While it is Donald Schon’s work on organizational learning and reflective practice that tends to receive the most attention in the literature, his exploration of the nature of learning systems and the significance of learning in changing societies has helped to define debates around the so called ‘learning society’. cit.). Donald Schon creates, arguably, ‘a descriptive concept, quite empty of content’ (Richardson 1990: 14). Donald Schon died September 13, 1997 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital after a seven-month illness. For Argyris and Schön (1978: 2) learning involves the detection and correction of error. Schön, D. A. Encouraging Reflective Practice in Education. [www.infed.org/thinkers/et-schon.htm. He suggests that the movement toward learning systems is, of necessity, ‘a groping and inductive process for which there is no adequate theoretical basis’ (op. Learning can also be social: A social system learns whenever it acquires new capacity for behaviour, and learning may take the form of undirected interaction between systems… [G]overnment as a learning system carries with it the idea of public learning, a special way of acquiring new capacity for behaviour in which government learns for the society as a whole. The description of what he calls Technical Rationality is a pathetic lie: Schon claims that technically rational scientists and engineers first decide on what the results should be, and then set out to obtain them. : 166). Chapter 2: From technical rationality to reflection-in-action. Under the Kennedy administration, he was appointed director of the Institute for Applied Technology in the National Bureau of Standards at the US Department of Commerce (he continued there until 1966). Valli’s sec-ond level, practical decision making, adds reflection to the technical aspects of ... Schön uses the term problematic situationto identify the initial The best professionals, Donald Schön maintains, know more than they can put into words. They are those theories that are implicit in what we do as practitioners and managers, and those on which we call to speak of our actions to others. While he was there he began a very fruitful collaboration with Chris Argyris. The latter requires continuous education; the former makes it possible (1970: 130). Schön, D. A. Hainer, R. M. (1968) ‘Rationalism, pragmatism and existentialism’ in E. Glatt and M. W. Shelly (eds.) We can link this process of thinking on our feet with reflection-on-action. He critiqued ideas that education consisted in the transmission of data. This was followed by two years of service in the U.S. Army. Learning our way out, London: Zed Books. He graduated from Yale in 1951 (Phi Beta Kappa), where he studied philosophy. Consequences: what happens as a result of an action. It may well be that this failure to attend to method and to problematize the production of his models and ideas has also meant that his contribution in this area has been often used in a rather unreflective way by trainers. In Schön's work on the epistemology of the professions, this model of technical rationality implies that ‘professional activity consists in instrumental problem solving made rigorous by the application of scientific theory and technique’ (1983, p. 21). The opening salvo of The Reflective Practitioner (1983) is directed against ‘technical-rationality’ as the grounding of professional knowledge. In R Harrision, F Reeve, A Hanson and J Clarke (eds) Supporting lifelong learning. It was the aim of the society. He believed that the academy’s prevailing institutional paradigm, what Schön called “technical rationality,” stood in conflict with the new scholarship. The focus for his doctoral dissertation (1955) was … An analysis of issues and programs, New York: Teachers College Press. In so doing we develop sets of questions and ideas about our activities and practice. However, what Schön saw as the problem was not undue reliance on applied science, but a more general "positivist epistemology of practice"13 that led precisely to the kind of technical rationality advocated by Simon. While there is a clear emphasis on action being informed, there is less focus on the commitments entailed. A learning system… must be one in which dynamic conservatism operates at such a level and in such a way as to permit change of state without intolerable threat to the essential functions the system fulfils for the self. How can we offer it to children and young people in schools and local organizations? The way societies learn about themselves, and the processes by which they transform themselves, is through politics, and the essence of politics is learning through public deliberation, which is the characteristic of effective learning systems. Thus, he was already showing some of what would be epistemological enduring interests for his inquiry, namely: learning and its cognitive tools, and the role of reflection (or lack of it) in learning processes in general, and conceptual and perceptual change in particular. He was part of the first wave of thinkers around the notion (other key contributors include Robert M. Hutchins 1970; Amitai Etzioni 1968; and Torsten Husen 1974). Problems of choice or decision are solved through the selection, from available means, of the one best ... Donald A. Schön: The reflective practitioner Læring i teams . Usher et. Etzioni, A. (Schön 1983: 138). After graduating, he received the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and continued at Harvard, where he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy. Deconstructing reflective practice as a model of professional knowledge in