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The Reflective Practitioner

Donald Schon
Thinking of a teacher in terms of a learning practitioner contributes to the idea and understanding of the theory and practice of teaching and learning. Donald Schon's innovative thinking around notions such as 'the learning society', 'double-loop learning' and 'reflection-in-action' has become part of the language of education.
http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-schon.htm
"Donald Alan Schon (1930-1997) trained as a philosopher, but it was his concern with the development of reflective practice and learning systems within organizations and communities for which he is remembered. Significantly, he was also an accomplished pianist and clarinetist - playing in both jazz and chamber groups. This interest in improvisation and structure was mirrored in his academic writing, most notably in his exploration of professional's ability to 'think on their feet'."
His first book, Displacement of Concepts (1963) (republished in 1967 helped us to see the importance of seeing things anew. Donald Schon's next book Technology and Change, The new Heraclitus (1967) Schon's central argument was that 'change' was a fundamental feature of modern life and that it is necessary to develop social systems that could learn and adapt He began a very fruitful collaboration with Chris Argyris. This collaboration involved teaching, researching and consulting and resulted in three key publications: Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness (1974), Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective (1978), and Organizational Learning II: Theory, Method, and Practice (1996). It was the last of these areas that then provided the focus for the deeply influential series of books around the processes and development of reflective practitioners (1983; 1987; 1991). He sought to offer an approach to an epistemology of practice based on a close examination of what a (small) number of different practitioners actually do. The heart of this study was, he wrote, 'an analysis of the distinctive structure of reflection-in-action' (1983: ix). He argued that it was 'susceptible to a kind of rigor that is both like and unlike the rigor of scholarly work and controlled experimentation' (op. cit.). His work was quickly, and enthusiastically, taken up by a large number of people involved in the professional development of educators, and a number of other professional groupings.

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The Reflective Practitioner
Donald Schon (1983, as cited in Smith, 2009) stated that acting as a reflective practitioner enables educators to spend time exploring actions and observations on what has occurred. In so doing, reflective practice is developed as a mode of inquiry resulting in praxis. As a professional educator incorporate Schon's concepts (a) reflection, (b) practice, and (c) learning systems in your reflective practitioner.

Donald Schon
Thinking of a teacher in terms of a learning practitioner contributes to the idea and understanding of the theory and practice of teaching and learning. Donald Schon's innovative thinking around notions such as 'the learning society', 'double-loop learning' and 'reflection-in-action' has become part of the language of education.
http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-schon.htm
"Donald Alan Schon (1930-1997) trained as a philosopher, but it was his concern with the development of reflective practice and learning systems within organizations and communities for which he is remembered. Significantly, he was also an accomplished pianist and clarinetist - playing in both jazz and chamber groups. This interest in improvisation and structure was mirrored in his academic writing, most notably in his exploration of professional's ability to 'think on their feet'."
His first book, Displacement of Concepts (1963) (republished in 1967 helped us to see the importance of seeing things anew. Donald Schon's next book Technology and Change, The new Heraclitus (1967) Schon's central argument was that 'change' was a fundamental feature of modern life and that it is necessary to develop social systems that could learn and adapt He began a very fruitful collaboration with Chris Argyris. This collaboration involved teaching, researching and consulting and resulted in three key publications: Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness (1974), Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective (1978), and Organizational Learning II: Theory, Method, and Practice (1996). It was the last of these areas that then provided the focus for the deeply influential series of books around the processes and development of reflective practitioners (1983; 1987; 1991). He sought to offer an approach to an epistemology of practice based on a close examination of what a (small) number of different practitioners actually do. The heart of this study was, he wrote, 'an analysis of the distinctive structure of reflection-in-action' (1983: ix). He argued that it was 'susceptible to a kind of rigor that is both like and unlike the rigor of scholarly work and controlled experimentation' (op. cit.). His work was quickly, and enthusiastically, taken up by a large number of people involved in the professional development of educators, and a number of other professional groupings.
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A. Reflection

Schon, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books.
Schon (1987, 17) suggests that students learn skills by practicing them. He suggests solving real-world problems competently requires the artistry of problem-framing, implementation and improvisation in addition to technical expertise. Schon underscores the importance of the coaching process for learning the artistry of practice.

