Part 2A - REFLECTION-IN-ACTION
As part of the Indicative Content for the Professional Biography module I wanted to clarify exactly what was meant by the term Reflection-in-Action so I began studying The Reflective Practitioner by Daniel A Schon. It was my intention to present my consideration of this as part of the module as initially discussed but the more I studied the book the more I found that there were ideas that made me consider examples in my own professional life. It is my perception that such reflection is integral to the process of a professional biography so I am including this reflection in detail.
I am concerned that areas of Reflection-in-Action are vague, perhaps intentionally so. Consider Schon's description of what he is searching for [p49] "Let us search for an epistemology of practice implicit in the artistic, intuitive processes which some practitioners do bring to situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value conflict." There is no doubt in my mind that the areas of artistry and intuition are indeed the areas of a person's actions which are rejected by the scientific community or which are covered by Schon's term technical rationality yet which are needed to be encompassed into everyday practice to produce quality work. But to search for artistry and intuition is a vagueness.
To help with my approach I want initially to flag the definition of the word reflect:-
a) (of a surface) throw back
b) (of a mirror) show an image of
c) meditate on, consider, remind oneself
Most, I believe, of what Schon describes, is an off-shoot of definition c) but I believe that consideration can be given to the other two in certain contexts. I shall refer later to this.
Section 1 - What is Reflection-in-Action?
In his section Reflection-in-Action [pp49-69] he develops three italicised sections "as the entire process of reflection-in-action which is central to the "art" by which practitioners sometimes deal with situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness, and value conflict" [p50] -
Knowing-in-Action - "Common sense admits the category of know-how, and it does
not stretch common sense very much to say that the know-how is in the action"
[p50], and "it is also true that in much of the spontaneous behaviour to skilful practice we reveal a kind of knowing which does not stem from a prior intellectual operation"[p51].
Reflecting-in-Action - "When intuitive spontaneous performance leads to surprise, pleasing and promising or unwanted, we may respond by reflecting-in-action ...... reflection tends to focus interactively on the outcomes of action, the action itself, and the intuitive knowing implicit in the action"[p56]. Such reflecting-in-action is covered by phrases such as "thinking on your feet", "keeping your wits about you", and "learning by doing"[p54].
Reflecting-in-Practice - "When a practitioner reflects in and on his practice, the possible objects of his reflection are as varied as the kinds of phenomena before him and the systems of knowing-in-practice which he brings to them. He may reflect on the tacit norms and appreciations which underlie a judgement, or on the strategies and theories implicit in a pattern of behaviour. He may reflect on the feeling for a situation which has led him to adopt a particular course of action, on the way in which he has framed the problem he is trying to solve, or on the role he has constructed for himself within a larger institutional context"[p62].
"Reflection-in-action, in these several modes, is central to the art through which practitioners sometimes cope with the troublesome "divergent" situations of practice"[p62]."When someone reflects-in-action, he becomes a researcher in the practice context. He is not dependent on the categories of established theory and technique, but constructs a new theory of the unique case. His inquiry is not limited to a deliberation about means which depends on a prior agreement about ends. He does not keep means and ends separate, but defines them interactively as he frames a problematic situation. He does not separate thinking from doing, ratiocinating his way to a decision which he must later convert to action"[p68].
Let us take this synopsis as a working model for reflection-in-action. The next step Schon does is to adopt criteria by which he will compare different practitioners and their practice. These criteria are:-
"In practise of various kinds, what form does reflection-in-action take? What are the differences, and what features of the process are similar? Reflection-in-action may be directed to strategies, theories, frames or role frames. How do these processes interact with one another, and how does technical problem solving relate to them? Is there a kind of rigor peculiar to reflection-in-action and, if so, how is it like and unlike rigorous technical problem solving?
What sets the limits of our ability to reflect-in-action? How do individual and
institutional constraints interact with one another? And in what directions should we look to increase the scope and depth of reflection-in-action?"[p73]
These criteria I will refer to as
From these criteria he develops attributes of reflection-in-action and it is these attributes which I want to consider in terms of my own experience. But before doing this I want to consider this reflection-in-action and its criteria.
Section 2 - Initial Reflections on Reflection-in-Action
My first concern lies in what might be termed a panacea syndrome. Throughout the
first chapter he presents a scenario in which reflection-in-action is the answer to this crisis in professional knowledge. I am concerned as to whether this is actually the case. In fact to be quite honest I feel that Schon only touches on areas which have been expanded into much wider concepts such as expressed in Capra's Turning Point or Zukav's Dancing Wu Li Masters or Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. However an important issue with regards to Schon's work is that it is academically acceptable; some of the reservations I express will be contained in the difference between the academically acceptable and the wider concepts contained in the above.
For example if you accept the limitations that Capra describes as Cartesian-Newtonian thought embodying what he describes as the "Newtonian World machine and the Mechanistic View of Life" then applying new frameworks or rejecting technical rationality would only be second nature. If quality is the byword of your daily actions as embodied in the concept underlying much of Pirsig's work then such processes as reflection-in-action would automatically be a part of your practice. The concept of neutral hypothesis testing [as discussed in Schon
pp150-151] would have been countered by Capra's Tao of Physics or Zukav's book both of which describe in detail some problems with accepted science. Schon describes "the inquirer's relation to the situation as transactional" [p150] and
although Capra uses different words he also demonstrates the fallacies of objective scientific experiment.
