Critical Reflection

Critical Reflection encompasses the capacity for becoming open to learning from community experiences, and living with the tensions and contradictions that often surface during partnerships.

Table.  Skills for Critical Reflection.

Critical Reflection

Power Relations and Community Strengths:

  • See community members and community organizations as equal partners
  • Work from critical action, rather than missionary mindset
  • Understand class issues between large institutions and small grassroots organizations
  • Understand ways in which your actions/work can potentially undermine a community
  • Examine myths, biases, and stereotypes
  • See communities in terms of assets



  • Understand limits of your own knowledge/dismantle expert knowledge
  • Value community knowledge
  • Learn from community knowledge
  • Be open to new learning about the community



  • Be open to your own transformation
  • Use who you are as a person to integrate personal self with academic self
  • Understand and articulate what you and the university are able to contribute in a particular situation
  • Identify self-interest in CES work
  • Practice humility



  • See yourself not as individual, but as part of the institution
  • Understand expectations people have of you and the institution


Conflict and ambiguity:

  • Live with ambiguity
  • Be present in discussion without becoming defensive
  • Live with unanswerable questions, or questions that have answers that are messy
  • Be prepared to make, acknowledge, repair, and recover from mistakes
  • Stay in touch with tensions and work through them
  • Have conflict and be comfortable with it, embrace it as necessary



Resources to build our capacity for critical reflection:

  1. Kretzmann, J.P. & McKnight, J.L.  (1993).  Introduction.  Building Communities from the Inside Out.  Chicago: ACTA Publications.  Found on
  2. Seanhk-Ka, S. & Axtell, S. (2007).  Sharing Intellectual Authority.  Partnership Perspectives, 4(1), 78-85.
  3. Hassel, C.  (2005).  The Craft of Cross-Cultural Engagement.  Journal of Extension, 43 (6),


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