Mapping Critical Incidents – Foundation

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 first year students to develop their reporting and responding skills from the 4Rs of reflection so they can recognise which instances or incidents or issues are worthy of reflection.

The Pattern

  1. Ask students to complete a short activity that relates to your subject and requires some level of skill e.g. teach a partner how to juggle; perform a series of rhythmic movements; persuade a partner to buy a product or watch a movie that they don’t like; build a simple structure; give a 1 minute viva on a relevant topic; create a digital artefact.
  2. Explain 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 activity that you’d like to improve.
  4. Ask students to draw a graphic outline (e.g. flowchart, storyboard) to show the sequence of activities that they attempted in no.1.
  5. Model on your own flowchart, the process of choosing which elements are significant and why.
  6. With a partner, students look at their graphic outlines, and discuss each element, noting anything significant about it – add to graphic outline.
  7. 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? Where have we seen something similar before?
  8. Students note down any ideas for follow-up literature, websites or other resources on the graphic outline. Note down any examples that relate to this experience.
  9. Using their graphic outline, students identify a key element from their experience that would be worthy of further reflection to improve the outcome.

Related Patterns

Mapping Critical Incidents – Capstone (MCIC)




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).