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The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  440 ratings  ·  35 reviews
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 Sch�n maintains, know more than they can put into words. To meet the challenges of their work, they rely less on formulas learned in ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 30th 1994 by Routledge (first published 1983)
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May 13, 2008 rated it liked it
I recently chose this book for a Leadership Practicum course I am teaching as it is considered a classic in describing how professionals think as opposed to technicians. The key for true professionals is that they bring their theories and experiences to bear on every situation in unique and creative ways. One can get the overall thesis of the book by reading the last chapter which lays his overall theory of reflection-in-action. The rest of the book contains illustrations of the thinking process ...more
Jonathan Jeckell
This article was what prompted me to read this book:

You might get impatient with parts of it because you may have already seen some of the major revelations revealed in this book in later works based on these ideas. If I were to assign this as reading to someone, I would select key chapters, such as the whole first part, the chapter on scientific-based professions, and Part III/Chapter 10. I got a little bored with some of the vignettes he used, like the
Sep 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
OK, I read this book for social work school, so it's not exactly the next volume in Harry Potter. If it were, however, the book would likely be called "Harry Potter: A Guide to Expert Wizardy in an age of Failed Experts." To give you a glimpse.

Basically, the book explores the idea of the failed professional in today's (or 1983's) age. No longer can we rely on experts to tell us everything - time and time again in recent history have the failed to tell us the truth. In the area of social work, pr
I decided to read this book because it seems to occupy a central place in the canon of "design thinking" literature. The central idea of the book is that the conventional view of professional practice as the mere application of research is flawed; that in fact, practitioners actually conduct research themselves, in the form of on-the-spot, in situ experimentation.

While I enjoyed reading the book overall, I'm giving it only 3 stars because (confession) I really struggled to get through it. Object
Kerry Bridges
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
I read this book as recommended reading for my homeopathy course and I must say I would never have chosen to read it. The author's writing style is extremely dry but, more than that, there is one small premise on which this 350 page book rests which could have been explained in about 10. A couple of parts are vaguely interesting (when he discusses actual reflective practice in action for a couple of pages) but this really is not a book I would ever recommend and I am very glad to have finished r ...more
Tasha Seegmiller
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a slow read with great ideas exploring the way that professionals behave in situations and how they could behave differently if they incorporated reflection into their practice. There were times when trying to stay focused was challenging (a couple case studies), but the overall message and value of these older ideas is worth working through the slow sections for the observations about framing responsibilities and capabilities.
Ashfaq Ayon
Mar 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: design
Well, this book was a very difficult read for me. But thinking about how Schon's thoughts were of such depth given he wrote this in 1956 i got to say he is amazing. If you are studying Design Theories you might want to read it. It is also included in different curricula, I guess. ...more
Jun 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Long review:
Short review: a lot of truth is hidden behind the painful academese that makes this one another difficult-to-digest academic manual rather than a thought-provoking no-nonsense book, as I feel it should be. Especially since Schön's concepts of the reflective practitioner VS the technical knowledge expert strikes multiple chords here. Whether or not everything in the book from the eighties about the field of engineering in general is still relev
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
In my opinion, the actual examples were not as helpful in understanding the practice of reflection in action (or maybe it would be better on a second read), but overall a good read for me just to give words to describe how research goes "in practice". The book draws attention to the important fact that a lot of professional expertise is about the framing of the problem rather than anything else. Also nice tid-bits about the history of "profession" in US and problems with how the separation betwe ...more
Joshua Bowen
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this book with the intention of learning about reflection for leader growth and development. Thus, this is why I did not particularly enjoy the book. It is not about reflective thought or learning in a leadership context, really.

