Critical reflection: post-chat materials

In case any of you still want to dive deeper, here’s a bibliography of further readings on critical reflection, suggested before, during and after the December 19, 2016 #critlib chat:

Chat announcement:

Storify of chat:

Blog posts shared before chat:

Authors and schools of thought mentioned during chat and in blog posts:

  • Bell hooks articles on Buddhism at
  • Bolman/Deal leadership frames
  • Buddhism
  • Consequentialism
  • Cultural studies
  • Intersectional feminism for planning
  • Kraschen/Vygotsky for teaching
  • Lave/Wenger community of practice
  • Quakerism
  • St. Ignatius
  • Thích Nhất Hạnh
  • UW’s Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching

Readings mentioned during chat and in blog posts:

  • Arnold, H. (2016, August 2). Critical work: Archivists as Maintainers. Retrieved from
  • Bean, J. C. (2011). Engaging ideas: The professor’s guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Bolton, G. (2005). Reflective practice: Writing and professional development. London: Sage Publications.
  • Booth, C. (2010, April 30). Build your own instructional literacy. Retrieved from American Libraries,
  • Booth, C. (2011). Reflective teaching, effective learning: Instructional literacy for library educators. Chicago: American Library Association.
  • Boyle, C. (2016, January 16). …something like a reading ethics…. Retrieved from #NoBlogDeal,
  • Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Cameron, J. (1992). The artist’s way: A spiritual path to higher creativity. Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee.
  • Drake, J. M. (2016, April 6). RadTech meets RadArch: Towards a new principle for archives and archival description – on Archivy. Retrieved from
  • Gardner, F. (2014). Being critically reflective: Engaging in holistic practice. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.
  • Horn, V., & williams, angel K. (2016, June 18). Talking race, love, and liberation by Buddhist Geeks. [Audio interview.] SoundCloud. Retrieved from
  • Kapitzke, C. (2003). Information literacy: A positivist epistemology and a politics of outformation. Educational theory, 53(1), 37-53. Retrieved from
  • Linn, D., Linn, S. F., & Linn, M. (1995). Sleeping with bread: Holding what gives you life. Mahwah: Paulist Press.
  • Mann, M., & Benjamin, D. (2009). #3: The Second arrow. [Audio interview.] Back to Work. Retrieved from
  • Mezirow, J. (1990). Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: A guide to transformative and emancipatory learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Morrison, T. (2011). Toni Morrison – Nobel Lecture. Retrieved from
  • Pratt, D. D. (2015). Five perspectives on teaching: Mapping a plurality of the good. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company.
  • Pratt, D. D., & Collins, J. B. (2014). Teaching perspectives inventory. Retrieved from
  • Rahula, W. S. (n.d.) The Noble Eightfold path: Meaning and practice. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from Tricycle,
  • Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.
  • Stoddart, R. A. (2015). Currere as a Method for Critical Reflection in the Profession of Academic Librarianship. Retrieved from Boise State University Theses and Dissertations. Paper 1054.
  • Suzuki, S., & Dixon, T. (1970). Zen mind: Beginner’s mind. New York: Walker/Weatherhill.
  • Tan, C.-M. (2012). Search inside yourself: The unexpected path to achieving success, happiness (and world peace). New York: HarperOne.
  • Tworkov, H. (1992). Agent of change: An interview with Bell Hooks. Retrieved from Tricycle,
  • Warner, B. (2015). Hardcore Zen: Punk rock, monster movies, & the truth about reality. Somerville, MA : Wisdom Publications.
  • Watts, A. (1957). The way of Zen. New York: Pantheon.
  • Watts, A. (1996). This is IT: And other essays on Zen and spiritual experience. London: Rider.

Tools mentioned in blog posts

Further readings collected in advance of chat:

Critical reflection: pre-chat materials

Just to duplicate documentation, this is the text that was posted at for the recent #critlib chat on critical reflection.

