Critical incident analysis

All teachers, trainers and tutors sometimes experience anxious or negative feelings about their students, their lessons or their colleagues.

There are many ways to deal with these experiences and one useful technique is critical incident analysis, which aims to identify the issue that has provoked strong feelings, reflect upon it in a structured way and consider possibilities for future action.

Critical incidents can also be positive events, for example where your learners achieve more than you anticipated, or a difficult group behaves better than usual. It may not initially be clear to you why these outcomes have been so successful and you may feel unsure as to whether you can replicate these results on future occasions. Here, critical incident analysis could help you to identify how you achieved such pleasing outcomes.

This resource sheet considers what may constitute a critical incident in the professional life of a teacher and suggests a set of questions that the teacher can ask him/herself in order to place the incident into a reflective context. The process is enhanced by writing down the answers to the reflective questions or by discussing them with a trusted friend or mentor.


Adapted from techniques suggested by David Tripp in Critical Incidents in Teaching, Routledge, 1993.

Access the resource

Critical incident analysis for teachers, tutors and trainers resource

Access the critical incident analysis activity pack (Microsoft Word, 184KB)

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