to extremist behaviour and attitudes.

By being critically reflective, we can identify the assumptions which underpin certain behaviours, attitudes and actions. Furthermore, we may examine those assumption and how, through them, people may ascribe meaning to their lives and experience of the world around them.

However, critical reflection and thinking go beyond simply acknowledging and studying the ideas on which we base our everyday thinking. They can also involve questioning and challenging those ideas.

While this might sound simple, it is important to remember that often certain assumptions are not challenged because they might appear unproblematic to the people that hold them. Indeed, certain assumptions might appear “common sense”, natural or innate. That is why we often accept them unquestiongly.

By being critically reflective we can participate in the emergence of new perspectives and knowledge about the world, which might replace previous and potentially destructive perspectives.

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Even though there are many different intepretations and positions on what being reflective might involve in practice, there are some components that are common in most definitions of the term. These are:

1. Identifying deep-seated beliefs that we may have about ourselves and the world around us

2. Unpacking those beliefs, and recognising the underlying assumptions that might support them

3. Countering contradictions or faulty reasoning

4. Challenging received knowledge and opening it up to further questioning and analysis

5. Acknowledging other perspectives (social, cultural, political, professional) than our own, and think how they can lead to new understandings and interpretations

6. Reflecting on the meanings and consequences of your previous actions through the lens of new knowledge

7. Taking action in order to transform your way of thinking, acting, and communicating.