"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are".
Anais Nin - Seduction of the Minotour (1961)
Critical reflection can be defined in different ways but at core it's an extension of critical thinking. It involves learning from everyday experiences and situations. You need to ask questions of yourself and about your actions to better understand why things happened.
Critical reflection is active personal learning and development where you take time to engage with your thoughts, feelings and experiences. It helps us examine the past, look at the present and then apply learnings to future experiences or actions.
Critical reflection is also focused on a central question, “Can I articulate the doing that is shaped by the knowing.” What this means is that critical reflection and reflective practice are tied together. You can use critical reflection as a tool to analyse your reflections more critically which allows you to evaluate, inform and continually change your practice.
The events, experiences or interactions you choose to critically reflect on can be either positive or negative. They may be an interesting interaction or an everyday occurrence.
No matter what it is, when you are critically reflecting it is a good idea to think about how the experience, event or interaction made you:
And what you can do to change your practice.
What you think, feel and do as a result of critical reflective learning will shape the what, how and why of future behaviours, actions and work.
Critical reflection also means thinking about why you make certain choices in your practice. Sometimes this may feel uncomfortable because it can highlight your assumptions, biases, views and behaviours. But it is important to take the time to think about how your own experiences influence your study, your work and your life in general. This involves you recognising how your perspectives and values influence the decisions you make.
Click on the plus (+) icons beneath each thought bubble to view some example assumptions that may influence practice.
There is quite a bit to keep in mind with using critical reflective to shape your practice. Making critical reflection part of your everyday is easier if you have a framework to refer to.
This critical reflection and reflective practice framework is a handy resource for you to keep. Download the framework and use it as a prompt when doing critical reflective assessments at uni or as part of developing reflective practice in your work.
Why you need to use academic literature in critical reflections can be hard to understand as you may feel that you don’t need to draw on other sources when discussing your own experiences. Critical reflections involve both personal perspective and theory = the need to use academic literature.
Keep in mind that when you are at university there is an expectation that you support the points you make by referring to information from relevant, credible sources.
You also need to think about how theories can influence and inform your practice. Reflective practice relies on evidence, with research informing your reflection and what changes to practice you intend to put into play. This means you will need to use academic literature to support what you are saying in your reflection.
Learn more about including literature in your writing. Deakin’s academic skills guide on Using Sources will help you weave academic literature into your critical reflection assessments. It’s focused on supporting evidence in your writing.