The nuts and bolts of reflection-in-action

I decided I needed to look further into Schon’s reflection-in-action concept as an ‘epistemology of practice’, in order to define more of a framework for analysing the projects/artefacts I had produced.

1. Look for similarities and differences compared to previous experience.

Finding a solution to a specific issue in terms of moving an experiment onwards Schon argues is about making the unfamiliar – familiar. This is turning the unfamiliar into something that is recognisable from previous experience and built up knowledge, a process of looking at both similarities and differences, in comparison to what is already known. Schon states:

‘the inquirer may reflect on the similarities and differences he has perceived or enacted. He may do this by consciously comparing the two situations or by describing the present situation in the light of a tacit reference to the other.’ p.67

This is a really useful first take for reflecting on the progression that occurs in the production of an artefact in relation to dealing with ongoing issues and moving an experiment along.

The next phase is to test out what has been recognised, through experiments.

Exploratory experiment (invigorate an action to see what happens next)

Schon describes this type of experiment as being ‘probing, playful’. p. 70 if something occurs that is useful then this can be an indication of some sort of success.

Move-testing experiment (invigorate a specific action to create something that is intended)

According to Schon if the experiment produces what was intended it is ‘affirmed’ – the opposite ‘negated’. p. 71 the reflection would examine which way the experiment has gone and how the result affects the next move.

Hypothesis-testing experiment (weeds out other hypotheses – clarifies the reframing)

The rigor of the experimenting I see as being tied up in this final tier of the experimentation process (hypothesis-testing). Schon argues that these three modes of experimentation work together – there can also be mixed versions of all of these three. A hypothesis experiment may be seen as being tied to finding the answer to a question by applying a number of hypotheses and then looking at what works to determine which hypothesis will be used to reframe the research problem and progress the practice inquiry.

2. Reflecting on an exploratory experiment would be about whether through play and probing something useful occurred, or instead a dead end was produced.

3. Reflecting on a move-testing experiment is simply about whether a deliberate, specific experiment worked (affirmed) or failed (negated).

4. Reflecting on a hypothesis-testing experiment would involve identifying how a hypothesis has shifted and changed as part of reframing the research problem. what conversation is occurring in the process of working through a situation? (The ‘back talk’).
How has a situation been altered in order to comprehend what is going on?

5. Overall, I think it is about reflecting on resistance – what is getting in the way, what is problematic in the hypothesis that is being used. It is this reflection which indicates what has been learnt.

Schön, DA 1987, Educating the reflective practitioner, Jossey-Bass higher education series, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco (p 26-31) (p. 64-79)

1 thought on “The nuts and bolts of reflection-in-action

  • Hi there, interesting article, just a point on the move testing component, Schon actually suggests an alternate criteria when assessing results of move testing, moves are either affirmed or negated, based not on achievement of the intended outcome but whether the results appeal or not (Schön, p.
    145-47, 1983)

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