Looking for artistry and intuition can only be found in the rejection of the Church of Reason [Pirsig throughout] underlying technical rationality and the positivism which is the very basis of universities as referred to by Schon [pp35-37]. Bacon refers to the "double truth of reason and revelation" [Russell p527] but it is clear from Comte's three principles of positivism [referred to in Schon p32] that "there was the intention to cleanse men's minds of mysticism, superstition and other forms of pseudo-knowledge" - "empirical science was not just a form of knowledge but the only source of positive knowledge of the world" and that this knowledge was to be extended to the "technical control of human society". From this basis forms of knowledge such as intuition, artistry were supposedly removed from the academic agenda yet the above books refute this process claiming that such is knowledge and proposing alternative epistemologies.
Yet these alternatives were not new, were not born out of the idealistic revolution of the early part of the second half of the twentieth century. Religion and mysticism have continually fought for acceptance in these arenas, they have continually sought some form of recognition. What is meditation, is it reflection-in-action? Do the powers of concentration required by people involved in meditation not have a place in professional practice? Are the concepts of discernment and detachment not professional qualities valid in everyday life?
It is in this context that I am concerned about reflection-in-action, what are its limitations? What are the arbitrary boundaries that accept reflection-in-action but reject Pirsig's notion of quality for example? Would the meditative practice of concentrating on the word Peace be considered useful as reflection-in-action? Unity is another word which is often used as a meditation, how important is unity when Schon contrasts technical rationality with reflection-in-action and claims there are no dichotomies[pp164-166]. In Japan they train through the use of koans, short three line verses which are intended to highlight conflict and paradox. Is this not the purpose of getting stuck? Pirsig also values getting stuck as a process of quality. Listen to the sound of one hand clapping!!
I wanted to create a feeling of doubt, a feeling that there was more that reflection-in-action begins to open up arenas that have been closed to the professional by years of unintentional malpractice. But most importantly it is a
positive step forward. When academics want to embrace concepts of intuition, when artistry is lauded more than rationality then progress is being made so long as there is not the mistake of the middle-class upheaval of the sixties where positive traditional values were thrown out of education, and rejected in society in general, because repressive teaching hurt those who were being taught. And now we have students who aren't hurt by repression but they don't have qualifications, and combined with the slickness of TV, video and computer games they have minimal concentration span and cannot learn unless they discover it to be fun on occasions.
There is one mystical concept that I have not yet referred to which I picked up from Carlos Castaneda's books on Yaqui knowledge and that is following the true path. Implicit within this way of life is the concept that if you follow your true path then you will do things to the best of your ability. In other words if you are true to yourself then your practice will also be true, your practice will be a reflection of following your true path, and your actions will reflect your soul. Castaneda's works were described as a journey in mysticism, and therefore outside the field of academia? Or perhaps not if there is academic acceptance of reflection-in-action? Is there that acceptance – the practitioner's (psychiatric supervisor) "approach to instruction consists in demonstrating and advocating a kind of therapeutic reflection-in-action, but it is also an approach of mystery and mastery"[Schon p126].
Enough of the doubts and limitations I want now to return to Schon's book where he has developed his approach for reflection-in-action and has developed criteria for examining what is considered good practice, the criteria of similarity, relationship, rigor and limitations. I would like to look at the themes he develops and reflect on them, shine the mirror of my practice.
Section 3 - Framework in Reflection-in-Action
It is difficult to encapsulate what is reflection-in-action, it appears to be whatever is seen as professionally good. If I wanted to be trite I could say that knowing-in-action is doing what you like automatically, reflecting-in-action doing the first thing that comes into your head, and reflecting-in-practice as thinking about what you have done to cover your back. This is the problem with the vagueness. What is clearly important however is an analysis of what is done in practice and the recognition that a good practitioner is not someone who follows a rule book - technical rationality.
Working in Brixton was very taut, the various problems associated with the Inner
City and race produced a school which was a cauldron. If you were to attempt to
maintain control in the classroom there were many incidents which would explode
on the scene. I use the word explode particularly. When a student annoys another in Hove there might be cross words, at worst you would tell them to leave the room and they would usually do that to save face. In Brixton desks and chairs would fly, they would have to demonstrate their violence - hence explode. On occasions this called for a strong reaction from me. In general the management were not concerned about this except if such incidents were brought to their attention. Their immediate reaction would be to say why didn't you call me - the rule book. When you explain the impracticality of this rule they respond by quoting the rule again. At the same time the rule was unworkable because of the number of incidents. I understand the need for the rule, the public face of the institution but a professional in practice could not follow the rule book.
