Mapping Critical Incidents – Capstone

The Problem

Identifying a critical incident, instance or issue on which to reflect can be difficult, but unless the reflection is focused it can be too general and of little value for future practice.

The Context

Academic or professional reflection should have a clear purpose in order to move to higher levels of critical and reconstructive reflection. This strategy focuses on teaching final year students to develop their reporting and responding skills from the 4Rs of reflection, so they can recognise which instances or incidents or issues from their professional practice are worthy of reflection.

The Pattern

  1. Ask students to visualise a recent professional practice experience or professional learning situation.
  2. Remind them of the usefulness of breaking down and analysing our experiences when we want to improve.
  3. Model an example for students: draw a flowchart showing step-by-step how you undertook a recent professional activity that you’d like to improve.
  4. Ask students to draw a graphic outline (e.g. flowchart, storyboard) to show the sequence of the professional activity that they visualised.
    Model on your own flowchart, the process of choosing which elements are significant and why.
  5. With a partner, students look at their graphic outlines, and discuss each element, noting anything significant about it – add to graphic outline.
  6. Students form small groups and discuss the elements that were considered significant – why? Should any others have been noted? Why? Where could we find out more about this e.g. relevant literature? Are there any theories to explain what happened? Where have we seen something similar before?
  7. Students note down any ideas for follow-up literature, theoretical positions or other resources on the graphic outline. Note down any other professional examples they have engaged in or observed that relate to this experience.
  8. Using their graphic outline, students identify a key element from their experience that would be worthy of further reflection to improve the outcome.
  9. Students now have a basis for the higher levels of reflection (can be undertaken now or later).

Related Patterns

Mapping Critical Incidents – Foundation (MCIF)




Bain, J. D., Ballantyne, R., Mills, C., & Lester, N.C. (2002). Reflecting on practice: Student teachers’ perspectives. Flaxton: Post Pressed.


This pattern was initiated by Mary Ryan (Education).