73rd chat, Monday December 19 2016: critical reflection
11am Pacific / noon Mountain / 1pm Central / 2pm Eastern / 7pm GMT

Moderated by @lisahubbell
Storify by @lisahubbell

Critical reflection: questions and techniques for writing or group discussion to examine our practices

Critical reflection is an essential tool for raising our awareness of how we put theories into practice, and for conscious improvement on an ongoing basis. It can be done through writing, or out loud with others in “critical friend” relationships. It is used in the Ignatian Catholic practice of examen to look back on each day, and often recommended as a professional development tool for practitioners in education, nursing, organizational development, and other fields.

Discussion questions:

  • Q1. How/when do you build in time to reflect on your own work/praxis? Frequently, sporadically, in certain settings/circumstances? #critlib
  • Q2. Have you found any tools, practices, habits that spur such reflection for you? Is your approach more structured or free-form? #critlib
  • Q3. Do you examine your work, strivings, failures in light of specific theories, models, questions? How do you engage with them? #critlib
  • Q4. What challenges or obstacles do you encounter in using critical reflection in practice? How do you overcome them? #critlib
  • Q5. Does reflection propel you to shift your thinking, to take action? By itself, or combined with other input? If not, what does? #critlib


Suggested readings:

Sample questions for reflective writing:

The readings below offer a range of sample questions for reflection. You may want to try using some of these before the chat. If you’re inspired to blog about your experience with critical reflection as a practice, feel free. You may also want to keep your writing or sharing private, and vent to your heart’s content.

Suggestions for further reading will be sent out with Storify after the chat.

Critical Reflection: more on teachings and tools

This is a second blog post in preparation for the #critlib chat next Monday 12/19. Time, questions, suggested readings, and sample questions here.

I have a sense of my last post as trying to hold a fairly open container, inviting others to think about their own forms of critical reflection without getting too specific about what has shaped my own. Of course there are also some teachings that have influenced my practices.

Growing up Quaker (the most defining part of my identity) instilled in me a long and patient sense of time. Quakers can take minutes or months or even years to reach a decision, letting it “season” until all voices have been heard and the group as a whole can agree on what feels like right action. Quakers do not have a creed, but acknowledge values (like peace, equality, and integrity) as testimonies to live up to, and use queries to reflect (in silence or out loud together) on how our lives and experiences reflect these testimonies. I’ve gotten very used to asking myself and others in that community similar kinds of questions over the years, and recognizing that the answers can be different in any moment.

Years ago, a friend introduced me to the Catholic practice of examen, taking time in the evening to look back on the day for high and low points. This is based on an “examination of conscience” from St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. My first exposure to it was a short and sweet book called Sleeping with BreadThe Linns recommend using paired questions, either in writing or conversation, and their suggested wording is non-religious and loose enough to invite making up what fits for you. I have used this off and on as an evening writing practice, adapting the questions whenever something else felt more alive. Sometimes I have also written a short daily gratitude list. Both of these practices have shown me patterns in when I feel most true to myself, what I want more or less of in my life, which issues could use more attention and growth.

One of my favorite classes in library school was Transformative Learning and Technology Literacies with Michael Stephens. We used Char Booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning as one textbook, worked in groups to design online courses for working librarians, blogged from question prompts, and developed and shared personal learning networks. The course was built around Jack Mezirow’s concept of transformative learning, and assignments built on each other to encourage metacognition about our own learning. When Char Booth spoke to the class, she described how she had used her own USER method to design the lesson she was currently presenting to us. The process of reading, applying theories to real-world projects, writing reflectively about all of this, and responding to how my fellow students were engaging with the same ideas and tasks, multiplied what I got out of the class. I would love to have more of my own learning and teaching go to that “meta” level of reflection.

My work as an academic librarian (a second career launched about three years ago) has been on very small campuses. Past teaching, presenting, content preparation, and study of learning theory give me some idea of what I want to accomplish in instruction sessions. But with very few classes to work with, once or twice a year,  I want to learn as much as I can from each group session. Structured tools like Booth’s USER method and three-question reflection offer practical support for planning and improving on my teaching.