Problem Setting - the Framework - Technical rationality emphasises problem solving but "with this emphasis we ignore problem setting, the process by which we define the decision to be made, the ends to be achieved, the means which may be chosen"[p40]. This Schon calls the framework, and he maintains that "his artistry" of the good practitioner "is evident in his selective management of large amounts of information, his ability to spin out long lines of invention and inference, and his capacity to hold several ways of looking at things at once without disrupting the flow of inquiry"[p130]. A reflective practitioner holds a repertoire of frameworks at her fingertips yet this is not an updated version of technical rationality of frameworks as an essential aspect of this practitioner is the ability to create a new framework if required.
Investigations into racism clearly give an example of this alteration of framework. As Afro-Caribbean children more and more became part of the education scene in England it became clear that they were under-achieving. Complaints were made about their behaviour, and reasons for their failure were generally of the kind which attributed the blame to these children. Reasons such as background, coming from different cultures etc. The framework in which these deductions were made was that the education system had worked before them, therefore they were the ones at fault. On the other side, the Afro-Caribbean parents were blaming the system and therefore saying that the education system was racist because they knew that in general their children were good and they knew that their main reason for uprooting a lifestyle they enjoyed and coming to England was because they needed an education for their children. This conflict of frameworks was clearly a problem, and it has not been resolved. However moves have been made concerning the frameworks. The early mutterings of Enoch Powell and his followers along the lines of repatriation have changed except amongst minority lunatics, the education system has evolved and within the system and society in general white people are recognising the cultural racism, and we have books such as White Awareness by Judy Katz, and people such as Chris Searle in West Sussex focussing their work on the racism of the dominant group. Unfortunately the decades of racism has left its mark on the Afro-Caribbean community, immoral behaviour and bad conduct are justified because of the dominant pressure of racism and young black men who would be chastised and punished within their own traditions continue with behaviour which should not be condoned. We see the same in South Africa now where youth were instrumental in the struggle through political action in the schools - the defiance campaign, now continuing with their bad conduct when they have won, thus ensuring that the ANC in the end will not be able to provide a good government.
One concern I have about frameworks is that they provide a frame, they can be restrictive. "At the same time that the inquirer tries to shape the situation to his frame, he must hold himself open to the situation's back-talk. He must be willing to enter into new confusions and uncertainties. Hence he must adopt a kind of double vision. He must act in accordance with the view he has adopted, but he must recognise that he can always break it open later .... As the risk of uncertainty increases, so does the temptation to treat the view as reality" [Schon p164].
Statistics is a field which specialises in modelling, and they run the risk of treating the view as reality. They look to create a model of a situation:-
y = a+bx+cz+e.
Here the factors x and z explains most of the causes but the error term e is what the statistician analyses. They do not try to explain this error term, they analyse what percentage effect this has on the situation. The result is that the statistician frames the factors, restricts the model and then attempts to fit the practical situation to her model. A reflective practitioner provides a good frame and the poor practitioner restricts, it is the way problems are framed which is the artistry. Schon describes the same concern through the standpoint of a computer modeller in urban planning, Britt Harris, who "proposes that such models should no longer be considered as theories which predict or explain urban phenomena(functions they have generally failed to fulfil) but as metaphors from which urban planners and policy makers may construct their own accounts of unique and changing situations"[p319]. There is information to be gained from this type of framework but not a method of imposing order from outside ie the model or the modeller.
Another way of viewing the framework is that of imposing order; "but whatever their differences of language, priorities, images, styles, and precedents they are likely to find themselves ..... in a situation of complexity and uncertainty which demands the imposition of order"[p103]. This question of order is important. Krishnamurti describes meditation "as constant observation which brings its own order", and it is quite clear that even in our daily lives we cannot function/enjoy ourselves without some form of order. Business structures have order of business, meetings have agendas, political meetings have standing orders, all of these are examples where order is applied to daily existence, the failure of which is inefficiency, disruption and lack of productivity. Order is in itself a framework but it is a personal framework that a reflective practitioner possesses and not simply a framework applied to a situation.
Section 4 - Attributes of Reflection-in-Action
Below, I refer to different attributes that Schon describes as part of Reflection-in-Action; some I will just note, others I will describe with reference to my own experience.
1) Experimentation and Conversation with the Situation
Schon sees the practitioner as setting up experiments in the solution of the problem. Through an ongoing process of examination of the results of the experiment she learns about the problem. "His global experiment is also a reflective conversation with the situation"[p103]. "Through his transaction with the situation, he shapes it and makes himself a part of it"[p163].
2) Experience and perception
"It is our capacity to see unfamiliar situations as familiar ones, and to do in the former as we have done in the latter, that enables us to bring our past experience to bear on the unique case[p140]." Clearly Schon is saying that experience is part of the practitioner's art. [pp182-] In this section Reflection as Seeing-as, Schon describes situations where perception is the practitioner's art. When we consider reflection-in-action we must have both experience and perception, both contribute importantly to her approach.
This attribute refers to a process which I have called precipitation. By this I mean that knowledge and understanding builds up in the mind, and when it has reached a sense of saturation then it precipitates the solution ie the answer. I personally have found this through sleep and waking in the middle of the night. Often there is a situation that has been troubling me and I have gone to sleep with this problem on my mind. I will then wake up thinking about this, often with the situation resolved. I describe this as a process of precipitation.
