Critical Reflection: Real Life Applications for Mezirow’s Theory

14488224787_79c11e5287_z[We are pleased to welcome Henriette Lundgren. Henriette published an article in Human Resource Development Review entitled “On Critical Reflection: A Review of Mezirow’s Theory and its Operationalization,” with co-author Rob F. Poell.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

To stop and think is considered good practice in most professional contexts. For example, we expect a nurse to review the patient’s symptoms before administering a medicine. Similarly, we expect an entrepreneur to examine the underlying market assumptions before venturing into a new business idea. Rather than rushing into glib problem solving or thoughtless decision-making, we believe that everybody needs to take some moments from time to time to reflect: What is the situation? How can I HRDdeal with it? Why is this important to me? To stop and think is another very basic way of describing the process of reflection, but how do we know whether someone is really reflecting – critically or not – about one’s own practice? This question triggered our literature review using Jack Mezirow’s critical reflection definition as a starting point.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Reflection and non-reflection come in many shades, for example “habitual action”, “thoughtful action”, “understanding”, “introspection”, “intensive reflection” or “critical reflection. Researchers in adult education and human resource development (HRD) have made a sincere effort to distinguish between these shades of reflection in their empirical studies. Maybe our mind was more binary before we started this project: “Reflection yes/no”. So being shown indicators that help us operationalize reflection in our own empirical research was a pleasant side effect of this study.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

Our study gives an overview on critical reflection research and its operationalization, and it points out four areas of improvement (see checklist at the end of article). Critics might say that we could have taken more efforts to show explicitly the connections between critical reflection and learning and how our work impacts HRD theory, research, and practice. While these are good avenues for future research, we encourage readers to help us think along what our findings mean for learning and development of nurses, teachers and entrepreneurs, and we look forward to continuing this conversation and debate.

The abstract for the paper:

In this article, we review empirical studies that research critical reflection based on Mezirow’s definition. The concepts of content, process, and premise reflection have often been cited, and operationalizing Mezirow’s high-level transformative learning theory and its components has been the endeavor of adult education and human resource development (HRD) researchers. By conducting a literature review, we distill 12 research studies on critical reflection that we dissect, analyze, and compare. Discovering different approaches, assessment processes, and outcomes leads us to the conclusion that there is little agreement on how to operationalize reflection. We suggest four improvements: (a) integrating different critical reflection traditions, (b) using multiple data collection pathways, (c) opting for thematic embedding, and (d) attending to feelings. By implementing these improvements, we hope to stimulate closer alignment of approaches in critical reflection research across adult education and HRD researchers.

You can read “On Critical Reflection: A Review of Mezirow’s Theory and its Operationalization” from Human Resource Development Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research Podcast Microphonefrom Human Resource Development Review? Click here to sign up for e-alertsYou can also listen to a podcast with author Henriette Lundgren as she discusses her work on this article. You can listen to the podcast here.

*Image attributed to Kent Nguyen (CC)

HenrietteHenriette Lundgren is a workplace educator and an associated researcher with Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Her main scholarly interests are learning in the workplace, the use of reflection instruments, and adult education theory.

Rob

Rob F. Poell is a professor of human resource development (HRD) in the Department of Human Resource Studies at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. His main scholarly interests are learning in the workplace, action learning, project-based learning, organizing HRD, and learning networks.

New Podcast: Henriette Lundgren on Mezirow’s Theory and Its Operationalization

Podcast MicrophoneIn the latest podcast from Human Resource Development Review, Henriette Lundgren discusses the article she co-authored with Rob Poell entitled, “On Critical Reflection: A Review of Mezirow’s Theory and Its Operationalization,” which was recently published in the March 2016 issue of Human Resource Development Review.

You can find the podcast on the Human Resource Development Review website here, or click here to download the podcast. You can also read the full article free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

The abstract:

In this article, we review empirical studies that research critical reflection based on Mezirow’s definition. The concepts of content, process, and premise reflection have often been cited, and operationalizing Mezirow’s high-level transformative learning theory and its components has been the endeavorHRD.jpg of adult education and human resource development (HRD) researchers. By conducting a literature review, we distill 12 research studies on critical reflection that we dissect, analyze, and compare. Discovering different approaches, assessment processes, and outcomes leads us to the conclusion that there is little agreement on how to operationalize reflection. We suggest four improvements: (a) integrating different critical reflection traditions, (b) using multiple data collection pathways, (c) opting for thematic embedding, and (d) attending to feelings. By implementing these improvements, we hope to stimulate closer alignment of approaches in critical reflection research across adult education and HRD researchers.

