EDUP106 Phase 2, Task D1


Chapter 1 of:

Brookfield, S, (2017). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. 2nd edition, San Francisco, Jossey- Bass.

p2: Critical reflection is, quite simply, the sustained and intentional process of identifying and checking the accuracy and validity of our teaching assumptions.

p5: 3 types of assumptions

  • paradigmatic – structuring assumptions to help us order the world around us
  • prescriptive – what we think ought to happen
  • causal – assuming that if X happens then  will follow

p7: The best way to unearth and scrutinize our teaching assumptions to use four specific lenses available to us: students’ eyes, colleagues’ perceptions, personal experiences, and theory and research. 

p9: Informed by the critical theory tradition, reflection becomes critical when it’s focused on teachers understanding power and hegemony.

  • illuminating power and ideologies – capitalism, positivism, democracy, militarism, white supremacy, patriarchy – all methods of control
  • uncovering hegemony – the stock opinions, conventional wisdoms, or commonsense ways of seeing and ordering the world that people take for granted – work against long term interests

Here, Stephen Brookfield shows how genuine critical reflection goes far beyond simply thinking about what worked and what didn’t. He and others (such as Jack Mezirow and Patricia Cranton) are committed to ‘transformative learning’ through critical reflection. Reflection could be understood as occurring on at least three levels. The first is reflection on content: What happened, and what did it mean to me?

A second, more practice-focused level, focuses on process: What worked well in what I did, what didn’t, and how can it be improved? This is the level that some professionals focus upon when they think they are engaging in reflective practice. It can be useful – certainly better than not thinking about one’s practice at all, but it has limitations. It relies upon the individual’s recollection of events, which is partial at best, and their personal views of what happened, shaped by all of their own blind spots, preferences, and prejudices – even when they try to be ‘critical’. This approach to reflective practice provides nothing new outside the individual’s existing frame of references to interrupt and open out their habitual ways of thinking. So, some argue, this is not really learning in the sense of changing.

A third level, which is critical reflection, aims for change. This focuses on one’s core assumptions and beliefs: What are the particular perspectives and premises that I use to frame my reflections on my practice? This is very difficult to do alone. One way to see one’s own assumptions is to compare them to very different perspectives, perhaps through reading others’ views or talking with very diverse colleagues. Another way is to do this in a group with a facilitator who can ask the necessary provocative questions. The point is to interrupt our accustomed ways of thinking. Stephen Brookfield offers a series of vignettes and metaphors to illustrate what it is to be a critically reflective teacher.

• Which of these ideas did you find most difficult, and why?

Challenging hegemonic assumptions – these are difficult to identify, let alone challenge.

• Which of these ideas seemed most familiar, and why?

Prescriptive assumptions – how we think things ought to be. This is more commonly discussed.

• Which of these ideas attracted you most, and how could you apply them in your own practice?

Illuminating ideologies – capitalism / neoliberalism – this seems to be a theme for me at the moment.

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