nursing education, Reflective Practice in Learning Networks: A Critical Pragmatist Perspective. Frame Reflection (Schon and Rein 1994) is concerned with the ways in which intractable policy controversies can be reconciled. Al 1997: 149). The business firm, representing the whole functional system, must now learn to effect the transformation and diffusion of the system as a whole. Donald Alan Schon (1930-1997) trained as a philosopher, but it was his concern with the development of reflective practice and learning systems within organizations and communities for which he is remembered. Schön, D. A. • Schön makes two kinds of critics to the technical rationality: – On the Applicability of … : 168). Schools: rethinking their purposes, practices and principles. In 1953 he began to teach Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles. This is a dimension that we have become rather more aware of following Lave and Wenger’s (1991) exploration of situated learning. What is significant is that Schön presents Simon's theory of design as diametrically the opposite of his own theory of design, which plays up reflection-in-action. This is done later – after the encounter. As we work we can bring fragments of memories into play and begin to build theories and responses that fit the new situation. We are able to draw upon certain routines. Argyris, C. and Schön, D. (1996) Organizational learning II: Theory, method and practice, Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley. During his later years Donald Schon also developed an interest in software design and, in particular, the role of computers in designing, and the uses of design games to expand designing capabilities. Donald Schon became a visiting professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in 1968. Smith, M. K. (1994) Local Education, Buckingham: Open University Press. Practitioners are able to describe how they ‘think on their feet’, and how they make use of a repertoire of images, metaphors and theories. Technical Rationality • Schön presents the reflective practice as a critics to the technical rationality or to the positivist philosophy created by the French philosopher Auguste Comte. http://www.imprint.co.uk/C&HK/vol7/Pakman_foreword.PDF. Chris Argyris and Donald Schon suggested that two theories of action are involved. In 1972, he was appointed Ford Professor of Urban Studies and Education there. On to the 'rough ground': introducing doctoral students to philosophical perspectives on knowledge. Examines the move from technical rationality to reflection-in-action and examines the process involved in various instances of professional judgement. social scientist and consultant examines five professions - engineering, architecture, management, psychotherapy, and town planning - to show how professionals really go about solving problems. It involves looking to our experiences, connecting with our feelings, and attending to our theories in use. Increasing professional effectiveness, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. One way of making sense of this is to say that there is split between theory and action. Single-loop learning is like a thermostat that learns when it is too hot of too cold and turns the heat on or off. (1973) Beyond the Stable State. Any action is likely to impact upon a number of such variables – thus any situation can trigger a trade-off among governing variables. Newman 1999 analysis of Schon’s ‘epistemology of reflective practice’), as far as I know, his work has not been approached in its totality. Donald Schön's theory of reflective practice has received unprecedented attention as an approach to professional development in nursing and other health and social care professions. The familiar situation functions as a precedent, or a metaphor, or… an exemplar for the unfamiliar one. Development of the thinking in the 1983 book with sections on understanding the need for artistry in professional education; the architectural studio as educational model for reflection-in-action; how the reflective practicum works; and implications for improving professional education. Schon’s great innovation at this point was to explore the extent to which companies, social movements and governments were learning systems – and how those systems could be enhanced. Concurrently, he lectured at University of Kansas City as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Schon, D (2002) From technical rationality to reflection in action. Vol. Indeed Donald Schon may well have failed to clarify what is involved in the reflective process – and there is a problem, according to Eraut, around time – ‘when time is extremely short, decisions have to be rapid and the scope for reflection is extremely limited’ (1994: 145). Schon’s central argument was that ‘change’ was a fundamental feature of modern life and that it is necessary to develop social systems that could learn and adapt. 1. The time at MIT was very productive – and he was later to describe the climate of MIT’s Division for Study and Research in Education as especially conducive to thinking and research. 