Want to hear more podcast like this? Click here to browse more podcasts from Human Resource Development Review, and here to subscribe to the SAGE Management and Business podcast channel on iTunes. You can also sign up for e-alerts and get notifications of all the latest research from Human Resource Development Review sent directly to your inbox!


 

Henriette Lundgren is a workplace educator and an associated researcher with Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Her main scholarly interests are learning in the workplace, the use of reflection instruments, and adult education theory.

 

Multicultural Sensitivity for Marketing Students

Editor’s note: We are pleased to welcome Dr. Mark S. Rosenbaum, Kohl’s Professor of Retail Marketing at Northern Illinois University. Dr. Rosenbaum provided this commentary on his paper, “A Multicultural Service Sensitivity Exercise for Marketing Students,” co-authored by Ioana Moraru of Northern Illinois University and Dr. Lauren I. Labrecque of Loyola University Chicago and published on October 4, 2012 in the Journal of Marketing Education.

Marketing educators place service quality at the heart of the curriculum, painting service providers as defenders of their customers’ welfare and thwarters of service failures. In reality, this rosy imagery is not always true. Oftentimes other customers negatively impact the service encounter and service providers themselves can also act as discriminatory agents toward their own customers. In “A Multicultural Service Sensitivity Exercise for Marketing Students,” which appears in a forthcoming edition of the Journal of Marketing Education, we discuss the importance of engaging students with the discussion of service discrimination and describe an in-class exercise to help educators prepare students to face this reality.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

The topic was inspired from years of practical experience prior to academia, working in one of Chicago’s largest shoes stores and Saks Fifth Avenue and my own experience of retail discrimination while shopping with my partner. In 2007 I published an article in the Journal of Business Research that really brought to light the fact that other customers often conduct discriminatory acts towards other shoppers, and employees also engage in this behavior unbeknown to the human resources department. I’ve also experienced discrimination firsthand as a Caucasian living in Honolulu. This discrimination was often performed by Japanese front-front employees who used racial profiling to determine what level of services to offer. In fact, many of my Caucasian friends would plan shopping trips in Las Vegas or Waikiki in order to avoid discrimination.

Over the six years that I’ve been teaching services marketing and retail, I’ve realized that these topics are not covered in-depth in any of the textbooks and that students weren’t being exposed to these realities. We tell students that service employees should be customer champions, when in fact this isn’t reality. The most interesting and powerful things about this exercise are that students openly admit to knowing and experiencing discrimination. In essence, this exercise exposes the elephant in the room.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

The most surprising finding for me was the level of openness of the students and how willing we are to accept these discriminatory practices. For many, the topic is nothing new. They know this exists and think of it as “normal”; however, the key difference here is that although most are aware of it none have really ever talked openly about it and thought about the impact that it has on others. For example, when discussing how groups of young African-American males are followed by employees to watch out for shoplifting, or how obese people are treated with difference service standards, there is nearly a unanimous class acceptance that this is “normal.” It’s as if we tell ourselves this is okay to understand why employees would alter their service quality. Perhaps discrimination is part of our biological narrative. Meaning, maybe it’s inherent in our DNA. It’s the managers’ role to unravel our DNA, break this tendency, and stop the discriminatory actions towards marginalized or stigmatized status.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

This exercise is a dosage of practical reality for any classroom and is aligned with the AACSB initiatives for including diversity in the classroom. Students often remark that this is the one thing that really sticks with them from class. I’ll never forgot an MBA student leaving my class in tears after she came to the realization that she was responsible for encouraging her staff to engage in discriminatory behavior.

It’s essential that we come to the realization that service employees are not always the champions of service quality. And unfortunately, in an economic situation that is constraining training budgets, it is even more important for educators to ensure that future managers are exposed to diversity and multicultural issues. My hope is that this topic will be discussed in-depth in future editions of services marketing and retailing textbooks.

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Click here to read the article in the OnlineFirst section of the Journal of Marketing Education. Follow this link to learn more about the journal and this one to receive e-alerts about new research covering the ideas, information, and experiences related to educating students of marketing and advertising.