"For [Donald] Schön, reflective practice is always employed as a methodological approach to particular problems, arising from professional tensions - my work as a mining engineer and my moral obligation to indigenous knowing or the environment, my desire to heal and the politically motivated organisational changes in the health professions, my desire to produce innovative content in games and the 'safety-first' attitudes of transglobal publishers. For Schön, it is always the problem which motivates reflective practice, and it is always the solution which is its reward. For Schön, the activity of reflective practice is fraught with personal difficulty - identifying and acting on problems, and prizing and constellating around solutions. Structurally, Schön's thesis must always face difficulty and resistance, both from a cultural/sociological perspective (resisting the ascribed wisdom of the professions), and from a personal perspective (resisting the disempowerment of particular professionals). This resistance is first sought, and subsequently followed through the process of reflection: by being able to look inwardly and pay attention to the experience of self, we become aware of the incompatibilities of self and other. Schön suggests that it is only through a sustained and methodological attention to these incompatibilities, conflicts and contradictions that allows for the emergence of a more integrated and satisfying professional voice, and which allows for the transformation of one's professional context.
All of this makes reflection seem like very sober and dour stuff, but as any reflective practitioner will tell you, the process of reflection is often joyous, filled with delight, and a reward in itself. In creative work in particular, we consistently seek out and circle this difficult, yet shimmering surface of delight, aware that a concentration on practice is far more intimate and sure-footed than a concentration on the product. An obsession with ends tends to create a projective knowing or longing for outcomes and results and we become like Joyce's Mr Duffy, who ' lived at a little distance from his body'(Joyce, 1914, 119) . It is important to acknowledge that through sustained enquiry into the incompatibles, conflicts and contradictions we find the compatibilities and the delights as well. We find that which is thriving, useful, fresh, innovative and alive in our own practice, or in the practice of others. By taking on the work of continuing self-reflection, we make ourselves open to the unfamiliar, and become connoisseurs of our own emotion and experience. Even as reflection sometimes traces through painful and difficult paths, this process allows for a deeper professional and personal 'embeddedness' within conflicting and contradictory situations. For although contradictions arise, they need not bump into one another and be regarded as 'problems to be solved'. This problem centric approach seems inevitably to suggest nostalgia for the very stability which is resisted. Confusion, contradiction and incompatibility can be celebrated, as we allow ourselves to be extended through the endarkening process of allowing and admitting.
Schön's work emerges from an appreciation of the critical and political impasse of the individual within emergent forms of social organisation. While Schön's work is largely focused at organisational change, learning theory and the empowerment of the individual through its manifestation as a 'methodology for reflective practice', it does not overtly address the more systemic issues of production and consumption, and the relationship of the professional to the process of public deliberation. It is, true enough, that the professions were and are in crisis, and that they are constantly called to adapt their practices within an ever-changing landscape of professional activity, but the question of why and how this landscape has turned from stasis to flux is never systematically addressed. Schön's critics observe that although his approach 'substitutes responsive networks for traditional hierarchies, his theory of governance remains locked in top-down paternalism' (Smith, 2001). What is disquieting about the reflective practitioner, as proposed by Schön, is that they are seemingly in the dark about the joys inherent in reflection itself (by being ideologically bound to problems), and further cloistered by the complex trajectories of social, technological and political systems which consistently seek to refine and refigure the professions. Whereas Schön succeeds in re-animating the role of the individual professional, he displays a kind of paternal naiveté when approaching the crisis of the professions - reflection becomes like a panacea for the larger (and mostly disregarded) problems of inequity, including the role of labour, the decentralisation and mobilisation of capital and the continuing diversification and segmentation of symbolic exchange."
(Chris Barker, 2006)
Barker, Chris. (2006) The Changing Nature of Practice in a 'Networked Society'. Published in the proceedings for Speculation and Innovation: applying practice led research in the Creative Industries, Queensland University of Technology
Joyce, James. (1914) Dubliners, London: Grant Richards.
"The Reflective Practitioner Model is essentially an approach to decision-making and problem solving. Schön found that when effective practitioners were faced with a problem in their practice, they worked through it instinctively and, drawing on previous similar experiences, they tried and tested out various possible solutions until they resolved the issue. They worked through the problem using a mixture of knowing and doing. He called this process 'reflection-in-action' and coined the term 'theory-in-use' to describe the nature of the reflective activity engaged in. He proposed that this type of problem-solving action was an intuitive rejection of the textbook approach that effective practitioners had been taught in their professional training. Schön termed this formalised approach 'espoused theory'. He proposed that by evaluating this type of event afterwards - 'reflecting-on-action', professionals enhanced their learning and added to their 'repertoire' of experiences, from which they could draw in future problem situations. Schön believed that it was the ability to reflect both in, and on, action that identified the effective practitioner from less effective professionals."
(Ann Kernaghan, Queen's University, Belfast)
Kernaghan, A. (2005). Is the Reflective Practitioner Model an Impractical Theory? Retrieved November 27, 2005
Retrieved November 27, 2005, from http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/EssentialSkills/filestore/Filetoupload,14115,en.doc