Critical Incident Questionnaire

A Critical Incident Questionnaire (Brookfield 1995, 115) is designed to elicit written reactions in a short period at the end of a session. Setting a limit of five minutes for this feedback means that use of the Questionnaire can be fitted in to almost any session. Because each person's responses are necessarily partial, there is no pressure on a person to sum up the whole experience. The session leader (e.g., instructor) can collate the responses onto a single sheet (using check marks to indicate repeats of similar responses) and annotate the results, e.g., highlighting repeated responses, linking items in tension (i.e., when respondents said opposite things), and summarizing a manageable subset of issues to address next time. This compilation can be scanned and sent by email with a cover note or distributed the next session accompanied by a short spoken recap of the highlights.

A Critical Incident Questionnaire can be administered using an online form. This makes collation of responses easier, but manual processing of feedback makes the session leader take in the range and particularities of the different responses. If the Questionnaire is administered on paper, participants can be asked to mark their sheets with a symbol of their own choosing so they can get it back at the next session and keep it for their own reflection.

The sequence of questions in the examples below borrows from the Focused Conversation, which moves participants from the objective (concrete things, actually observable by all), through reflective (associations and feelings) and interpretive (meaning and significance) to decisional (implications for the future) (Stanfield 1997).


Please take about 5 minutes to respond anonymously to each of the questions below about the session. The session leader will digest the responses, report back to you at the next session, and try to make changes that address your responses.

1. What incident/comment/reaction/quote stands out from tonight's session?

2. At what moment did you feel most: 3. What action that anyone (teacher or student) took did you find: 4 (Optional). Other comments?

Another example, for mid-way during a semester

1. What concrete incidents/comments/reactions in tonight's session caught your attention?

2a. What excited you?

b. What frustrated you?

3a. What trends do you see emerging in the sessions?

b. What are the implications of these for your learning and thinking?

4a. What might be your next steps as a learner-participant in this project (course)?

b. What support would you like in taking those steps?

Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Stanfield, B. (ed.) (1997). The Art of Focused Conversation. Toronto: Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs.