The Importance of Critical Reflection in the Workplace

PIDP 3100 – Foundations of Adult Education
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
November 28, 2015

Reflective practice is defined as, “learning that is acquired through reflection on or in practice (experience)” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 115). What we have learned and what we actually do are combined to provide an experience that will enhance our in-class and workplace education.

In Adult Learning – Linking Theory and Practice, Merriam and Bierema (2014) state that,

“learning from one’s experience involves not just reflection, but critical reflection.”

What have I learned from reflecting on Merriam and Bierema’s quote?

I have learned that experiential learning is as important as in-class learning; “… the work-based environment can be formalized as an authentic learning environment and thus accepted as comparable but nevertheless different from the traditional on-campus one” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 117). It is important to have a solid theoretical knowledge base prior to experiential learning in order to know the reasons for policies and procedures, and also so that the student can apply their theoretical knowledge to concrete events.

What have I realized about teaching as a result of this quote?

Critical reflection is more than memorization; it is trial and error, specifically relating hands-on learning that is tangible, and also learning from mistakes. I am not teaching in a classroom; I teach every day at work to people who have a solid knowledge base, and who are certified to perform their jobs. Workplace teaching and learning occurs when new technologies and procedures are introduced. In dentistry, critical reflection must occur for the safety of our patients and colleagues. Workplace learning is competence development and, “it is of fundamental importance that competence development activities include reflection” (Illeris, 2011, p.61).

My “Aha!” moment when reading this quote, how it changed my mind about being an adult educator, and one key insight that I now have.

Assessment is key. Critical reflection of a learning experience demonstrates that the student is prepared to perform or relate what has been taught. In my profession, precise surgical procedures require a combination of background theory and applied skill, based on critical reflection following experiential learning. I cannot assign a co-worker who has not developed sufficient experience a difficult task until proper assessment has been assumed.

How has this quote and the insight that I have gained from reflecting upon it, influenced my notion of teaching or how I will teach in the future?

I need to take time to assess a teaching experience. Did I explain everything clearly? Did I give my students time to ask questions for clarification? Was the experience satisfactory? Did I do my best to demonstrate the procedure? Could I have improved the experience so that my students have a greater understanding, something that they will retain, and not just memorize for assessment, and then soon dismiss? Have I solicited my students to see if any of them have prior experiences to share? Often when I teach a new skill, I can see that some of my coworkers “get it” immediately, others require further explanation, some need to know the reasons why, others choose not to critically reflect because they predict that task will not become part of their regular assigned routine. I have talked a lot in this course about the importance of a formal knowledge base that adults must possess, and I have learned that, “effective practice also involves being able to reflect critically upon our practice and as a result consider alternative ways of engaging in our work” (Merriam & Brockett, 2007, p.283); how else can one continue to learn?

@ Please refer to my Resources page for works cited