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4 Applying critical and reflective thinking in academic and professional contexts: examples

This section will introduce you to examples of critical and reflective thinking within four broad discipline areas: health and social care, business and management, education, and science. We would encourage you to read and engage with the activities in an area that aligns more closely with your own interest, plus at least one other discipline area, to gain a broader appreciation within the limited time allocated to this session.

Note: The four discipline areas are provided for your reference. As a guide, two of these (‘Business and management perspective’ and ‘Science perspective’) delve further into the process of critical evaluation and reflection within their respective fields, whereas the remaining two areas (‘Health and social care perspective’ and ‘Education perspective’) focus more prominently on critical reflective practice.

You are welcome to explore all four areas, if you can devote additional time for doing this beyond that allocated for this session.

4.1 Health and social care perspective [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

4.2 Business and management perspective

4.3 Education perspective

4.4 Science perspective

Box 2 A cautionary note concerning the notion of ‘objectivity’ in critical thinking – perspectives from different disciplines

We have until now broadly considered critical thinking as an ‘objective’ process. In fact, the definition for critical thinking provided by the Oxford English Dictionary reaffirms the notion that critical thinking is an ‘objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement’.

According to this view, the aim of critical thinking would be to ‘try to maintain as objective a position as possible’. The notion of objectivity in critical thinking does, however, vary amongst disciplines. For example, it has been argued that the process is quite different for the natural (physical) sciences to how it could be conceived in the social sciences and in business and management. Critical theorists in the social sciences and in business schools have claimed that the presence of the researcher (studying others, managing and organising) can, in fact, affect what is done. Physical scientists, on the other hand, when writing experiments may, with reasonable justification, claim that what they have written is the product of detached observation that can be replicated elsewhere, whereas in the social sciences this claim would be more disputed (with those who are working from critical perspectives saying that what has been written up could be based on findings that are open to multiple different interpretations, depending on the preference or standpoint of the researcher(s)).

Recall that you were introduced to aspects of this debate in Session 3. You should therefore continue to be aware that differences in ideas and practices can occur between the disciplines, and how these may affect outcomes (i.e. impact upon how knowledge and information are constructed, examined and, most crucially, used in practice).