It’s also a highly academic book, making it hard for the “layman” like me to get through it and understand.
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good ideas, but not worth a read cover to cover. I sort of read the beginning, skimmed the end, and read the professional chapter on architecture because that's closest to my field/purpose on reading the book. ...more
Hernan Espinosa
Jan 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An absolute must for any one in academia that wants to realy think the role of education and educational institutions.
Also a must for researchers, if only to understand how and way practice based research is and should be a thing.
Ryan Paul
Nov 01, 2018 rated it liked it
interesting read with some good information, but really slow at times and hard to get through.
May 25, 2020 rated it liked it
I’m sure it’s a great book for some, but I found it really hard to stay interested. Maybe because it’s exploring different fields to my own. I got a few useful gems though.
John (Dr. Miller)
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is not a how- to-do but ho-to-think book I recommend every professional reads. Especially professionals that deal/work with the general public.
Aug 13, 2020 marked it as to-read
Nonfiction, personal development
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: prof-dev
Important foundational reading for looking at reflective practice. Also an odd look at how the concept of "professions" has developed in the US. Looking forward to reading more contemporary OT relevant work that is based in the concept of reflection-in and -on action. ...more
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Josh by: Trevor Gibbs
Shelves: professional
The author, an MIT social scientist, nicely points out the biggest challenge in applying professional expertise to a problem, is in properly framing the problem in the 1st place.

This activity of 'framing' is a primary task of 'real-world' managers and professionals, differentiating this group from the pure academes who teach the theories and tools of professional activity, using predefined problems and well-defined settings. In this sense, 'framing' is left as an 'art', poorly taught in formal s
Carlos Caceres
Feb 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book is an example of postmodern denial of objective reality/truth.

According to Schon,
“our perceptions, appreciations and beliefs are rooted in worlds of our own making that we come to accept as reality,”
as opposed to the Technical Rational Practitioner’s Objectivist view by which
“facts are what they are, and the truth of beliefs is strictly testable by reference to them.”

He also asserts that rationality "squeezes" creativity. That sounds very nice.
But when he is supposed to give example

Excellent description of how professionals think and act in the moment. Quoting from Russell Ackoff, Schon notes that "managers do not solve problems: they manage messes" (p. 16).

Schon maintains this happens best through a process he describes as "reflection-in-action" which uses an interactive problem-setting and framing approach. How one frames and sets situations influences decision-making, interpersonal communication, and conflict resolution.

Best quote, "our bias toward thinkin
Edward O'Neill
Jun 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Schon brilliantly outlines the grudge academics have against people who actually do things--notably plan and give services.

Schon has found ways to track the thought process that goes into things like helping a client, solving a complex design problem, and the like.

This book points the way for a more sophisticated approach to professional education--and higher education generally: an approach based on competence, problem-solving, and mastery.

A must-read for the serious practitioner of higher edu
Sergej van Middendorp
Classic in education, design and process. Now that I have also read Schön's displacement of concepts able to see how his thinking evolved to integrate the process of displacement in an inductive description of the improvisational process of designing solutions in professional contexts. A must read for designers. ...more
Jeremy Yuille
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adding to the other reviews, Schön builds a great lexicon of practice. To me, this is the contribution of this book. Concepts like repertoire, reflection-in-action, experienced felt path and the like are seminal and foundational for understanding the discourse around design and practice in professions
Aug 02, 2012 rated it liked it
I like what Schon had to say about reflection and practice. The last half of the book is not entirely helpful because it's case studies in some professions (library not being one of them), but the theories in the first half are well worth reading. ...more
Mar 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Psychotherapists, scientists, town planners and managers examined epistemologically by author seeking to understand the role that reflection plays in developing professional competence.
Mar 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Published in 1983, this book still stands as a classic in how professionals think about their work and think-in-action on the job.
Nov 04, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Terrible, terrible, terrible. Its like reading a dissertation. Liked the general premise, but holy cow it is tedious to get through.
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The longer it's been since I read this, the more I appreciate it. Possibly the most helpful work-related book I've ever read, and I found it very pleasant to read on the sentence level as well. ...more
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The longer it's been since I read this, the more I appreciate it. Possibly the most helpful work-related book I've ever read, and I found it very pleasant to read on the sentence level as well. ...more
Jaime Simmons
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not at all what I thought it was going to be... slow, dry and repetitive.
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“We are in need of inquiry into the epistemology of practice. What is the kind of knowing in which competent practitioners engage? How is professional knowing like and unlike the kinds of knowledge presented in academic textbooks, scientific papers, and learned journals? In what sense, if any, is there intellectual rigor in professional practice?” 2 likes
“competent practitioners usually know more than they can say. They exhibit a kind of knowing-in-practice, most of which is tacit. Nevertheless,” 2 likes
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