Critical Reflection as a Rationalistic Ideal

van Woerkom, Marianne
August 2010
Adult Education Quarterly;Aug2010, Vol. 60 Issue 4, p339
Academic Journal
There is a growing interest in the concept of critical reflection in the adult learning and management literature. In this article, the author examines four different intellectual traditions that inform the use of the term critical reflection on the different ideals they express and the different definitions of critical reflection they use. On the basis of this analysis, the author argues that all conceptualizations of critical reflection have a normative character in common, indicating "good thinking" rather than describing observed ways of thinking. Moreover, the author argues that most of these definitions share a common rationalistic bias, implicitly defining critical reflection as a cognitive and rational process under full awareness and rationalizing the impact of emotions on the learning process. Next, the author discusses the problems related to the underdeveloped role of the unconscious and emotions in conceptualizations of critical reflection. It is proposed that we need to start thinking about critical reflection in ways that go beyond dualistic assumptions about good and bad learning and acknowledge the importance of implicit learning and emotions. Moreover, it is proposed that we need to ground our conceptualizations of critical reflection in empirical studies.


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