From Reflective Practice to Critical Thinking: The Reflective Practitioner in Higher Education

From Reflective Practice to Critical Thinking: The Reflective Practitioner in Higher Education

Eva Cendon (FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1238-8.ch008

Abstract

This chapter explores the role of reflection and the development of reflexivity in programs of professional studies in higher education. Serving as empirical basis is a qualitative explorative longitudinal study with students in different master's programs at a University for Professional Studies, considering the students' perspective and their changing understanding and practice of reflection both at the workplace and in their studies. The students' perspective is complemented by an analysis of interviews with teachers in professional master's programs about their teaching strategies supporting students' learning. Linking these two perspectives leads to a developmental model of reflection over the course of studies that allows new ways of interpreting the reflective practitioner in higher education.
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Background Or Bridging Theory And Practice

When writing about bridging theory and practice and reflection, it is imperative that one establishes a framework of thoughts to help integrate different lines of thinking. When focusing on theory and practice, it is necessary to broaden one’s perspective to include both the academic world (which is more theory-driven) and the professional world (more practice-driven). The discussion often centers around the distinction between academic declarative, or propositional knowledge (knowing what), and action-oriented procedural knowledge (knowing how) (Billett, 2009, 2014), or the hierarchy of (scientific) knowledge above knowledge in action (Schön, 1983). The concept of bridging theory and practice within the academic context is by no means new – it actually has a long history dating back to the mid-nineteenth century as Barnett (1990, 1992) shows in his analyses.

The concept of reflection” becomes a central focus when looking at theory and practice in higher education. As Van Manen (1991, p. 98) points out, in educational theory reflection can be understood “as just another word for ‘thinking’”. If one reflects, he or she thinks. Two concepts of learning, closely interlinked with each other, become relevant: the concept of experiential and the concept of reflective learning. Both concepts take experience in its various forms as their central basis (for an overview Moon, 1999, 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reflection: A term used for thinking about experience. Reflection can be directed toward past experience, present experience, or anticipating towards the future.

Criticality: A critical stance towards the world of systematic knowledge (thinking), the inner world (self-reflecting) and the outer world (acting).

Critical Reflection: A critical stance taken toward oneself, one’s own assumptions and beliefs.

Reflection in Action: Reflection during acting, often triggered by a moment of surprise.

Work Based Learning: A term used to describe the relationship between learning and work. It emerges from the demands of work, rather than from formal educational programs.

Reflective Practitioner: A concept of a professional who critically reflects upon his or her own practice and hence further develops his or her practical theories.

Reflection on Action: A systematic reflection on past experiences with the aim of developing new strategies of action.

Reflective Learning: A process of learning through reflection of experiences.

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