One of the tools I have found most fruitful to apply is Stephen Brookfield’s critical incident questionnaire. Beyond classroom teaching, I turn to it for my own “learning moments” after the kinds of interactions that leave me wondering what went wrong. I appreciate that it has separate questions for what happened, for the feelings that came up, for what was positive and negative, and lays out all of that for me to consider what I have learned and what I might do differently the next time. On our small campus, I will keep seeing and interacting with everyone, and the critical incident questionnaire has helped me every time to face and move through whatever is awkward. Usually there is some opportunity shortly after I’ve used it for some action that transforms what went wrong: I can reach out in a positive way, check in if that feels appropriate, even extend an apology if needed.

I wish I had a more intentional practice for reflection on what I read. On paper or in Notability on the iPad, I often mark important passages with a vertical line or my own subject headings in the margins, occasionally jotting down questions or comments. I’ve enjoyed a few opportunities for collaborative online annotation of texts in and of videos in Vialogues.

Any favorite tools for reflection? I would love to hear how others process and learn from what comes up in your day-to-day work or study or activism, and anything you have found that helps to focus or deepen what you are learning.


Critical Reflection (seeding the 12/19 #critlib chat)

I’ve been keeping a journal since about junior high, mostly free-form. I find that writing regularly (when I do) helps to surface what’s working on me. The act of writing by hand, and the visual feedback of seeing things on the page, move me through and beyond churning the same ideas and questions around in my head. Having a structure for the writing doesn’t seem to matter if I keep showing up regularly. As Julia Cameron describes in The Artist’s Way, breakthroughs can appear partway through stream-of-consciousness writing if you stick with it for enough pages and enough days on end.

But I also find structure very helpful. For decades, my New Year’s Eve ritual with friends has involved each of us writing down what we’re ready to let go of, what we want to carry with us into the new year, and what we welcome into our lives. We can share this out loud if we want it to be witnessed, cheered on, supported. On a more day-to-day basis (as time permits) I make a habit of using questions to look ahead at my plans for the day, and often to reflect back on how things went, what I accomplished or learned, what I still need to work on.

Over the past 20 months on #critlib chats, I’ve noticed that many of us dive in at breakneck speed, some squeezing in references to theory, recent blog posts, literature on librarianship and teaching and related fields. Newbies might lurk, or comment on how hard it is to keep up, or wonder if they’re in the right place if they don’t know a lot of the references. (Probably yes, just keep skimming and ask questions or respond, and follow up over time on anything you’re curious about.) Some folks who do apply theory to their work mention using critical reflection to engage more deeply with what they’ve read. Some talk about praxis, as if theory and practice are usually intertwined in their work.


I love the range of inspiration shared in a good conference or a #critlib chat, but am convinced that I also need a slower pace to deeply and personally integrate the kinds of ideas that fly by and spark so quickly with colleagues. And this draws me to exploring and using critical reflection.

I have long been curious about what critical reflection looks like in practice for each of us, and what we can learn from each other about it. Do we:

  • Write marginalia to “talk back” while we read?
  • Talk through ideas with others to digest what we’re learning?
  • Write about situations to propel ourselves toward learning or action?
  • Sit quietly to think things through, or see what rises up to work on?

Do any of us have specific tools or practices that might be useful to others?

I’ve shared some brief articles and sample questions (as well as the scheduled time in different time zones) on the page for the #critlib chat coming up Monday, December 19. Feel free to dive in and get your feet wet with whatever you’re drawn to there. I hope you can participate in the chat, and will share a Storify if you want to catch up on it afterwards. If you’d like to expand on your ideas in blog form rather than Tweets, please share a link to your post in the comments below.

Why I #critlib

In response to the questions posted by Kevin Seeber for tonight’s #critlib chat:

Why are you a critical librarian?

