Schön D.A.. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner.


Introduces the concept of reflection in action as a means of improving professional practice within agencies.

Geographic Focus: 


Key Findings: 

Schön argues that a crisis of confidence has occurred in the relationship between professionals and the clients they service, principally because the technical / rationalist model of management is unsuited to the changing situations of modernity, namely uncertainty, disorder, indeterminacy, complexity, value conflict and instability. To improve this, managers need to be supported in reflecting on their activities. He introduces two types of reflection: reflection on action (i.e. on the outcomes of actions), and reflection in action (i.e., what is occurring while an activity is being undertaken). He then provides a diversity of examples (e.g. design, psychotherapy, town planning, management supervision) to illustrate how reflecting on criteria for making judgements (e.g. asking ‘what am I doing that enables me to perform this skill?’) can help to rebuild the relationship between professionals and their clients. By recognising that professionals’ expertise is embedded in a different context to that of the clients, they are able to improve their relationship and outcomes for clients. For example, rather than suggesting a patient quit smoking, a doctor may ask about the reason a patient smokes and address the subsequent consequences of quitting smoking. Lastly, Schön notes that such approaches to learning are seen as destabilising within organisations, given that the challenge perceptions of role, performance measure, and how to achieve outcomes.


Schön focuses on the individual (the professional) who may (or may not) work within an organisation, the individual’s practice, and how they can learn from it. He differentiates between two types of learning, namely reflection on action and reflection in action, the latter of which deals with thoughts, intuition and perception about how to achieve rather than outcomes. His detailed examples are useful for individuals who seek guidance on increasing their ability to learn from their own practice.