I think this process also occurs during waking hours but not in the same way. For example, knowing-in-action occurs when a practitioner comes along and knows
what to do but sometimes a practitioner knows what to do when they haven't seen
the situation. In some way their mind recognises the answer and precipitates the
answer. I call it precipitation because I see these practitioners having met many similar situations and they assimilate the knowledge and understanding of these situations so that when they come to the new situation their assimilation precipitates the answer.
I believe that this process of precipitation is a part of reflection-in-action ie an assimilation of knowledge and understanding which, through a process of the mind, is able to know the answer for an action even when the situation has not been met before.
4) Being stuck
I feel the question of being stuck is a very important learning process. What happens often is that you can set a question and then the student has difficulties. If the student is motivated then the student tries to resolve the problem and applies mental effort through concentration to solve the problem. Even if she cannot do it her effort then makes her mind open to a solution and she can easily understand my explanation. However if students haven't tried their minds have not been opened by concentration and they are not able to understand the explanation; it is the same for those that aren't motivated and don't try. Sadly this lack of motivation is very serious because so many students reach a problem, give up and wait to be shown. Quist, Schon's design practitioner, "examines the drawings while Petra describes how she is stuck - how she has set problems that she cannot solve"[p80]. Quist then reframes the problems but an important aspect of the learning situation is that Petra has tried to resolve the situation but is stuck.
Pirsig describes a stuck screw [Pirsig p284] on his motorcycle and says "the only way it's going to get unstuck is by abandoning further examination of the screw according to traditional scientific method." "I think the basic fault that underlies the problem of stuckness is traditional rationality's insistence upon 'objectivity', a doctrine that there is a divided reality of subject and object"[Pirsig p285]. This certainly has parallels with Schon's technical rationality where research and practice are institutionally separated. Stuckness forces the concentration which makes the practitioner think around the problem leading to a situation where her concentration unites the subject and object producing a solution without referring to traditional methods - technical rationality.
5) Knowing what to ignore
With regards to the psychiatric patient's situation, "When the supervisor demonstrates what he takes as a story sufficient for interpretation, when he focuses on certain details while leaving others in the background, he appears to be guided by a repertoire of story types, interpretative explanations, and psychodynamic patterns"[p125].
6) Virtual Worlds
Practitioners, such as Quist and the Supervisor quoted in Schon, don't always operate in the real world. Through drawing in the case of the designer and through conversation in the case of the psychotherapist, "each is operating in a virtual world, a constructed representation of the real world of practice" [p157]. One example of this that I have experienced is the virtual machine created in computing. A computer works through electrical pulses in electric circuits. But how can we think about pulses? Then they developed computer languages, a shorthand for the details of the pulsing and now we have WIMP - Windows, Icons, Mouse and Pointers. When you point at an icon with a mouse and click do we know what we are doing? No, it is a virtual world where this process of pointing and clicking functions at the level of pulses.
We can all accept that we use computers but don't really know how they work. Is
there a problem? At school there is a nasty error that keeps coming up "Application "unknown" has unexpectedly quit because a type 1 error has occurred."; when it happens people are losing files. It is an intermittent error that I do not understand. I suspect that there is a problem in the computer memory at the real level but on a virtual level I cannot solve it. I think a solution is to set up the system again from disc but this will mean a lot of work reloading programs - I am avoiding the problem because I don't have enough expertise to equate the real and virtual world, my representation is not good enough.
8) Adversary and Co-operation
"The idea of reflective practice leads to a vision of professionals as agents of
society's reflective conversation with its situation, agents who engage in co-operative enquiry within a framework of institutionalised contention"[p353]. This is an interesting one when you consider the conflict I had over the union - full reflection in part 8 of the Autobiography.
9) The Professional-Client Relationship
In the classroom this is obviously the most important aspect of the work of the
teacher. This is a two-sided relationship, let us consider what is the ideal for these two sides. In the UK the teacher has come under increasing scrutiny as the Tory government since 1979 has continued to blame teachers for social failures. But in the ideal situation the role of the teacher is actually secondary to the attitude of the students. Referring to the African tradition the teacher imparts knowledge under a tree, and the students gratefully acknowledge the gifts. Compare this tradition with the practice in the West, and it is lamentably lacking. Of course this myth like many in Africa is soon questioned under scrutiny, however as an ideal it is a reasonable starting point for this professional-client relationship. These mythical African students come searching for knowledge, an attitude of mind experts say exists in the young but our education system (including social factors) manages to destroy the attitude by the time they reach secondary school. The motivation and desire to learn are inherent in the student - the right place for it, the motivation does not have to be provided by the teacher, it does not have to exist in quality materials whose very quality becomes a demotivating factor when all materials cannot reach that high standard. It is in the students. When you examine the practice of teaching in the UK how much blame does the student get in the media or in government analysis - some would argue that since 1979 these are the same thing!?