After two years as an academic librarian (and side gigs and internships in school, public, museum, and music libraries), I still see myself as an aspiring critical librarian. I see #critlib broadly in terms of critical pedagogy, and my positions at small universities have involved more reference than instruction. Though I’m not in the closet, if I don’t see the scope to practice something, I only lay claim to its definition “at heart”.

In my first career in museums, I practiced advocating for visitors, creating opportunities for individual and group reflection on the work, using nonviolent communication techniques to let my colleagues know I took their ideas seriously, and asking a lot of questions.

Why do you identify with these ideas?

I haven’t latched onto critical theory per se. My sweetheart is fully immersed in it, and my eyes glaze over at most of his references. My thinking on social justice is informed by a lifetime of Quaker faith and practice, and periodic deep dives into reading things I’ve long thought I should. #fergusonsyllabus guided my recreational reading for many months.

My first master’s degree in Museum Education steeped me in learning theories: Vygotsky, Dewey, Csikszentmihalyi, and Gardner leap to mind. The writings that inspired me most in library school were by S. R. Ranganathan, Sandy Berman, Jim Elmborg, the Working Together Project in Canada, Char Booth, Mandy Henk and other bloggers from the libraries of the Occupy movement.

Why do you participate in these chats?

They give me a sense of community, whether or not I can travel to conferences. (Free professional development!) Most of the time, they’re about issues I care about, that I’ve studied or witnessed or worked on in libraries or museums. They give me a place to develop a voice on social media, to weigh what I’m willing to say out loud, to notice what others amplify or challenge. In the speed of a one-hour chat, it seems to me that it is the ideas that matter, whether they come from people with tenure or publications, from students on Twitter for the first time, or from a career-shifter like me.

I miss my past involvement in the museum field, giving papers at conferences and serving on boards and committees. I get to do some of that as a volunteer with Quaker education and youth programs. I’m still finding my way in the library field, and #critlib feels like a welcoming door, being held open by good colleagues who work in a spirit that matters to me.

Sestina Challenge and Open-Ended Prompts

I have a fondness for creating within forms, having a pattern or structure to fill in as I choose, something that forces me to examine the harmonies in those choices as ideas or shapes or colors line up.

So I tend to gravitate towards poetry that uses ambitious forms. Not just the shorter and humbler haiku, which can convey computer error messages or be tossed off during a conference session or a boring meeting.

A few days ago, it occurred to me that the structure set up for Rhizo15 would lend itself well to translation into the sestina form. Now, sestinas are HARD to pull off well. The same six ending words shift order, each coming around seven times in 39 lines. That much repetition can easily get boring or clunky, unless the chosen words lend themselves to variation or multiple nuanced meetings.

If you want examples, here are some personal favorites by Elizabeth Bishop and David Lehman, Scott Reid’s clever Sestina in the Computer Age, and 16 more from famous poets.

So here’s one thing about “Daveness”: Dave Cormier has chosen words, for every one of his prompts, that are very open to interpretation. Six weeks of such open-ended prompts could easily supply the six words for line endings. And the many writings and themes that have emerged in our discussions have touched on and circled back to a wide range of meanings. There’s plenty of material here for a sestina, and the form maps well onto a six-week endeavor.

Here’s the order for the ending words. Ariadne Unst also provides a great explanation and tips on composing a sestina. And Josh Mandel has created a handy Sestin-a-matic to plug in your own words and generate the order.

  7. Three lines, using all six words: sometimes ACE, ECA, or (FB)(AD)(EC)

Some of the things I started to ponder: Would I want each stanza to represent a different point of view, or to mimic the contributions of different participants? Would I stick to my own journey in Rhizo15? Would I try to collaborate, or invite others to the same challenge and see what we each came up with? Should I start working on half the lines, based on the prompts Dave had already given?

So when Dave picked up Viplav Baxi’s Week 4 challenge, my first thought was “Oh no, that messes up what the arc of the poem would have been!” Dave (the name) as a prompt would give me much less to work with, than whatever gem Dave (the person) is holding off on sharing until Week 5. So I have to think more broadly, be willing to dance and play and ponder, and find a different word for whatever rings true for me in Week 4.

