Critically reflecting on critical reflection

I’m really excited to be doing more study again, this time a Master of Educational Leadership.  I’m in a middle leadership position at the moment but I want some more professional development and learning/experience to support my leadership skills and their continued development and growth.  I have enrolled in two courses already and one is on school organisation and the other on critical reflection, both of which are very interesting so far.  Of particular interest to me right now though is definitely critical reflection as I am already someone who tries to consistently and critically engage in reflection to improve my own practice all the time.  I have much to learn and so many skills I could improve so critical reflection is a highly valuable tool to me in the progression of these.

Critically reflective teacher by Giulia Forsythe on Flickr

In one of the first readings, by Coulson et al. (2010), selected for us in this course, critical reflection has been defined as:

“[…] taken to mean a deliberate process when the candidate takes time, within the course of their work, to focus on their performance and think carefully about the thinking that led to particular actions, what happened and what they are learning from the experience, in order to inform what they might do in the future.” (King, 2002, p.2)

“[…] examining ethical, social, and political consequences of one‘s practice‘ ” (Larrivee, 2008, p.343). 

Words like higher order skills, metacognition and self-regulation are also included in the discussion defining critical reflection.  I love being metacognitive and becoming more so as I continue my lifelong learning but teaching it and helping students to be metacognitive is another thing altogether.  I didn’t learn about it until university and I still didn’t really get it until after university I think.  How can I help teenagers develop their metacognitive self?  Also, are teenagers able to be critically reflective without have skills in metacognition?

In the article’s discussion they revealed a few models that have served to develop critically reflective practice and they act as a scaffold to perhaps help those new to critical reflection to continue to develop their ability to do so.  The models mentioned were: Correia and Bleicher‘s (2008) four steps to guide reflection using connections and reflection markers; Eyler and Giles’ (1999) five C‘s for effective reflection (connection, continuity, context, challenging, coaching); as well as, Kiely’s (2005) development of ‘A Transformative Service-learning Process Model‘ (Coulson et al., 2010).

Of these three mentioned above, I am particularly interested in the idea of service-learning experiences (SLE) and how they strengthen the ability and give increased opportunity for students to be critical reflectors.  Correia and Bleicher (2008) discussion, in their article ‘Making connections to teach reflection’, have this to say:  “We can help our students understand an SLE by teaching them to recall familiar situations as an embarkation point for reflection. In trying to make sense of the SLE, students make connections to their life experiences.” (p. 46)

I very much like this idea and would the opportunity to test it for myself in my own teaching context.  Students learn so much from the experiences they engage in and I would love to see it generate critical reflection so that students can get even more out of the experience, by understanding the learning they gained.  A great topic and concept to keep pondering.


Correia, M.G. & Bleicher, R.E. (2008). Making connections to teach reflection. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring 2008, 41-49.

Coulson, D., Harvey, M., Winchester‐Seeto, T. & Mackaway, J. (2010). Exploring the Evidence for the Role of Reflection for Learning through Participation. In Campbell, M. (Ed.) Work Integrated Learning – Responding to Challenges: Proceedings of the 2010 ACEN 2010 National Conference, (pp. 92-103). Perth, September 29 – October 1. 2010.

Eyler, J.S. & Giles, D.E. (1999). Where’s the learning in service-learning? Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 2, 112-122.

Kiely, R. (2005). A transformative learning model for service-learning: A longitudinal case study. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Fall 2005, 5-22.


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