critical reflection

a definition

Critical reflection can be defined as the process of examining assumptions about one's values, power relations, and how these assumptions and values affect professional practice. Unlike self-reflection, critical reflection questions not only one's own assumptions but also the material manifestations of societal assumptions, especially attending to power relations and structural hierarchies. Critical reflection involves questioning why something is constructed (thought to be true) or done in certain ways, and if it is the 'best' way of thinking or practicing. Sometimes, the conclusion will favour maintaining that particular method, in which case nothing needs to change. However, this is not always the case, and this process is an important starting point for necessary improvements. Examples within healthcare might include questioning the use of a particular surgical procedure, or why medical charts are written up a certain way. And when this questioning identifies possible harms or inequities, a critically reflective practitioner would work toward change--in the moment (through collaborative, compassionate and ethical choices), and/or in the future (through systems change).


Ng, S. L., Kinsella, E. A., Friesen, F., & Hodges, B. (2015). Reclaiming a theoretical orientation to reflection in medical education research: a critical narrative review. Medical Education in Review, vol. 49: 461-475. doi: 10.1111/medu.12680.

Ng, S. L., Wright, S. R., & Kuper, A. (2019). The Divergence and Convergence of Critical Reflection and Critical Reflexivity: Implications for Health Professions Education. Academic Medicine, vol. 94(8): 1122-1128.