In any case, here are some of the possible end words from each week’s prompts, as one kind of starting point to use with the sestina structure. (Which of course could discard these words completely, and work instead with anything else that inspires reflection.)

  • Week 1 Subjectives
  • Week 2 Measure? Count?
  • Week 3 Content? People?
  • Week 4 Dave? Host? Role? Party?
  • Week 5 (TBD)
  • Week 6 (TBD)

Some among us have already explored multiple connotations of the formal definitions of these words. They have sparked reflection on many nuances and tangents in our blogs, Google+ and Facebook posts and tweets during Rhizo15. And some lend themselves well to variants (such as prefixes and plurals) if you want to free up the form a little.

There was some temptation to do this all behind a curtain, and unveil it at the end as a singular impressive accomplishment. But I’m too intrigued by the possibilities from the poignant and foolhardy poets among us. And knowing that others might take this on may spur me to follow through on the hard work of trying to do it well. So this challenge is too good not to share. I’d love to hear about others’ impressions and processes, as well as any products this inspires.

Berrypicking and Containers for Information

This post is inspired by Ray Maxwell’s post for #rhizo15, along with recent in-person and virtual library conferences, listserv messages, Twitter conversations, and all the sources linked below, peer-reviewed and otherwise.

Academic librarians are discussing, in many such venues, how to teach the threshold concepts from the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy. The examples that currently intrigue me the most address the frame of Information Creation as a Process.

I’m inspired by Char Booth’s application of critical pedagogy to collaborating with faculty on an assignment for groups of students at Pomona College to research, critically source, and write new Wikipedia articles.

The Wiki Education Foundation provides materials to support such assignments and recognizes that they help to counter the biases of many volunteer Wikipedia editors:

Studies have shown that Wikipedia’s editor community is predominantly young, white, and male. Information on Wikipedia often describes the world from that perspective.

Wikipedia content quality is weakest when it doesn’t catch the interest of those editors. Articles on female novelists, or places in Africa, are alarmingly underrepresented….

68% of our student editors are women. And many of the articles our students write fill content gaps related to women. That helps Wikipedia provide knowledge relevant to more people, while reflecting a broader range of perspectives.

And this week in the online Library 2.0 conference (archived recording), Sara Gillsepie Swanson described teaching students at Davidson College to follow the threads of scholarly discourse across Twitter hashtags and blogs as well as scholarly databases. Of course this builds on the frame of Scholarship as Conversation as well as Information Creation as a Process.

For example: I began to follow the scholarship of Bonnie Stewart, who is new to me through #Rhizo15, across tweets about her recent talk at #et4online, through her blog post about finishing her dissertation, to an open-access journal article summarizing her research on Twitter use by academics. Serendipitously, I discovered that her scholarly research speaks to issues that have been on my mind as I develop a more visible online presence.

I could think of that chain of sources just as going down a rabbit hole in my Personal Learning Network. Characterizing it that way might keep my own process separate from orienting students to searching scholarly databases for the more traditional peer-reviewed resources they are expected to cite in most of their assignments. But that would be so 20th-century.

Peter Morville, 3-7. Marcia Bates' Berrypicking, Evolving Search (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Peter Morville, 3-7. Marcia Bates’ Berrypicking, Evolving Search (CC BY-NC 2.0)

As I recognize Marcia Bates’ iterative berrypicking model of information seeking, I should also acknowledge that the content which sparks a new thought can be found in many different kinds of containers (such as all of those listed in my first paragraph above).

I want to share with students the ways that 21st-century scholars stay up-to-date on the “good stuff”. Yes, this may sometimes lead students to less conventional sources that they may have to ask whether their professors will accept. It may even suggest new search terms that haven’t made it through traditional journal publishing cycles yet. But not sharing the tools that I use to find (and potentially contribute to) relevant research would be hiding the processes of information creation and scholarly conversation.