Reflecting on and in practice is one of those ideas that is widely used and accepted in social work (D’Cruz, Gillingham & Melendez, 2007; Gould & Taylor, 1996; Gursansky, Quinn & Le Sueur, 2010; Kessl, 2009; Milner, 2009; Ruch, 2007). Many say that reflecting is not enough – that in fact one must not just reflect but do so critically (Fook & Askeland, 2007; Fook & Gardner, 2007; Thompson & Thompson, 2008; White, Fook & Gardner, 2006). But what does it mean to be critical? What does it mean to reflect? And how do these two things relate to each other? Being critical means to break something down into component parts and understand the relationship between the parts. This is sometimes also referred to as critical thinking. In social work, critical is often code for a variety of theoretically received ideas associated with the radical and critical theory traditions in social work. Therefore, when social work students are asked to critically reflect, they may be expected to import a particular theoretical basis of criticism to their reflection on something.
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