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Questions for critical reflection


This is a resource file which supports the regular public program "areol" (action research and evaluation on line) offered twice a year beginning in mid-February and mid-July.  For details email Bob Dick  or

...  in which I offer some questions which can be asked before and after action to aid critical reflection



It has been my experience that reflection after the event is helped by careful observation during the event. In turn, that is helped by good planning, and in particular the surfacing of assumptions, before the event.

A set of questions for planning before the action, and review afterwards. The purpose is to become aware of the assumptions guiding the actions, and identify if the outcomes support or disconfirm the assumptions


Before the action


The "a" questions lead to practice. The "b" questions lead to theory:

1a   What do I think are the salient features of the situation that I face?

1b   Why do I think those are the salient features? What evidence do I have for this belief?

2a   If I am correct about the situation, what outcomes do I believe are desirable?

2b   Why do I think those outcomes are desirable in that situation?

3a   If I am correct about the situation and the desirability of the outcomes, what actions do I think will give me the outcomes?

3b   Why do I think those actions will deliver those outcomes in that situation?


After the action


0a   Did I get the outcomes that I want? Or, more realistically, what were the outcomes that I got, and how well do these accord with those I sought?

0b   To the extent that I got them, do I still want them? Why, or why not?

0c   To the extent that I didn't get them, why not?

This final question then returns in more details to the earlier planning questions:

1a   In what ways was I mistaken about the situation?

1b   Which of my assumptions about the situation misled me?

1c   What have I learned? Why different conclusions will I reach about similar situations in future?

2a   In what ways was I mistaken about the desirability of the pursued outcomes?

2b   Which of my reasons for favouring those outcomes misled me?

2c   What have I learned? What outcomes will I try to pursue when next I'm in such a situation?

And notice that 3a takes a somewhat different tack:

3a   Did I succeed in carrying out the planned actions? If not, what prevented or discouraged me? What have I learned about myself, my skills, my attitudes, and so on?

3b   If I did carry out the actions, in what ways was I mistaken about the effect they would have? Which of my assumptions about the actions misled me?

3c   What have I learned? What actions will I try next time I am pursuing similar outcomes in a similar situation.



An earlier version of these questions developed in conversation with Stephanie Chee, Alan Davies, Goh Moh Heng, Richard Kwok, and Shankar Sankaran.  The questions are based on the "theory of action" approach of Argyris and Schon, for instance in Theory in practice (Jossey-Bass, 1974) and also in subsequent books.


Copyright (c) Bob Dick 1997-2002.  May be copied if not included in material sold at a profit and this and the following notice are included

This document can be cited as follows:

Dick, B.  (2002) Questions for critical reflection [On line].  Available at



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Maintained by Bob Dick; this version 1.06w; last revised 20020803