Schon (1987, 102) describes coaching in terms of telling/listening and demonstrating/imitating.

A coach can demonstrate how to solve certain types of problems, and students can imitate the coach's product or the problem-solving process. The coach can give specific instructions, criticize students' products or their processes of problem-solving, suggest future actions, help students establish priorities and ask questions.

The coach's description may not match the student's need to know, may be ambiguous, or may refer to concepts unfamiliar to students. Students' actions reveal the meanings they have constructed and the coach may produce further instructions based on his understanding of the students' difficulty. The coach may ask questions to direct students' attention to issues they may not have considered previously.

The Ladder of Reflection

The dialogue between coach and student involves a chain of reciprocal actions and reflections. Schon (1987, 114) introduces a vertical dimension to this dialog. Going up the 'ladder' of reflection involves moving from an action to a reflection on that action. Moving down involves moving from a reflection to an action based on that reflection. Diagonal moves occur when one party acts on the basis of another's reflection or when one party's action triggers the other's action. For example, a student could reflect on the coach's demonstration. Or a student could try an alternative approach based on the coach's criticism.

Example - Reflection Ladder

3. Reflection on Description
2. Description of Design
1. Design

In the example, designing is at the base of the ladder.

The student presents a description of the design to the coach. Description may also be embedded in the coach's advice.

Two levels up, the student could reflect on the coach's description (move up) or try out a new design (move down) based on the coach's description. Similarly, the coach could reflect on the student's design.

http://www.compact.org/disciplines/reflection/bibliography/
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B. Practice

SCHŐN and REFLECTIVE PRACTICE

Reflection-in-action is defined by Schön as the ability of professionals to 'think what they are doing while they are doing it'. He regards this as a key skill. He asserts that the only way to manage the 'indeterminate zones of (professional) practice' is through the ability to think on your feet, and apply previous experience to new situations. This is essential work of the professional, and requires the capability of reflection-in-action. Schön was writing before the evidence based medicine revolution but, reading him again 'post-EBM', his words make a lot of sense to me, as I strive to be patient-centered, compassionate, evidence-based, and cost effective all at the same time!

Schön also offers his thoughts on how this kind of professional is 'produced'. He describes a number of key concepts, which are worth summarizing:

§ The 'Reflective Practicum'.

This is his term for the educational setting, or environment: "A practicum is a setting designed for the task of learning a practice". This is where students learn by doing, with the help of coaching. He tells us the practicum is 'reflective' in two senses: "it is intended to help students become proficient in a kind of reflection-in-action; and, when it works well, it involves a dialogue of coach and student that takes the form of reciprocal reflection-in-action."

Tacit knowledge
This comes from the work of Michael Polanyi3. He describes for example the remarkable way we are able to pick out a familiar face in a crowd. This does not require thinking about, or a systematic analysis of features. We cannot verbalize how this is done, and so the knowledge is 'unspoken' or 'tacit'.

Knowing-in-action
This is another of Schön's concepts, and it derives from the idea of tacit knowledge. It refers to the kinds of knowledge we can only reveal in the way we carry out tasks and approach problems. "The knowing is in the action. It is revealed by the skilful execution of the performance - we are characteristically unable to make it verbally explicit." This tacit knowledge is derived from research, and also from the practitioner's own reflections and experience.

Reflection-in-action
This is the kind of reflection that occurs whilst a problem is being addressed, in what Schon calls the 'action-present'. It is a response to a surprise - where the expected outcome is outside of our knowing-in-action. The reflective process is at least to some degree conscious, but may not be verbalised. Reflection-in-action is about challenging our assumptions (because knowing-in-action forms the basis of assumption). It is about thinking again, in a new way, about a problem we have encountered.

