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Volume 48, Number 3, Spr�ng 1998, 185-198


This paper presents an analysis and clarification of the major role of critical reflection of as-
sumptions(CRA) in adult learning. It examines the differences among types of critical reflection, the role of CRA in the Transformation Theory of adult learning, philosophical foundations of CRA, its development over the lifespan, non-cognitive aspects, its function in both tacit and explicit decision-making, and its role in the validation of beliefs and expressions of feelings through discourse. Thepaper includes a taxonomy of applications of CRA and discussion of educational implications of this construct.

This article presents a concept analysis of critical reflection and particularly of
critical reflection of assumptions (CRA). This concept is central to understanding
how adults learn to think for themselves rather than act on the concepts, values,and feelings of others. It is also central to understanding many of the theories and
practices common in the professional discourse of adult educators, including criti-
cal theory, critical thinking, dialectical blinking, critical literacy, critical pedagogy,
the learning organization, action science, psychotherapy, and the Transformation
Theory ofadult learning (Mezirow, 1991, 1995, 1996). CRA is also central to the
work of adult educators (Brookfield, 1987, 1995; Cranton, 1994; Mezirow, 1990; Watkins & Marsick, 1993). The literature of our field, however, has not fully recognized the crucial and generic role of this concept in adult learning.
This paper analyzes and clarifies the meaning, significance, development,and common applications of CRA. The intention is to help educators more fully understand the nature and importance of CRA to significant adult learning, the different ways CRA may be used programmatically, and its implications for learning theory and adult education.

Critical Reflection of Assumptions: Concept Differentiation

Reflection, a "turning back" onexperience, can mean many things: simple
awareness of an object, event or state, including awareness of a perception, thought,
feeling, disposition, intention, action, or of one's habits of doing these things. It
can also mean letting one's thoughts wander over something, taking something
into consideration, or imagining alternatives, One can reflect ononeself reflecting.

JACK MEZIROW is Professor Emeritus of Adult Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Reflection doesnot necessarily imply making an assessmen ' what is being
reflected upon, a distinction that differentiates it from critical reflection. Critical
reflection may be either implicit, as when we mindlessly choose between good and
evil because of our assimilated values, or explicit, as when we bring the processof
choice into awareness to examine and assess the reasons for making a choice.
When the object of critical reflection is an assumption or presupposition (CRA),
a different order of abstraction is introduced, with major potential for effecting a
change in one's established...
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