Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.

What is reflective practice?


What is reflective practice?

So you want something simple to share with colleagues about reflective practice. I think it is very simple.

Reflective practice means you think about what you do.

You think about what works, and what doesn’t work. Thinking is likely to lead to changes in your practice. You will be better able to articulate what works and why. You will see where you want to make changes.

Reflection is not perfunctory thinking. It is considered. It is questioning. So it is best done in writing, or through free-ranging conversation.

Critical reflection is a trickier concept. The term ‘critical’ is used by a few different schools of thought.

One version is reflection based on the ‘critical incident technique’(Flanagan, 1954). In this version, an incident is identified as particularly important; the incident is ‘critical’. Reflection on that incident should lead to insight.

A common-or-garden interpretation is that critical reflection means reflection that is negatively critical ie focuses on things going wrong.

Then there is the version connected to ‘critical theory’. This is a more complex field. At its simplest, this form of critique is about acknowledging that power is relevant to how we work; we are affected by the power structures of our society. The EYLF references this kind of critical theory when it asks us to consider

‘Who is advantaged when I work in this way? Who is disadvantaged?’

A key concept here is that our perception is often so shaped by acceptance of ‘normal’ that we are unable to recognise what is going on. Hence we seek ways to rattle our understandings so as to see things we normally hide from ourselves.

Glenda MacNaughton (2004) writes about doing this kind of critique in early childhood education. This kind of reflection can be uncomfortable; it can make us discover things about ourselves that we are not too happy with. But it can also be liberating.

– Gráinne O’Malley

© Anarchy & The EYLF Pirates 2014




Flanagan, J. C. (1954). The critical incident technique. The Psychological Bulletin, 51(4), 327-358.

Mac Naughton, G. (2004). Doing Foucault in early childhood studies: Applying post-structural ideas. Routledge.


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