The Reflective Practitioner

The Reflective Practitioner : How Professionals Think in Action

By (author) Donald A. Schon


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A leading M.I.T. social scientist and consultant examines five professions - engineering, architecture, management, psychotherapy, and town planning - to show how professionals really go about solving problems. The best professionals, Donald Schon maintains, know more than they can put into words. To meet the challenges of their work, they rely less on formulas learned in graduate school than on the kind of improvisation learned in practice. This unarticulated, largely unexamined process is the subject of Schon's provocatively original book, an effort to show precisely how 'reflection-in-action' works and how this vital creativity might be fostered in future professionals.

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  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 136 x 214 x 26mm | 580.6g
  • 01 Sep 1995
  • Ashgate Publishing Group
  • Ashgate Publishing Limited
  • Aldershot
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 1857423194
  • 9781857423198
  • 30,924

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Author Information

Donald A. Schon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

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Review quote

'An important contribution to the literature of planning theory and practice. The Reflective Practitioner offers much food for thought about how planning should be taught and practiced.' Judith I deNeufville, American Planning Association Journal, USA 'Clarifies the struggle between art and science in the professional manager's thought process. It is also well written.' Harvard Business Review

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Review text

A searching, not wholly successful attempt to analyze the kind of intuitive thinking creative professionals bring to their enterprise - be it psychotherapy, architecture, management, or urban planning; The operational word here is practice: Schon, presently professor of Urban Studies and Education at MIT, has been a consultant and planner; and he first explores the dichotomy between what academics profess and practitioners practice. He also notes shifts in American attitudes - from great expectations of experts in a post-industrial society to rejection of technocrats as begetters of physical and moral blight. The word "academic" has become even more pejorative. Successful practitioners, meanwhile, are hard put to explain how they operate. Schon has studied particular examples of problem-solving via transcriptions; he describes the verbal and nonverbal thinking entailed as "reflection in action," and tries to demonstrate how it operates. Professional practitioners do not pigeonhole problems in standard categories and apply fixed rules; instead, they see each problem as unique - a "universe of one," in Erik Erikson's phrase. They may "frame" the problem, generating questions that enable them to see likenesses and differences, and exercising selection and choice to narrow the focus. The process involves a continual back-and-forthness aimed at changing the situation and arriving at a satisfactory solution - which, in turn, can be evaluated using appropriate criteria. The approach is a lot different from classic Newtonian hypothesis-testing - but it is not very different from the kind of problem-solving that has been described by cognitive psychologists Or analysts of creativity. Still, some of Schon's examples are interesting - a senior psychoanalyst discussing a case with a third-year resident, for example, or an architect suggesting ways to construct a school on a "screwy site." He has also usefully articulated the schism between what professional schools teach and what practitioners in the real world require. (Kirkus Reviews)

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