5–8. It may be that his theory of reflective practice is far less ‘critical’ than it appears to be, ‘since it is not directed to its own situated practice of doing theory’ (Usher et. At the same time we have to recognize that the ‘ways of knowing’ offered by the dominant rational/experimental model are severely limited in situations of social change. In public learning, government undertakes a continuing, directed inquiry into the nature, causes and resolution of our problems. Knowledge generation and utilisation in occupational therapy: towards epistemic reflexivity. Schön referred to the application of research-based theory to practice as technical rationality, where university-based technologists generate knowledge for practice-based technicians to apply. What is Reflection? (1985) The design studio: an exploration of its traditions and potentials, London : RIBA Publications for RIBA Building Industry Trust. Interestingly, though, it is difficult to find a sustained exploration of his contribution as a whole. He contrasts classical models of diffusing innovation with a learning system model. The emphasis is on ‘techniques and making techniques more efficient’ (Usher and Bryant: 1989: 87) Any reflection is directed toward making the strategy more effective. An alternative response is to question to governing variables themselves, to subject them to critical scrutiny. cit.). Add to My Bookmarks Export citation. (Donald Schon had been able to work through his ideas with Hainer, and to draw upon, for example, his exploration of pragmatism, rationalism and existentialism [Hainer 1968]). But they oblige it to internalise processes of information flow and sequential innovation which have traditionally been left to the ‘market’ and to the chain reactions within and across industry lines – reactions in which each firm had only to worry about its own response as one component. The unit of innovation is a functional system. (Anderson 1997). In this we can see the significance of networks, flexibility, feedback and organizational transformation. Third, it could be argued that while Donald Schon is engaged here in the generation of formal theory – ‘what we do not find in Schon is a reflection by him on his own textual practice in giving some kind of account of that he does of reflection-in-action and the reflective practicum… He does not interrogate his own method’. The practitioner allows himself to experience surprise, puzzlement, or confusion in a situation which he finds uncertain or unique. And while there is good deal of rhetoric around the notion of the learning society, as Stuart Ranson has convincingly argued, it is Donald Schon’s work on learning systems that still provides the most thorough theoretical treatment. Preview. Schon Shock: a case for refraining reflection‐in‐action? Donald Schon’s third great contribution was to bring ‘reflection’ into the centre of an understanding of what professionals do. Valli (1990, 1997) also refers to the first level as technical rationality but differs by positing that technical rationality is a nonreflective level. © Mark K. Smith First published July 2001. Such a belief is strong and deep, and provides a bulwark against uncertainty. (1933) How We Think, New York: D. C. Heath. Eraut, M. (1994) Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence, London: Falmer. Indeed, there is a very real sense in which his work on reflective practice has become ‘canonical’ – frequently appealed to by trainers in a variety of professional fields (Usher et . Schön, D. A. Significantly, he was also an accomplished pianist and clarinettist – playing in both jazz and chamber groups. Donald Schon’s later work with Martin Rein around frame reflection does attend to some matters of public deliberation – but the broad line of argument made by Stuart Ranson here would seem to stand. However, we can draw on what has gone before. His first book, Displacement of Concepts (1963) (republished in 1967 as Invention and the Evolution of Ideas) dealt with ‘the ways in which categories are used to examine “things” but are not themselves examined as ways of thinking’ (Parlett 1991, quoted in Pakman 2000). Double-loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that involve the modification of an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives. People draw upon the processes, experiences and understandings generated through reflection on action. Despite his admiration for Boyer, Schön was not enthusiastic about the prospects for change in higher education. We have to think things through, for every case is unique. In this process, they identify both the ends to be sought and the means to be employed. Donald Schon was born in Boston in 1930 and raised in Brookline and Worcester. 1997: 143). Although technical rationality greatly assists the management of professional organisations through the application of general theoretical principles that apply to specific problems, the standardisation that emerges from this process does not teach to engage in the ‘spontaneous, intuitive performance of everyday life’ (Schön, 1983, p. 49). He was invited to give the 1970 Reith Lectures in London. A firm is: … an internal learning system in which the system’s interactions… must now become a matter of directed transformation of the whole system. Semantic Scholar is a free, AI-powered research tool for scientific literature, based at the Allen Institute for AI. It is here that the full importance of reflection-on-action becomes revealed. Type Chapter Page start 21 Page end 69 Is part of Book Title The Reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action Author(s) Donald A. Schön Date 1995 Publisher Ashgate ISBN-10 1857423194. Donald Schön's theory of reflective practice has received unprecedented attention as an approach to professional development in nursing and other health and social care professions. Page end 69 Is part of Book Title The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action Author(s) Donald A. Schön Date 1991 Publisher Basic Books Pub place New York ISBN-13 9780786725366. The notion of double-loop learning adds considerably to our appreciation of experiential learning. Hence, there is a need for From technical rationality to reflection-in action. Schön, D. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner , San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. of technical rationality and that such a view was insufficient. al. : 168). When they came to explore the nature of organizational learning Chris Argyris and Donald Schon (1978: 2-3) described the process as follows: When the error detected and corrected permits the organization to carry on its present policies or achieve its presents objectives, then that error-and-correction process is single-loop learning. Such learning may then lead to an alteration in the governing variables and, thus, a shift in the way in which strategies and consequences are framed. When a practitioner makes sense of a situation he perceives to be unique, he sees it as something already present in his repertoire. This paper examines technical rationality in Schön's theory of reflective practice and argues that its critique is a broad and often overlooked epistemological underpinning in this work. The need for public learning carries with it the need for a second kind of learning. These can be both intended – those actor believe will result – and unintended. As such they have suffered from being approached in ways that would have troubled Donald Schon. From 1990-92, he served as chair of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Case studies in and on educational practice, New York: Teachers Press, Columbia University. (Schon 1973: 57). The Research Society, New York: Gordon and Breach. cit.). Donald Schon argues that social systems must learn to become capable of transforming themselves without intolerable disruption. How to cite this piece: Smith, M. K. (2001, 2011). Evolving message; family resemblance of messages. Second, they give a new twist to pragmatic learning theory: Unlike Dewey’s, Lewin’s or Kolb’s learning cycle, where one had, so to speak, to make a mistake and reflect upon it… it is now possible… to learn by simply reflecting critically upon the theory-in-action. Landmark statement of ‘double-loop’ learning’ and distinction between espoused theory and theory-in-action. Schön’s notion of reflective practice was a reaction against an instrumental notion of teaching where the teacher is a technici an implementing others’ knowledge in practice – it is a rejection of technical rationality for reflectivity. He sought to offer an approach to an epistemology of practice based on a close examination of what a (small) number of different practitioners actually do. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure for our own lifetimes. Schön, D. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Schon, D (2002) From technical rationality to reflection in action. Relatively stable message; pattern of replication of a central message. What is the nature of the process by which organizations, institutions and societies transform themselves? Newman, S. (1999) Philosophy and Teacher Education: A Reinterpretation of Donald A. Schon’s Epistemology of Reflective Practice, London: Avebury, Pakman, M. (2000) ‘Thematic Foreword: Reflective Practices: The Legacy Of Donald Schön’, Cybernetics & Human Knowing, Vol.7, no.2-3, 2000, pp. Indeed, Stewart Ranson (1998: 2) describes Donald Schon as ‘the great theorist of the learning society’. When looking at a situation we are influenced by, and use, what has gone before, what might come, our repertoire, and our frame of reference. There is a clear relationship between reflection in and on action. This was an important distinction and is very helpful when exploring questions around professional and organizational practice (see Chris Argyris and theories of action for a full treatment of this area). Acknowledgement: The picture of The Reflective Practitioner is by .nele and is reproduced here under a Creative Commons licence (Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic) – flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/snenad/3644579768/). Argyris, M. and Schön, D. (1974) Theory in Practice. Being able to reproduce codified knowledge was no … On this page we review his achievements and focus on three elements of his thinking: learning systems (and learning societies and institutions); double-loop and organizational learning (arising out of his collaboration with Chris Argyris); and the relationship of reflection-in-action to professional activity. (Schon 1973: 75). However, what we also must hold in view is some sense of what might make for the good (see Smith 1994: 142-145). What is sanctuary? Taken together with his work on design and upon the ‘resolution of intractable policy controversies’ via ‘frame reflection’ this is a remarkable catalogue of achievements. Two key themes arise out of Donald Schon’s discussion of learning systems: the emergence of functional systems as the units around which institutions define themselves; and the decline of centre-periphery models of institutional activity (ibid. Like Simon, Donald Schön leveled a severe criticism against profes-sional training in the United States after World War II. However, Schön points out, “Increasingly we have become aware of the importance of complexity, uncertainty, instability, uniqueness, and value conflict, which do not fit the model of Technical Rationality. Address to the 1987 meeting of the American Educational Research Association. London: Routledge/ Open University Press . Throughout the research, particular attention is given to Schön’s conceptual term, “technical rationality”, which, as a phenomenon reflects instances where action flows