Reflection-on-action
This is reflection after the event. Consciously undertaken, and often documented.

Willing suspension of disbelief
This phrase was originally coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge4 to describe the stance essential to an understanding of poetry. It describes the process of entering into an experience, without judgment, in order to learn from it. Schön uses the term in relation to the idea of learning by doing. One cannot will oneself to 'believe' until one understands. But understanding often will only arise from experience. So it is necessary first to allow the experience to happen.

Operative attention
This is listening and absorbing information, in a state of readiness to apply and experiment with the new information. An everyday example would be when we listen to directions on how to find an obscure address. This participation is important in the learning process - a learner needs to be already engaged in activity for further information to have meaning. This in turn is partly derived from Wittgenstein's5 contention that the meaning of an operation can only be learned through its performance. Hence mechanical or imperfect performance of an activity prepares the learner for new information (feedback) on that activity, in order to develop understanding.

The ladder of reflection
Schön speaks of a vertical dimension of analysis that can happen in the dialogue between learner and teacher. To move up a rung on the ladder involves reflecting on an activity. To move down a rung is to move from reflection to experimentation. This ladder has more than two rungs - it is also possible to reflect on the process of reflection. The importance of this concept is in its potential for helping out with 'stuck' situations in learning. Being able to move to another level may assist coach and learner to achieve together what Schön refers to as 'convergence of meaning'.

So what practical messages are there for us in 21st century health education? It is interesting to see how far these ideas have become integrated in the way we do things - have become part of our own tacit knowledge. To illustrate, here is a fictional vignette from a typical morning in a GP training practice:

A GP registrar finishes morning surgery, and has a couple of questions to ask the trainer at coffee time about a patient with a new presentation of hypothyroidism. How does the trainer respond? - Often not with a simple answer, but with a dialogue. The learner is encouraged to think back over the consultation and their previous knowledge and experience, and work their way to at least part of the answer for themselves. This demonstrates how the training practice can function as a reflective practicum. The registrar had never managed a patient with hypothyroidism before, but had to deal with the consultation anyway. Having done so, and having told the patient they would ring them back later in the day, the registrar is now in a prime state of operative attention. During the consultation, the registrar had to be able to consider in 'real time' what might be causing her patient's weight gain and tiredness, and arrange appropriate investigations. Perhaps her first thought was that the patient was suffering with depression, but the picture wouldn't quite fit. This is reflection-in-action.

Later the same week, in the tutorial, the trainer refers back to this case. He encourages the registrar to reflect on how the consultation had gone, what her feelings had been that led her to question her initial diagnosis of depression. How had she felt about needing to find out more about the management of hypothyroidism? This reflection on action involves a step up the ladder of reflection, and a lot of learning can be developed which will have application in a much wider field than hypothyroidism. The registrar is learning to be a GP.

References
1. Schön D (1983) The reflective practitioner. Basic Books: New York

2. Schön D (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco

3. Dewey, J (1974) John Dewey on Education: Selected Writings (R.D. Archambault, ed). University of Chicago Press:Chicago

4. Polanyi, M (1967) The tacit dimension. Doubleday: New York

5. Coleridge, ST (1983) Biographia Literaria (J Engell and WJ Bates, eds). Princeton University Press: Princeton NJ. (Originally published 1817)

6. Wittgenstein, L (1953) Philosophical Investigations (GEM Anscombe, translator). Macmillan: New York.

http://www.resources.scalingtheheights.com/Schon%20and%20Reflective%20Practice.htm
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C. Learning Systems