Now of course this position is lamentably complacent for a reflective teacher but I feel it needs stating and reiterating in every education forum before moving on to analysis of the quality of teachers. Sadly we know the practice is far from this focus on the client. Students, particularly teenagers, are alienated, they do not trust society, they do not trust teachers, and these are the realities that reflective teachers need to work with.
"Although the reflective practitioner should be credentialled and technically competent, his claim to authority is substantially based on his ability to manifest his special knowledge in his interaction with his clients. He does not ask the client to have blind faith in a "black box", but to remain open to the evidence of the practitioner's competence as it emerges"[Schon p296]. My experience of the teaching profession in the UK is that there are a higher proportion of practitioners who are credentialled and technically competent than in any other profession but unfortunately because the media spotlight and government strategy has begun to focus on teaching since 1979 this observation is discounted by the parade of teacher incompetents and sex maniacs which inhabit the teaching profession in the tabloids. This government strategy has led to an increased workload on a government sector that monetarists don't want to pay for, and to increased ill-health and stress diseases for a profession whose value to society should be at the pinnacle with doctors for the promotion of future generations - not lagging financially miles behind "Hooray Henry's" whose major asset is the inability to care for, or be accountable for, the devastation caused by the fast buck they have made.
This slamming of the profession has not only adversely affected teachers' performance through ill-health but has also inculcated a malaise of questioning and criticism of professional competence by the clients. The students are continually questioning the teachers' competence but what are the criteria they judge by? Sadly in my view I believe they mostly criticise because society criticises, they have not developed the database of life experience from which they can formulate a sound rational opinion. So when they fail they blame the teachers, when they are punished they argue and say the teacher is wrong. Yet after they leave school many students think of their teachers as good people who have tried hard for them because when they become adults they see how other people perform as adults. Student critical opinion is formulated by their own alienation combined with a social onslaught that tries to blame teachers for society's ills. Putting these approaches together can only lead to increased pressures on teachers and a lowering of standards in schools - moving further away from the idyll, the tree in Africa.
One other problem is the black box. Who formulates the curriculum? The teachers,
no. Why are we learning this? Because it is on the exam syllabus. What use is to us in adult life? You need to pass exams to get qualified. Notice the last question has not been answered. How many teachers can answer it? How many teachers would say that they are giving a broad and balanced education suitable to making our students good citizens. No, our qualifications lead to the business community and not better citizens; as reflective teachers we tell our clients to have blind faith in the black box.
I am concerned as to the validity of reflection-in-action for teachers. The teacher chooses to be a teacher, the student is forced by law to go to school. Although this paternalistic action of society is intended for the benefit of people who are considered not old enough to make the decision for themselves, when those people question the validity of school, qualifications and whether they will get jobs, the question of imposition becomes very important. Hence this professional-client relationship is not one which is freely entered into, and it is therefore a type of contract suited to the more traditional situation referred to on Schon p302. When you consider the virtues of the new contract, in teaching "there is no reason to believe that it is possible to leap from old to new contract. Expectations are not easily transformed especially in the situations of stress and anxiety that characterise many professional-client interactions, and the competences for reflective conversation are not acquired simply as a result of deciding to do so"[p307]. Not only in terms of the matter of choice referred to above, reflection-in-action is fundamentally flawed as a concept in this particular professional-client relationship, and that is the question of maturity. For reflection-in-action to be effective it requires a mature approach, how many students are mature enough to do this?
Referring again to the questioning of the school experience how many students are capable of making the mature decision of working to the best of their ability for dubious rewards, the sort of decision that adults repeatedly have to compromise with? Reflection-in-action then asks for students who cannot make this leap of maturity to enter into a new reflective contract. It is a flawed position for 100% success but also by the nature of adult compromise because the qualities in the process of reflection-in-action can only enhance the situation methods must be found for the introduction of reflection-in-action even in part.
Let us consider Schon's summary of the teaching situation on pp329-335. In the context of the summary which, in my view, is simplistic rather than inaccurate he attempts to describe situations of reflection-in-action. Schon's example of listening to the student lacks the element of practice[p332]. With the formal method of teaching, board and chalk - bringing the class together working with the teacher - a teacher can reflect on the questions of the students, individual attention can become a class issue. Typically a topic has been taught and an exercise set. Again typically when you check the work or listen to the questions they are similar, either the specific question is too hard or an aspect of your explanation was weak. You can then draw the class's attention to the point, in my view this is good interaction. Always you try for that interaction whilst explaining initially that other factors prevent this - the shyness of the student, the very quality of the teaching that convinces the students they know what to do and yet you have explained it badly, and many others. The argument that this hinders the more able students I feel has some limitations. Firstly if your teaching has been weak then a reiteration of the problem with a more considered explanation can only help, if the question was hard then, even if the able student has managed to get somewhere with the question, she will benefit from the security of confirmation by the teacher. And finally a more contentious point, there is a hidden agenda item here, and that is the question of arrogance. In my view even though a student is more able that does not mean that the student is not a member of the class and subject to controls within the class.
