What is a ‘critical incident?’
It refers to an account of a usually straightforward, commonplace event which occur in routine professional practice. They often appear ‘typical’ rather than ‘critical’ at first sight but are rendered critical through analysis.
Why should we take notice of them?
They are an excellent way to develop an increasing understanding of and control over professional judgements and as a result, over practice. They are a means of finding a focus for classroom action research. Diagnosing a critical incident is one way to ensure that our reflection and evaluation is grounded in actuality. To create critical incidents enables us to become aware of things we otherwise take for granted.
How do we ‘notice’ them?
Incidents we may recall as trivial are often a good indicator of criticality because the very fact we have recalled them means there is probably something important about it.
How do we go about ‘the action’?
This part lies in ‘interpretation’. The analysis of a ‘critical incident’ involves how we receive, perceive, create, and negotiate their ‘reality’. Diagnosis IS interpretation and our interpretation is determined by who we are. We need detailed and accurate incidents for critique and this is developed in two ways; through FOCUS and ENLARGEMENT.
Focus is clarification of the whole picture by increasing the definition of the existing details to make everything clearer. Enlargement is changing the size of things so we see more of the picture in less detail or less of the picture in more detail.
What is the structure of analysis?
Select – an incident which will lend itself to analysis
Describe – what is occurring in the incident
Explain – your description with your personal theories of what is taking place for the learner. What is the meaning behind the learning you have observed?
Confront – your explanation by linking what is going on to broader educational, social, economic, and cultural purposes of education. To what extent does the learner win or lose with these arrangements?
Reconstruct – the learning by asking yourself how things might be done differently for the benefit of the learner.