One of Schon's great innovations was to explore the extent to which companies, social movements and governments were learning systems - and how those systems could be enhanced. He suggests that the movement toward learning systems is, of necessity, 'a groping and inductive process for which there is no adequate theoretical basis' (ibid. 57). The business firm, Donald Schon argued, was a striking example of a learning system. He charted how firms moved from being organized around products toward integration around 'business systems' (ibid.: 64). He made the case that many companies no longer have a stable base in the technologies of particular products or the systems build around them. Crucially Donald Schon then went on with Chris Argyris to develop a number of important concepts with regard to organizational learning. Of particular importance for later developments was their interest in feedback and single- and double-loop learning.
Subsequently, we have seen very significant changes in the nature and organization of production and services. Companies, organizations and governments have to operate in a global environment that has altered its character in significant ways.
Productivity and competitiveness are, by and large, a function of knowledge generation and information processing: firms and territories are organized in networks of production, management and distribution; the core economic activities are global - that is they have the capacity to work as a unit in real time, or chosen time, on a planetary scale. (Castells 2001: 52)
A failure to attend to the learning of groups and individuals in the organization spells disaster in this context. As Leadbeater (2000: 70) has argued, companies need to invest not just in new machinery to make production more efficient, but in the flow of know-how that will sustain their business. Organizations need to be good at knowledge generation, appropriation and exploitation.
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Donald A. Schön: The reflective practitioner
Læring i teams
http://www.sopper.dk/speciale/ Side 1 af 8
Donald A. Schön

The reflective practitioner - How professionals think in action.
Basic Books, 1983
ISBN 0465068782

Birgitte Michelsen reflection-in-action-

FORWARD
I begin with the assumption that competent practitioners usually know more than they can say. They exhibit a kind of knowing in practice, most of which is tacit...Indeed practitioners themselves often reveal a capacity for reflection on their intuitive knowing in the midst of action and sometimes use this capacity to cope with the unique, uncertain, and conflicted situations of practice . (8-9)

(a) reflection

PART ONE: PROFESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE AND REFLECTION IN ACTION
But the questioning of professionals rights and freedoms - their license to determine who shall be allowed to practice, their mandate for social control, and their autonomy - has been rooted in a deeper questioning of the professionals´ claim to extraordinary knowledge in matters of human importance.

The crisis of confidence in the professions, and perhaps also the decline in professional self-image, seems to be rooted in a growing skepticism about professional effectiveness ...

Solution Summary

Donald Schon
Thinking of a teacher in terms of a learning practitioner contributes to the idea and understanding of the theory and practice of teaching and learning. Donald Schon's innovative thinking around notions such as 'the learning society', 'double-loop learning' and 'reflection-in-action' has become part of the language of education.
http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-schon.htm
"Donald Alan Schon (1930-1997) trained as a philosopher, but it was his concern with the development of reflective practice and learning systems within organizations and communities for which he is remembered. Significantly, he was also an accomplished pianist and clarinetist - playing in both jazz and chamber groups. This interest in improvisation and structure was mirrored in his academic writing, most notably in his exploration of professional's ability to 'think on their feet'."
His first book, Displacement of Concepts (1963) (republished in 1967 helped us to see the importance of seeing things anew. Donald Schon's next book Technology and Change, The new Heraclitus (1967) Schon's central argument was that 'change' was a fundamental feature of modern life and that it is necessary to develop social systems that could learn and adapt He began a very fruitful collaboration with Chris Argyris. This collaboration involved teaching, researching and consulting and resulted in three key publications: Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness (1974), Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective (1978), and Organizational Learning II: Theory, Method, and Practice (1996). It was the last of these areas that then provided the focus for the deeply influential series of books around the processes and development of reflective practitioners (1983; 1987; 1991). He sought to offer an approach to an epistemology of practice based on a close examination of what a (small) number of different practitioners actually do. The heart of this study was, he wrote, 'an analysis of the distinctive structure of reflection-in-action' (1983: ix). He argued that it was 'susceptible to a kind of rigor that is both like and unlike the rigor of scholarly work and controlled experimentation' (op. cit.). His work was quickly, and enthusiastically, taken up by a large number of people involved in the professional development of educators, and a number of other professional groupings.

$2.19