This point is more easily understood in a social context where all people should be subject to laws and social mores but many with ability feel they have the right to be above such values - particularly those of social mores. Might I be political and consider the scandals that have rocked the Tory party in recent years. In some small way maintaining a class identity and not showing undue favouritism to the more able instills this arrogance that allows M.P.'s to disdain the code they demand of those they govern. At the same time the able student must not be stifled, she must feel free to develop. In fact the use of the generic she is not typically appropriate here, the type of arrogance of able students which removes them from accepting class control is a typically male chauvinist reaction.
Reflective teachers "would push against the rule-governed system of the school", this again is an assumption from outside the profession. As a product of the late 60's and 70's I went into teaching highly critical of schools' practices - as did many at that time. This era of social unrest and transformation driven by a middle-class reaction to repressive upbringings had a dramatic impact on teaching methods referred to elsewhere but also brought into question many aspects of discipline. Teachers at that time did not want to instill the same form of rigid rules which they had rejected as a process of the era. I was one of those. Every action of discipline I referred back to the work ethic leaving myself criticising those who disciplined first. My current school, being African, believes strongly in discipline reinforcing that discipline with corporal punishment. For me this is almost full circle from where I started in 1976 but I do not reject the discipline because I view the totality of the education experience and see that here the education process has many advantages. My personal reaction, or questions concerning adherence to the UN Charter for Human Rights, do not lead me to want to disrupt by excessive questioning. Education is within the totality of the social process, to separate factors such as discipline and attach a moralistic standpoint of non-corporal punishment as an absolute might undermine the fabric of that totality (from my limited perspective here it probably would) yet I have no doubt that here, given the constraints of poverty, the education system works better than in the UK.
The quote in the first line of the last paragraph was more concerning "the theory of knowledge which underlies the school"[p334], he further suggests that reflective teachers "would challenge the prevailing knowledge structure". Again I am concerned about this comment from outside the profession and the modus operandi he would suggest for the implementation of such a challenge. This question will be considered in detail in the anti-racist section of this professional autobiography but I remember a continual battle with those political people in the ILEA group whose direction was to create material to make a political point, and I remember my repeated minority frustration at reiterating "not on the syllabus therefore the teachers won't use it". Personally I would like to see schools question, I would like to see the system be strong enough to answer the questions these political people wanted to ask but in reality I know they have no desire to. Therefore Schon's challenge is dangerous, the only people who suffered from these political conflicts I am referring to were the students whose main concern was to get exam results. The arena for challenging the exam system has to be outside the classroom because of the fundamental interests of the kids. "On-the-spot experiments" which "would affect not only the routines of teaching practice but the central values and principles of the institution" would also affect the clients - the students, as they do not participate in the decision-making process concerning these "on-the-spot experiments". Is experimentation on unwitting clients valid - an open question?
Section 5 - Investigations as Reflection-in-Action
Investigations is an area in maths which, perhaps not developed as such, attempts to teach Reflection-in-Action.. A typical investigation might be to examine all the whole number Pythagorean triples(all the sides of the right-angled triangles are whole numbers), and see if you can predict the next one etc.
I believe the idea was that investigations were an attempt at making maths real - rather than created text book examples of no use to anyone in the actual situation. My understanding of this intention came from working with the SMILE project who were the first people to introduce them as part of a syllabus. Now investigations are part of the exams as coursework for most GCSE's but I don't feel we have a situation where the maths is any more real.
My first set of coursework was in two parts, investigating different occurrences of Pascal's triangle in real life and drawing an athletics track. The whole class did these pieces of coursework which were chosen because the first part I gave them clear guidance by worksheet and the second part allowed them to produce a higher standard of work. The class was middle ability at Blatchington Mill - this meant average grade GCSE E. The class achieved an average slightly above this which is some attestation to my approach.
The real problem was that the students weren't interested. None would get involved in the work and at every stage they would be asking me for advice. This advice, known as guidance, could be offered but if so done then the examiner should be informed and marks be deducted accordingly - I hid behind this. The method of investigation was explained again and again but to no avail, and the conclusion I came to was that it was not work suited to the students. The following year I set statistics projects - questionnaire and report but I don't have results because I came to Botswana. This was with the top set but I met the same problem, either through insecurity or lack of motivation they were unwilling to investigate. BUT the grade A students did get into it and produced work of excellence independently. My conclusion here is that the notion of investigations is elitist and those mathematicians who introduced it were asking for imitation of their abilities. I know there are examples elsewhere of excellent investigation work not from Grade A students but I feel it is a trend; after all mathematicians investigate but how many students are mathematicians?
I feel investigations were unrewarding considering the extra time it took the
teachers, and I also feel the traditional school institution environment is not suited to this work with its encouragement of rigidity and rote learning. But how can a school change? Not with current resources.
Although the idea was initially making maths real, not enough work has gone into
the preparation of materials so teachers are doing the same or similar tasks. This leads to formalisation of procedures for investigation because the teacher knows what is wanted. In my case I took this a step further. The nature of investigations was not properly understood so I developed a cycle of investigation:-
This formalisation gave some structure to a process that was lacking otherwise, but as a reflective practitioner it lacks much in terms of reflection-in-action but gains some in terms of exam credibility.
