WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: The Reflective Practitioner by Donald A. Schon

Schön, D.A. (1983) The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action.

Donald Schön’s book is the key text on reflective practice. First published in 1983, it led to a real commitment to reflective practice being introduced into many professional disciplines, including conflict resolution.

The book begins by explaining the difference between competence and artistry, showing how reflection is fundamentally important in how we apply our knowledge in action. Schön argues that many professionals have become mere technicians – effective but nothing more than competent in what they do. He suggests that what is missing is reflective practice, which will not only develop professionals’ knowledge and skills, but will also make them more agile in changing times and unexpected circumstances. Schön defines the term “reflection-in-action” as something like thinking about what you are doing while you are doing it. It’s something that experienced practitioners frequently do subconsciously, as they make choices about their actions in the moment. Schön suggests that professionals need to reflect much more consciously and regularly so that they can intentionally learn from their experiences and develop their artistry. Reflective practice is more than just reflecting in the moment, it is also reflecting after those moments, on our thoughts, beliefs and assumptions – making explicit what is often implicit in our practice and deciding if those things can be improved upon.

The second part of the book provides a number of contexts in which reflection is important, including fields such as design and management.

If you are serious about developing artistry in your practice, you need a strong understanding of and practice of reflection. This book will provide you with a good understanding of, and some ideas about how to apply, reflection in your practice.

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