Edev_501 Response wk10_3

As usual, you got me thinking about a number of issues. I’d like to ask you about just one. You started by stating:

“To increase reflection, one must increase critical thinking.”

At face-value, this seems a self-evident proposition, but after some thought, I started to wonder. I’d like to ask your opinion about these three questions.

  • How much are these two concepts related and inter-related?
  • Is it possible to increase reflection without recourse to critical thinking?
  • It is possible to increase one’s ability in critical thinking without reflection?

Here are a few of my thoughts on these matters.

I think that there is a case that reflection and critical thinking may not be related. In the Western medieval Christian tradition, for example, philosophical reflections were tempered with the assumption of the existence of the Christian God (Menn, 2003). Arguments were highly intellectual and utilised very sophisticated techniques. These reflections presupposed an ontological basis that could never be questioned: the existence of God. In this era and location at least, reflection didn’t assume critical thinking.

As a musician, I can relate my own story. To succeed in performance, students must be able to control their instruments to a high degree of expertise. There is a lot of reflection involved in questioning why one’s performance doesn’t match the teacher’s or other top professionals. This reflection isn’t critical in the sense that Wallace and Poulson (2003) or others define. It’s simply an attempt to understand the minutiae involved in controlling one’s body and in hearing the subtleties in the performance of others. These reflections are in one sense similar to that of the medieval Christians who model themselves on their intuitions of their God.

These sentiments speak to the separation of critical thinking and reflection. Then the focus must turn to the relatedness of the concepts. Moon (2000) discusses the common sense meanings of the term reflection before explaining some technical meanings. I’d suggest that her technical meanings are also common sense to a large degree when the context, subtext and pretexts of education (Boud & Walker, 1998) are fixed as the topic within which to reflect. That said, some technical definitions of reflection include critically evaluating one’s focus of reflection (Brockbank & McGill, 2007; Fisher, 2003; Fook & Gardner, 2007; Hodge, 2014; Mezirow, 1981). Others don’t h(Hatton & Smith, 1995; Kane, Sandretto, & Heath, 2004; Schön, 1992; Wilson, 2008). Of course, my division into dos and don’ts only makes sense if the definition of critical thinking used involves aspects such as socio-political positioning and empowerment. There are countless other divisions possible based on how you see the concepts. Without pushing a my single view onto you (or presenting cases for the other two questions), how do you see this issue?

Boud, D., & Walker, D. (1998). Promoting reflection in professional courses: The challenge of context. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), 191–206. http://doi.org/10.1080/03075079812331380384

Brockbank, A., & McGill, I. (2007). Facilitating reflective learning in higher education (2nd ed.). Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press.

Fisher, K. (2003). Demystifying Critical Reflection: Defining criteria for assessment. Higher Education Research & Development, 22(3), 1–1. http://doi.org/10.1080/758482626

Fook, J., & Gardner, F. (2007). Practising  Critical reflection, 232.

Hatton, N., & Smith, D. (1995). Reflection in teacher education: Towards definition and implementation. Teaching and Teacher Education, 11(1), 33–49. http://doi.org/10.1016/0742-051X(94)00012-U

Hodge, S. (2014). Transformative Learning as an “Inter-Practice” Phenomenon. Adult Education Quarterly, 64(2), 165–181. http://doi.org/10.1177/0741713613520405

Kane, R., Sandretto, S., & Heath, C. (2004). An investigation into excellent tertiary teaching: Emphasising reflective practice. Higher Education, 47(3), 283–310. http://doi.org/10.1023/B:HIGH.0000016442.55338.24

Menn, S. P. (2003). Metaphysics: God and being. In A. S. McGrade (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to medieval philosophy (pp. 147–170). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mezirow, J. (1981). A Critical Theory of Adult Learning and Education. Adult Education, 32(1), 61–82. http://doi.org/10.1177/074171368103200101

Moon, J. (2000). Reflection in learning and professional development: Theory and practice. London: Kogan Page.

Schön, D. a. (1992). The crisis of professional knowledge and the pursuit of an epistemology of practice. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 6(1), 49–63. http://doi.org/10.3109/13561829209049595

Wallace, M., & Poulson, L. (2003). Learning to read critically in educational leadership and management. (M. Wallace & L. Poulson, Eds.). London: Sage Publications.

Wilson, J. (2008). Reflecting-on-the-future: a chronological consideration of reflective practice. Reflective Practice, 9(2), 177–184. http://doi.org/10.1080/14623940802005525

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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