All in all I think this attempt at the introduction of proper thinking through investigation has failed although many are trying and claiming good results for the process; not in my view a method for introducing reflection-in-action but some good work is achieved.
Section 7 - CONCLUSION
In order to conclude I want to consider the role that Schon takes as a practitioner. He is Ford professor at MIT, and as such he must adopt a role suited to his position. Whilst attacking academia he must support it, whilst complaining that practitioners do not perform their jobs with intuition and artistry he must also offer a solution which can fall within the remit of academia and business practice. Having accepted the limitations of this role then we can reflect on his concept Reflection-in-Action.
As we read through the book we find that the concept expands. Starting from the
three tenets of
the concept expands to different attributes as covered in the section with that title.
One might be tempted to describe reflection-in-action as good practice which does not automatically subscribe to the approach of Technical Rationality. For me the greatest value I have gained is not so much the system that he has set up but the questions that he has asked, and because he has asked them from a position of authority within the system then he is making demands on the system to answer them. This forces the rigid thinking contained within the approach he described as Technical Rationality to be opened out. As a map of action his concept lacks a format but as an approach it gives respectability to those who want to question and who do not accept perfunctorily because authority lays down the statutes. This always ought to be the role of thinkers, philosophers and educators, and I feel in a position to follow this approach in my Professional Autobiography.
Section 2B - Eraut's Criticism of Reflection-in-Action
It is not my intention here to present a complete picture of Eraut's view of developing professional knowledge but if I am going to consider a criticism of reflection-in-action I must consider the relevant part of his viewpoint.
To begin this I want to present an overview to contextualise my argument. From my limited perspective Eraut presents an academic summary on professional knowledge. Despite McIntyre saying in his introduction that Eraut writes with "vigour and enthusiasm" [Eraut Preface ix], when I compare it with Schon's attempt at a voyage of discovery on the sea of professional artistry I find Eraut slightly listless. I recognise this as a limitation of my academic perspective.
I wanted to describe this because my perspective on Eraut's criticism concerns this notion of artistry and his academic presentation. Eraut quotes "Oakeshott , following Aristotle," as making a "clear distinction between 'technical knowledge', and 'practical knowledge'" Eraut[p42]. He then uses a "typology developed by Broudy et al (1964)" which describes "four modes of knowledge use":-
4) Association" [Eraut p48].
I see this as a one-dimensional view of knowledge or modes of knowledge use, it is almost as if he is presenting these "modes" as being of equal importance in terms of professional development. Although at a later stage, Eraut [p49], he describes the "interpretative use of knowledge" as playing "some part in that mysterious quality we call 'professional judgement" and although he also describes judgement as involving "practical wisdom, a sense of purpose, appropriateness and feasibility, and its acquisition depends, among other things, on a wealth of professional experience" [Eraut p49], there appears to be no feel or conviction about the importance of this mysterious quality, artistry apparently is not Eraut's underlying demand of the professional. Again on p103 he states that "the last two modes, in particular, characterise the use of propositional knowledge within professional processes", but it is dry, it lacks the vigour and enthusiasm for the artistry of the professional characterised in Schon's approach.
At times Eraut supports Schon but if there is a limited perception as to the importance of artistry in reflection-in-action then it is that position that will lead to criticism. Eraut's position could be characterised by the first pie chart whereas my interpretation of Schon could be characterised by the second (proportions being arbitrary to demonstrate my point).
MY INTERPRETATION OF SCHON'S APPROACH
The more disciplined side of my nature wants to point out however that the modes of knowledge use Eraut describes as replicative, applicative and to a certain extent associative are essential parts of the work of a professional. A professional must be disciplined and organised, they must arrive on time for appointments etc, but once you have stated that a professional must be disciplined and organised there is little more to say. Professional artistry is not concerned with discipline and organisation, they are assumed prerequisites. There are also excellent workers, given titles such as assistant, whose discipline and organisation can provide these prerequisties. A computer has a knowledge base which is both vast and limited, being aware of the existence of the database and knowing how to access the knowledge themselves or through assistants, are again prerequisites of a professional but they are not aspects of their artistry. Understanding artistry and attempting to develop the artistry is the theme of Schon's reflection-in-action, ideas contained in Eraut's modes not relating to this are not really discussed. In partial support of this approach Eraut "notes the increasing acceptance that important aspects of professional competence and expertise cannot be ..... embedded in a publicly accessible knowledge base" [Eraut p15]. Repeating and completing the quote used above [Eraut p143], Eraut sees that Schon "is principally concerned with developing an epistemology of professional creativity rather than a complete epistemology of everyday professional practice."
Earlier I contended that Eraut did not place the same emphasis as Schon on artistry, let me try and expand on that. "Schon goes on to argue that this definition of rigorous professional knowledge excludes situations and phenomena which many professionals perceive as central to their practice. Knowledge of central importance to providing services to clients is accorded low priority in higher education or omitted altogether" [Erautp102]. Eraut uses this analysis to claim that greater emphasis should be placed on "the broadest possible meaning" [Eraut p102] of knowledge, "and they should be accorded parity of esteem in higher education" [Eraut p102]. This academic parity of esteem is I believe at the root of the criticism of Schon's work.
