Beyond training: New firefighters and critical reflection

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - This paper aims to initiate a conversation within the disaster community about the applicability of "critical reflection" to the professional work of firefighters. "Critical reflection" is a term commonly used within the nursing and teaching professions. Although it has contested meanings, it generally conveys the sense of purposeful enquiry about one's professional conduct, ethics and decision making. Fire fighting labor is no longer blue collar, and firefighters in western fire fighting agencies require increasingly complex capabilities and accountabilities. Could "critical reflection" be added to post-incident debrief as a core professional capability? Design/methodology/approach - The paper draws on the concept of "critical reflection" as it has been developed within the professional fields of nursing and teaching. It then considers the applicability of and importance of this concept to the professional field of firefighting. Findings - The meanings and applications of "critical reflection" vary, but the inclusion of dialogue about it exists within many nurse and teacher education courses. It can be argued to provide professionals with an opportunity to engage in dialogue about their labor, and thereby scrutinise their professional conduct and the ethical dilemmas of their work. Practical implications - This paper calls for a paradigmatic shift in the approach taken by educators who work with firefighters. It argues that instructional methods based on rote learning, chalk and talk, and show and tell training are insufficient as a means of developing firefighters capable of responding and adapting to the complex demands implicit within increasingly professionalized firefighting labor. Future firefighters will need to be adaptive, reflective and accountable; able to demonstrate discursive and inquisitive capabilities; and engage in reflected actions both on and off the incident ground. Originality/value - High originality. This is the first time the intellectual traditions and debates implicit within "critical reflection" have been linked to the work of firefighters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)558-566
Number of pages9
JournalDisaster Prevention and Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethics
  • Fire services
  • Sociology of work


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