from the basis of a preset thought-model. Like the spokesperson on the automobile commercial, Schön proclaims, “This changes everything!” That belief is clearly reflected in the title of an article written by Schön and published in Change magazine, “The New Scholarship (1997: 143) sum up well the crisis he identifies. Working from 1957-63 as senior staff member in the industrial research firm Arthur D. Little, Inc., Donald Schon formed the New Product Group in the Research and Development Division. This item appears on. Husén, T. (1974) The Learning Society, London: Methuen. technical rationality Scho, n argues ha, s led to an undervaluin ogf the practical knowledge o f action tha its central to the work of practitioners Thi. In other words what he tends to look at is the process of framing and the impact of frame-making on situations: As [inquirers] frame the problem of the situation, they determine the features to which they will attend, the order they will attempt to impose on the situation, the directions in which they will try to change it. It is in this context that Schön, D. A. (Schon 1973: 109). What demands are made on a person who engages in this kind of learning? CLINICAL LAW REVIEW of these are passing references, 4 although sometimes a significant part of an article's direction appears to have been influenced by Sch6n's thinking.5 So many law school teachers have been Sch6n fans for so long that for the 1992 annual meeting of the Association of American In many respects, Donald Schon is using a distinction here that would have been familiar to Aristotle – between the technical (productive) and the practical. He looked to ancient Athens for a model. The act of reflecting-on-action enables us to spend time exploring why we acted as we did, what was happening in a group and so on. The unit of innovation is a product or technique. A leading M.I.T. The picture of Donald Schon is reproduced here according to the terms of the Free Art Licence and sourced from Wikipedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donald_schon_pic.jpg. However, it remains very suggestive – and for has some very real echoes in people’s accounts of their processes as ‘professionals’. In this way we engage with a situation. Hutchins, R. M. (1970) The Learning Society, Harmondsworth: Penguin. The Reflective Turn. Eisner, E. W. (1985) The Art of Educational Evaluation. From Technical Rationality to Reflection in Action . public and private learning and the learning society, the reflective practitioner – reflection-in- and –on-action, http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/sawd/arr/argyris.html, http://www.imprint.co.uk/C&HK/vol7/Pakman_foreword.PDF, Schön – Educating the reflective practitioner, http://www.flickr.com/photos/snenad/3644579768/, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donald_schon_pic.jpg, Social action, social change and social reform. Add to My Bookmarks Export citation. Exhibit 1: Donald Schon on learning and the loss of the stable state. ‘Donald Schön: learning, reflection and change’, The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education. (See Chris Argyris and double-loop learning). Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. al. This paper examines technical rationality in Schön’s theory of reflective practice and argues that its critique is a broad and often overlooked epistemological underpinning in this work. (Schön 1983: 68). As we think and act, questions arise that cannot be answered in the present. He later became Ford Professor Emeritus and senior lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning. Was available at http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/sawd/arr/argyris.html. In many respects, we could not ask for a better rationale for Peter Senge’s later championship of the Fifth Discipline (systemic thinking) in the generation of learning organizations. Schön (1987) defined technical rationality as holding that practitioners are instrumental problem solvers, The pattern of diffusion is centre-periphery. The lost path to emancipatory practice: towards a history of reflective practice in nursing. He then co-founded and directed OSTI (Organization for Social and Technological Innovation), a non-profit social research and development firm in the Boston area (he left the directorship in 1973). This involves the way they plan, implement and review their actions. Finger, M. and Asún, M. (2000) Adult Education at the Crossroads. It is ‘the dominant paradigm which has failed to resolve the dilemma of rigour versus relevance confronting professionals’. What is interesting to me is the part about how the technical rationality often leads to the "mystique of technical expertise", the sort of wizardry some folks impose on others, showing that "they know (and you don't)". cit). There: education was not a segregated activity, conducted for certain hours, in certain places, at a certain time of life. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation. Donald Schon, they claim, looks to an alternative epistemology of practice ‘in which the knowledge inherent in practice is be understood as artful doing’ (op. Belief in the stable state, he suggests, is belief in ‘the unchangeability, the constancy of central aspects of our lives, or belief that we can attain such a constancy’ (Schon 1973: 9). Schön develops many of the themes that were to be such a significant part of his collaboration with Chris Argyris and his exploration of reflective practice. Pays great dividends the idea of repertoire is a key aspect of this approach too... 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