Original research

Happy New Year! It feels like just last week that I was writing my message for the January 2016 issue and here we are already bringing in 2017. I went back to my messages from the 2016 issues and upon re-reading my January 2016 message, it reminded me of my 2016 New Year’s resolutions.1 I reflected on 2016 events and my resolutions that I set out to achieve. Did I meet them? Did I apply the SMART goal strategy to my resolutions?1 Should I start the clock again and re-resolve any outstanding resolutions, or perhaps make new ones? I will share that I did meet most of my resolutions – but I admit there are still a handful (a metric handful) of resolutions that remain outstanding (How did you make out with your 2016 resolutions?). I ask myself, self, what prevented me from meeting some of those outstanding resolutions? So I decided to critically reflect upon these outstanding resolutions to help me strive to meet them now that 2017 is here.

I have taken teaching and learning courses at the University of Guelph and I have been attending many conferences on teaching and learning within the context of university education (ie, teaching adults). Reflection, and specifically critical reflection, is considered an important activity for self-directed learning and improvement. What is critical reflection? Put simply, it is a reasoning process to make meaning out of an experience. True critical reflection occurs when we analyze and challenge the validity of our presuppositions and assess the appropriateness of our knowledge, understanding, and beliefs, given our present contexts.2 Critical reflection is not a new concept, and there are many models published that outline or define critical reflection. But the model I appreciate the most is the one by Brookfield3 that explains critical reflection as a three-stage process:

  1. Identifying the assumptions (‘those taken-for-granted ideas, commonsense beliefs, and self-evident rules of thumb’) that underlie our thoughts and actions;
  2. Assessing and scrutinizing the validity of these assumptions in terms of how they relate to our ‘real-life’ experiences and our present context(s); and
  3. Transforming these assumptions to become more inclusive and integrative, and using this newly-formed knowledge to more appropriately inform our future actions and practices.”

As I mentioned, critical reflection is not a new concept and it is an important aspect of veterinary medicine, informing how we continue to improve our knowledge and actions in practice. I just renewed my license to practice veterinary medicine, and a component of the continuing education requirements includes self-critical reflection on the learning exercises-experiences I reported. I used to formally critically reflect on a regular basis (ie, write it down!) but have fallen out of the routine of doing so. Seems now I do most of my reflection at night when I can’t sleep and find myself staring at the ceiling – clearly not a good strategy. Hence, I resolve in 2017 to re-engage in my active critical reflection practices, and I encourage you to do so as well! If you have not formally critically reflected on your veterinary practice activities, research methods, conference experiences-learning activities, etc, there are many publications available on how to develop these skills.

The Journal of Swine Health and Production constantly strives to improve. While the journal itself doesn’t critically reflect, the authors of the articles share their hard work to help our readers improve upon and perhaps challenge their underlying assumptions about a practice, practices, or research methods. I hope you enjoyed and critically reflected upon the articles from 2016 and the learning opportunity they provided you. I equally hope you enjoy this issue and those that follow for 2017.

All the best to you all for 2017, and I look forward to seeing everyone in Denver this year at the AASV Annual Meeting.


1. O’Sullivan T. New Year’s resolutions [editorial]. J Swine Health Prod. 2016;24:7.

2. Mezirow J. How critical reflection triggers transformative learning. In: Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood. Mezirow J, ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers; 1990;1–20.

3. Brookfield SD. Using critical incidents to explore learners’ assumptions. In: Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood. Mezirow J, ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers; 1990;177–193.