In various places Eraut supports Schon. In his conclusion on p10 he is pointing at the notion that technical rationality, presented to professionals through academy, is not enough. "The knowledge-base is likely to be segmented and framed in technical/scientific rather than practical terms, rendering the nature of professional knowledge highly problematic for aspiring professionals. Here I also support McIntyre [Eraut preface ix] when he finds it "worrying" that "those engaged in professional education" are ready "to assert uncritically the need for university lecturers as agents, and university campuses as sites, for fostering reflection", I too find this totally inconsistent with the theme of the Reflective Practitioner.
When Eraut [p23] is critical of the time factor regarding reflection, he supports "the concept of reflection-in-action' as carrying "a clear meaning when the action is fairly rapid". he also states on p15 that 'Schon, in particular, has highlighted the value of reflection in raising awareness of tacit knowledge" (where tacit knowledge was invented by Polanyi (1967) as a term meaning that which we know but cannot tell).
So Eraut supports aspects of reflection-in-action; to consider the criticism I want to examine the conclusion to his section on The Theories of Donald Schon [Eraut pp142-149]. "Schon's notion of rapid reflection-in-action provides an original and useful theory of metacognition during skilled behaviour. His ideas about reframing and reflective conversations with the situation might also be construed as contributing to a theory of metacognition during deliberative processes"[Eraut p149]. Eraut doesn't actually define metacognition but he does examine metaprocesses. "Controlling one's own behaviour involves the evaluation of what one is doing, the continuing redefinition of priorities, and the critical adjustment of cognitive frameworks and assumptions"[Eraut p115]. When I examine what I wrote in Section 1 - What is Reflection-in-Action[BZ pp2.1-2.2], I contend that the difference between Reflecting-in-action and metacognition is limited or even semantic.
However I can see a purpose in this. Let me try and view two different perspectives. When trying to examine the question of professional artistry then we are in a nebulous ill-defined world, it is a world of quality, artistry, mysticism, enigma, paradox, virtue etc. It is a world ill-befitting the rigours of academia. How can students begin to understand these concepts when the wisdom of the world has argued for millenia? Yet a teacher trainer - a professional developer - must begin an attempt to convey this process of thinking. I can imagine a teaching situation where a student would argue that reflecion-in-acton is rapid and immediate, and then argue that the longer term process Schon described is not really the same process and wanting an academic label for the second process. Eraut by drawing the distinction is able to provide the teaching tool to present these global concepts.
I believe Schon has blazed a trail in considering what is the artistry of the professional but trailbalzers do not tar the road. When he attempts to justify professional artistry by examples of good practice he is only following the direction where others such as Pirsig, the mystics, Plato, have led. Artistry cannot be justified by reason and academia as Pirsig tried to demonstrate throughout his book. His good practice of focussing on the brick as a means of eliciting an essay on the town was a creative exercise, a process of quality, an example of good practice. It was artistry. You cannot provide an ABC of artistry, there is no technical rationality manual for artistry; this evasive quality is why the good professional is in demand ... because it cannot be taught. But as any good teacher Eraut wants to find a way to present the concepts but unfortunately, in my view, he is missing one important factor - the level of importance of artistry in the making of a good professional. When you want to provide a parity of esteem of all aspects of his modes of knowledge use, he is actually denying the essential focus of Schon's approach.
Further Eraut focuses on "Schon's inconsistencies" [Eraut pp147-148]. In part 2A - my section7 conclusion - I said that "one might be tempted to describe reflection-in-action as good practice which does not automatically subscribe to the approach of Technical Rationality [BZ p2.14]. Undoubtedly there are inconsistencies but I don't feel they are important. Again quoting from my conclusion on Schon, "as a map of action his concept lacks a format but as an approach it gives respectability to those who want to question and who do not accept perfunctorily because authority lays down the statutes" [BZ p2.15]. Eraut takes it on himself to try and develop professional knowledge; whilst Schon blazes the trail Eraut follows and tars the road. The labour of the road-builder and the artistry of the trailblazer are essential and both are vital roles; but they are different. Do not dismiss one for flamboyance or the other for being academic and disciplined - parity of esteem?
References to Part 2
Capra F "The Turning Point" Flamingo 1982. ISBN 0-00-654017-1
Castaneda C Series of books on Yaqui knowledge based on meetings with a Yaqui Indian Don Juan??
Eraut M "Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence"
Falmer 1994. ISBN 0-7507-0331-8.
Katz Judy H "White Awareness" Oklahoma 1978. ISBN 0-8061-1466-5
Krishnamurti J "Talk at Brockwood Park 1981" tape from Krishnamurti Foundation Trust.
Oakeshott M "Rationality in Politics and Other Essays" Methuen 1962.
Pirsig R "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" Vintage 1974. ISBN 0-09-978640-0
Polanyi M "The Tacit Dimension" Routledge 1967
Russell B "History of Western Philosophy" George Allen & Unwin 1961.
Schon D "The Reflective Practitioner" Basic 1983.
Zukav G "The Dancing Wu LI Masters" Fontana 1979
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