Essential reading for the reflective conflict practitioner


BOOK: The Guide to Reflective Practice in Conflict Resolution by Michael D. Lang (2019) 

If you only ever read one thing about reflective practice in conflict resolution, it should be this book!  Here’s the official overview of what the book is about:

“This book is a common sense guide to becoming a reflective practitioner, written by a practitioner for practitioners. Relying on actual practice situations, stories, and self-guided exercises, it responds to the questions: Why should professionals care about reflective practice? How do its principles and methods increase competence? What characteristics distinguish reflective practitioners?

Every person in a conflict resolution process sees the world differently and acts in a distinctive manner. Yet, by following well-developed practice routines, practitioners often fail to consider the unpredictability of human interactions and overlook behaviors that are inconsistent with their expectations. To respond effectively to surprising and unpredictable events, this book encourages practitioners to adapt their thinking, so they can use their knowledge and skills when situations do not match their assumptions or are inconsistent with their practice routines.”


BOOK: The Making of a Mediator: Developing Artistry in Practice by Michael D. Lang and Alison Taylor (2012) 

This book changed my mediation practice (and the way I taught mediation) significantly when I first read it.  If you practice as a mediator, this book is essential reading. It discusses the concept of artistry and then how reflective practice helps develop it. It includes activities you can complete to “map your constellation of theories” and also describes the interactive process of reflection.


BOOK:  Inside out: How conflict professionals can use self-reflection to help their clients. By G. Friedman (2015)

This book is based on a program that the author runs with a law professor and a Buddhist monk, supporting conflict professionals to consider self-reflection, challenging typical conventions of conflict professionals by replacing them with a full and deep commitment to bringing all of one’s self to serve others. It directs the reader to pay attention to emotional clues – to understand and communicate them. Essentially–acknowledging and using self-awareness. Working from the inside out. Whether you are a professional conflict resolver, litigator, mediator, or lawyer–this book is a must have resource to help increase clients’ satisfaction.


CHAPTER: Reflecting in and on practice, Chapter 12 in Conflict and Dispute Resolution by M. Brandon and L. Robertson (2007)

Provides a simple overview of concepts of reflection, and how it relates to emotional intelligence and motivation; learning cycles; intuition and gut instinct; and improvisation and spontaneity. It also explains some of the main methods of reflective practice and how reflective practice relates to professionalism and standards of practice for mediators.


CHAPTER: The reflective conflict resolution practitioner, Chapter 2 in Conflict Resolution for the Helping Professions (2nd Ed), by Allan Barsky (2014)

This chapter is from an older edition of Barsky’s book. It describes the importance of reflective practice and its relationship to emotions, cultural awareness, and a conscious and artistic use of self. It also discusses the importance of having a clear values base.


ARTICLE: Excellence: Using reflective debrief to build competence. Lang, M., & Terry, S. (2013). ACResolution (Spring).

Describes a debriefing process to support mediators to reflect on their practice.



ARTICLE: Reflective practice and mediator learning: A current review, By Rochelle Arms Almengor (2018) 36 Conflict Resolution Quarterly 21-38.

A thorough review of literature on reflective practice in mediation. It provides some good definitions and explanations of different approaches to reflective practice, examines the strengths and challenges of reflective practice in the mediation field, and encourages further research and practice.


ARTICLE: Mediating Ethically: The Limits of Codes of Conduct and the Potential of a Reflective Practice Model by Julie Macfarlane.  (2002) 40(1) Osgoode Hall Law Journal 49-87. 

Highlights the limitations of codes or practice and ethics and argues in favour of a reflective practice model as a better way to ensure professional artistry.


ARTICLE: Mirror as Prism: Reimagining reflexive dispute resolution practice in a globalized world, by Ken Fox (2014) 45 Journal of Law and Policy 41.

Fox discusses the challenges faced when managing conflict in an increasingly globalized world, and strongly promotes reflective practice as a way to be agile and responsive to these challenges. He provides a great overview of various models of reflective practice. He distinguishes between reflective practice and reflexive practice, explaining that the former is often a way to simplify experience, whereas the latter involves a form of critical dialogic engagement with others that can lead to “an unsettling” of basic assumptions, discourse, and practices used to even describe a person’s conflict reality.


ARTICLE: Constructions of reflective practice in dispute resolution. Susan Douglas (2016) 9 Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association 37

Reports on an empirical study investigating how a sample of family dispute resolution practitioners understood and engaged in reflective practice. It showed that all had a general understanding of the concept and practiced it to some degree, but they were not aware of the relevant literature or how to engage in best practice reflection practice.




The reflective practitioner. Schön, D.A. (1983) New York, NY: Basic Books.

The classic text introducing the concepts of reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action.


Reflecting on reflective practice. Finlay, L. (2008) 

A great overview of reflective practice, models and its connection to professional practice.


Reflective practice: writing and professional development. 3rd edn. G. Bolton (2014) London: Sage. 

A useful overview of how to engage in reflective practice by writing.


Tales from the dark side: a phenomenology of adult critical reflection. S. Brookfield (1994) International Journal of Lifelong Education 13(3) pp.203-216. 

An interesting exploration of negative aspects of critical reflection, including impostorship (the sense that participating in critical thought is an act of bad faith), cultural suicide (the recognition that challenging conventional assumptions risks cutting people off from the cultures that have defined and sustained them up to that point in their lives), lost innocence (the move from dualistic certainty toward dialectical and multiplistic modes of reasoning), roadrunning (the incrementally fluctuating flirtation with new modes of thought and being) and community (the importance of a sustaining support group to those in critical process).


Teaching smart people how to learnArgyris, C. (1991) Harvard Business Review, (May/June). 

Discusses the challenges in applying Argyris and Schön’s single-loop vs. double-loop learning to professional practice. Interesting discussion about how some professionals avoid learning and how defensive reasoning can get in the way of effective reflection.