chapter  14
Some methodological and ethical tensions in using critical reflection as a research methodology
Pages 13

This chapter outlines some of the methodological and ethical issues inherent in using Fook and Gardner’s (2007) model of critical reflection as a research methodology. Many pedagogical issues related to using critical reflection as a learning tool in the context of education are well theorised and documented in the literature. These include: the educator taking a leadership role in fostering critical reflection as part of transformative learning (Brookfield, 2005: 352; Giroux, 2011: 3); the politics of both the educator and the learner contributing to a co-construction of new knowledge (Brookfield, 2005: 358); and the power relations between the educator facilitating the critical reflection and the learner engaging in it (Brookfield, 2005: 354; Giroux, 2011: 5). However, such issues are less well articulated in relation to using critical reflection as a tool of inquiry in the context of research. This chapter discusses these tensions, and presents my reflections about conducting critically reflective research with social work practitioners to explore the possibilities to work towards changing the legal response to sexual assault. I also explore conducting this type of research in organisational settings such as universities, and discuss the challenges this can present as dominant, objectivist ways of knowing are often privileged within these contexts (Meinert et al., 2000). I ultimately argue that Fook and Gardner’s (2007) model of critical reflection model offers a rigorous and ethical method of inquiry. The research project involved working with six experienced sexual assault

practitioners who were employed as counsellor/advocates.2 All participants were concerned that their work with victims/survivors had become dominated by responding to the failures of the legal system to deliver justice. This secondary, systemic abuse perpetrated by the legal system was producing a strong sense of fatalism in practitioners. Consequently, all participants initially expressed a strong sense of powerlessness.