‘becoming’ critically reflective practitioners: academics' and students' reflections on the...
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Human Resource DevelopmentInternationalPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rhrd20
Becoming critically reflectivepractitioners: academics' and students'reflections on the issues involvedAileen Corley a & Elaine Eades ba Faculty of Business and Law Management School , LiverpoolJohn Moores University , John Foster Building 98 Mount Pleasant,Liverpool, UKb University of Liverpool Management School , LiverpoolUniversity , Chatham Building Chatham Street, Liverpool, UKPublished online: 07 Aug 2006.
To cite this article: Aileen Corley & Elaine Eades (2004) Becoming critically reflectivepractitioners: academics' and students' reflections on the issues involved, Human ResourceDevelopment International, 7:1, 137-144, DOI: 10.1080/13678860310001630647
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13678860310001630647
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Becoming critically reflective practitioners:academics and students reflections on the issuesinvolved
Aileen CorleyLiverpool John Moores University
Elaine EadesLiverpool University
Learning is a core concept within HRD and the ability to understand and enhanceindividual and organizational learning is key to effective HRD practice. Critically
reflecting on practice is a central feature of effective learning and many authors (Kolb
1984; Reynolds 1998; Schon 1983) have argued that reflection on practice is anessential skill for managers and professionals. But how do practitioners become
reflective practitioners? This perspective on practice paper provides some insights
into the processes involved and the interventions that can be used to enhancereflective skills. The paper will be of interest to readers who are concerned with
operationalizing the concept of reflective practice. This includes academics and HRD
professionals who have responsibility for designing and implementing learninginitiatives and practitioners who are expected to practise reflective skills and
continuous professional development (CPD).
The authors of this article are responsible for the design and delivery ofpostgraduate programmes. Two postgraduate programmes provided the case studies
for this research and further detail is provided below. A stated aim of the programmes
was to develop the students as critically reflective practitioners. This paper reports onthe emerging outcomes of an action research project, which explores how students
and academics can become critically reflective practitioners. The paper also reports
on planned future research and discusses the applicability of the research to the HRDprofession.
Theories of reflective learning
It is generally accepted that the purpose of management development and educationis to develop critically reflective practitioners. However, achieving this purpose can be
problematic (Corley 2002; Craft 1997; King 1995). Within management learning
the models of experiential learning have held and currently hold a dominant position(Pavlica et al. 1998; Reynolds 1998) and the ideas of Kolb (1984) and Schon (1983)have been elevated above all available alternatives. Reynolds (1998) argued that there
are qualitative differences between reflection and critical reflection and describesreflection, as exemplified by experiential learning theories, as focusing on the
HRDI 7:1 (2004), pp. 137144
Human Resource Development InternationalISSN 1367-8868 print/ISSN 1469-8374 online 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd
immediate, presenting details of a task or problem. Reynolds (1998) argued that themeaning and significance of experiential learning theory has been limited by the
individualized perspective that the theory promotes and he outlined four
characteristics of critical reflection: it is concerned with questioning assumptions;the focus is social rather than individual; it pays particular attention to the analysis of
power relations; and it is concerned with emancipation. Reynolds argues that:
The aim of management education. . .should not be to fit people into institutions as theycurrently exist, but to encourage them in questioning and confronting the social andpolitical forces which provide the context of their work, and in questioning claims of(common sense) or (the way things should be done).
(Reynolds 1998: 198)
The above statement complemented our views regarding the aim of management
education and the ideas of Reynolds provided additional insights into what reflective
learning could be. For us, Reynolds view of the critically reflective practitionerextended the ideas of Kolb and Schon by making the social and political aspect of
questioning current practice explicit.We believed that the ability to question taken-for-
granted assumptions was central to effective learning, especially at postgraduate level.But could we share these insights and expectations with the students? This questioning
of practice acted as a catalyst for the action research reported in this article.
Sharing insights and expectations of postgraduate study
A social constructionist perspective has informed this action research into how
academics and students develop shared understandings. Attempting to make implicit
knowledge explicit has been a central feature of the research and plannedinterventions integrating individual and group learning activities, with a focus on
conversations for understanding and conversations for action (Pavlica et al. 1998)have impacted on student learning and the process of becoming a critically reflectivepractitioner. We have been influenced by the idea of the manager as practical author
and the argument that:
Learning can be considered as a process of argumentation in which thinking, reflecting,experiencing and action are different aspects of the same process. It is practicalargumentation with oneself and in collaboration with others that actually forms the basisof learning.
(Pavlica et al. 1998: 145)
The concept of a community of practice where individuals learn to become members
of that community (Lave and Wenger 1991) through a process of socialization,
developing shared understandings of practice, also provided useful theoretical insightsinto howHRM and HRD practitioners become critically reflective practitioners. It is
recognized that within HRM andHRD educational programmes several communities
of practice can be identified: the programme team, the employing organization andprofessional organizations. Stakeholder analysis (Simmons 2003) has provided further
Perspectives on Practice
refinements of the issues involved within different communities. However, for thispaper the key issue is how each community has developed through the socialization
process, including language, implicit and explicit knowledge and worldviews (Eades
and Iles 2003). The key challenge for this action research was: how do we transfer ortranslate knowledge across communities if each community has become socialized?
Making explicit and codifying (putting in written form) the aims and objectives of the