THE REFLECTIVE PRACTITIONER: How Professionals Think in Action by Donald A. SchÖn

THE REFLECTIVE PRACTITIONER: How Professionals Think in Action

Email this review


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: SchÖn, 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. SchÖn 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 SchÖn'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.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1982
Publisher: Basic Books