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Critical reflection for assessments and practice

Recount and reflect

"Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory becomes simply 'blah, blah, blah',  and practice, pure activism." 

Paulo Freire - Pedagogy of Freedom (1998)

Critical reflection is more than just description

Now you have a better understanding of the importance of critical reflection and what's involved, let’s have a look at the difference between recount and critical reflection. 

Unlike a recounting, critical reflection is more than just describing what happened. Critical reflection involves carefully thinking about:


what you do,

how you do it,

why you do it,

and how it shapes future practice.

Examples of writing styles

Critical reflection writing

Click the accordions below to open up the written examples of critical reflection in different disciplines. 

Critical reflection style of writing example – Creative Arts 

I chose to use my own history as I want to promote understanding and empathy for the challenges that people in similar circumstances to mine have to overcome to be accepted for who they are and want to be.  As some of the content was really confronting and personal, I needed to find a way to take care of the audience and keep them on board. I studied the deadpan expression and physical comedy of Buster Keaton and tried to apply this contrast in my own work. 

As I wanted to look at more contemporary approaches with a completely different approach to humour, I looked at the work of performance artist Laurie Anderson and Mel Gordon's writing about her work. Gordon describes Anderson's 'aesthetic dilemma' as a question of 'how to create an intensely personal art that is not just simple autobiography. That is, how can the performer-author bring raw, unmediated materials from their life and structure them to strike a balance between their own needs and those of the audience (Gordon 1991, 195). Anderson achieves that balance by creating dialogues in her work between two opposing perspectives. 

Later I reflected on how this analysis of Keaton and Anderson's work could inform my own work and what I needed to change for the final performance to achieve that balance between my own needs and those of the audience. On reflection, I realised that I hadn't struck the right balance in the work. With too much emphasis on the humour, I confused the audience as I seemed to be expressing disapproval of people in my circumstances or that I was uncomfortable with my identity. On the other hand, with too much earnestness the material was too raw and personal. Reflecting on Keaton and Anderson's work and what they had in common, I realised that they both use contrast but, through completely different strategies, to invite the audience to hold different perspectives at once. This creates a structure and mediation of the personal material. During the next work-in-progress showing I will ask my peers and teacher to look at how I use contrast in the work to see if this is coming across with the right balance needed so that the performance can generate empathy and be seen not just as a personal story, but also one that belongs to others. 

Critical reflection style of writing example – Education 

Having noted during previous observations that the children weren’t focused during story time just before lunch, I reflected on Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs. I considered how hunger might interfere with the children’s concentration levels. I decided to change the routine so that they had snacks before story time, with the observable outcome being the children were able to sit, listen and engage better with the story. This highlighted for me that readiness to learn can be impacted by physiological needs, such as hunger or thirst. 

When planning activities in the future, I need to be mindful that the children have had opportunity to eat, drink and even move, on a regular basis. I also observed that the children enjoyed playing with and talking about the farm animals, so decided to choose the book, “Where is the green sheep”. This demonstrates that I was being responsive to children’s interests and understand intentional teaching as discussed by Epstein (2014). 

Recount writing style

Click the accordions below to open up the written examples of recount style writing in different disciplines. 

Critical reflection style of writing example – Creative Arts 

In designing my solo performance I used my own history and experiences in the creation process. I had particularly focused on using a comedic physicality for the performance as a way to convey a narrative about difficult family relationships as a result of choices I've made around my gender identity. After showing my solo performance as a work in progress to an audience of my peers, I observed and felt their response to the work. The performance was received well overall. However, I had anticipated they might laugh at moments in the work, but instead they were quiet and shifted in their seats. Lighting, choreography, and sound were all designed to accommodate expected moments of audience laughter, so the lack of this response meant that my performance had slightly stilted timing. 

Critical reflection style of writing example – Education 

The children ate oranges for morning snack time and they really enjoyed them. I had to cut up some of the pieces smaller. We then had morning story time, where I read “Where is the Green Sheep” by Mem Fox. I chose to read this book because I liked it as a child. The children also liked it and they sat still while I was reading. When I asked them on the final page where was the green sheep, they were able to tell me the green sheep was under the bush. 

The children then all tried to make sheep sleeping noises and then some of the children began to snort like other farm animals. I made sure to end the session at this point as the children had to start getting ready for lunch. 

Bringing recount and critically reflective writing together

Both recount and critical reflection writing are part of your reflecting on practice. Tell the story and then explore the impacts past, current and future on your work. You need both writing styles for critical reflective assessments.

Don’t forget to connect your reflections to practice by exploring theories and the work of others by using academic literature from your field.