Firstly, H, the Harry Potter ‘pensieve’ is a wonderful portmanteau term of the French ‘penser/ to think’ and the English sieve or colander! I found that extremely funny. It does gather the sense of the actions of pouring multiple thoughts into a sieve and shaking it until only the worthwhile thoughts are left. I’ll use that from now on.
It is reminiscent of the debates in EFL in the 80s and 90s over the value of particular methodologies in language teaching. Prabhu discusses the implications in mixing methods and ends up settling on a “sense of plausibility” that each teacher needs to decide for themselves as to what actions or methods are applicable at any given time (Prabhu, 1990, p. 172). At last EFL had reached Baxter Magolda’s state of contextual knowledge (Baxter Magolda, 2004)! I wonder when this will happen in regard to critical thinking and reflection?
Although most people here assert that reflection is related to critical thinking, I remain to be convinced. My gas stove and frying pan are related to my morning coffee, and because I roast my coffee, I can say that I can’t have coffee without either. But it’s clear that neither the stove nor the pan are the coffee although they are integral to the existence of that sublime substance that invigorates me daily. In the same way it might be truer to say that critical thinking can be an element in reflection. The question is if this element is a necessary and sufficient one or not.
There is an assumption in play that once clarified can throw light on to the debate. I wrote earlier this week that intelligent people think deeply about things. In the responses here, the sense that each of us is thinking deeply about reflection is very strong. A part of that thinking is the assumption that reflection is necessarily deep and is necessarily critical. For our purposes, I couldn’t agree more. However, I don’t see that reflection necessarily contains the notion of criticality. The irony is that by accepting criticality within reflection, we run the risk of being uncritical!
The literature on epistemological development points to questions about the possibility that learners can hold different positions simultaneously for different content areas they work on (Richardson, 2013). For example, I am a beginner at the art of coffee roasting and really enjoy being told about how beans react in the pan at different temperatures and time lengths. I try out that knowledge experientially and usually confirm what I’ve bean1 told. In no way am I able or willing to partake in a discussion on different theories of bean roasting. Yet in education debates, it is the cut and thrust of committed individuals that is exciting. Reflection is a tool for professionals to test their epistemological stage at the situational level for any given experience. As there are clearly defined stages, a professional can gauge their own developmental needs by assessing their lived experience and imagining a path towards deeper epistemological stages. Critical thinking and critical reflection can aid the thought processes during this assessment, but they are tools in a bigger toolkit and may not be necessary always.
It’s difficult to argue when J said, “I don’t believe one can increase one’s ability in critical thinking without reflection”. However, there are varieties of reflection under discussion here. If reflection means to think back on a lived experience (often negative, and this brings L’s Chinese definition in line with the one I see daily in Japan), then I agree; there is no way to improve if there is no engagement with a past experience. Yet some writers (Boud & Walker, 1998; Brockbank & McGill, 2007; Fook & Gardner, 2007; and many others) insist upon particular interventions involving others in the reflective process. This cannot be accurate. Involving others may be helpful at times, and certainly Brookfield’s four lenses can be multiplied exponentially through the eyes of many (Brookfield, 2002): useful but not necessary (in the strict sense of the word).
I’d encourage you to read the Richardson article cited above. His state of the art paper explains where researchers are in understanding epistemological development, and in doing so, he outlines many of the key issues in the topic. Although he doesn’t mention Bloom, or critical thinking, there is a clear overlap in what we’re trying in this forum to get to grips with in reflection and what are the overall goals of thinking. For me, tying the various threads of critical thinking and critical reflection into epistemological development and using that as a self-assessment tool was very useful.
 ; )
Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2004). Evolution of a Constructivist Conceptualization of Epistemological Reflection. Educational Psychologist, 39(1), 31–42. http://doi.org/10.1207/s15326985ep3901_4
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.
Brookfield, S. D. (2002). Using the Lenses of Critically Reflective Teaching in the Community College Classroom. New Directions for Community Colleges, (118), 31. http://doi.org/10.1002/cc.61
Fook, J., & Gardner, F. (2007). Practising Critical reflection, 232.
Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98(2), 224–253. http://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.98.2.224
Prabhu, N. S. (1990). There Is No Best Method-Why. TESOL Quarterly, 24(2), 161–176. http://doi.org/10.2307/3586897
Richardson, J. T. E. (2013). Epistemological development in higher education. Educational Research Review, 9, 191–206. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2012.10.001