Reflective Practice – Schon

Reflection is vital for anyone within a professional role, and Schon’s concept of reflective practice is another method of practicing reflection that was introduced in 1987. The model has three versions of reflective practice that are compared together, and involves the insight of other, more experienced professionals (such as managers or mentors) so that the user not only gains an understanding from their own perspective, but from the perspectives of others that may have even more to contribute.

Schon also notes that the term ‘reflective practice’ is different to ‘reflection’, in that reflective practice is a skill that can be used to apply new methods and perspectives to working practices to gain progression and improvement, rather than just gain an understanding, which is what reflection does generally.


Schon describes ‘intuitive reflection’, which is basically being able to converse with yourself intuitively to reflect on situations and experiences. This method requires a good level of objectivity and self-awareness in order to work effectively, but allows the user to explore the thoughts within their own mind on a deeper scale, and bring about new ideas from these. This would not generally involve other professionals.


Image sourced from Lifelong Learning With OT


The first type of reflection is called ‘reflection-on-action’. This is a type of reflection that happens post-experience, and involves analysing what happened during the experience, and what the user would consider doing differently if faced with the situation again. The information gained from this type of reflection can be used to process the feelings and actions of the user, to ensure that their performance improves in the future. This is a good type of reflective practice for involving other professionals, such as in meetings or supervisions after the experience.

‘Reflection-in-action’ is the second type of reflection, which is where the reflection happens during the actual event. This type of reflection will generally occur when an experience happens unexpectedly, and requires the user to decide how to act at the time, resulting in the chosen action happening immediately. Again, professionals can be involved in this type of reflection, although they would have to be present at the time.


There are several positives to Schon’s model. The first is that it allows several method of reflective practice, which can suit different situations. Many reflective practices occur after the experience, and so the idea of ‘reflection-in-action’ can be very useful to practitioners who want to problem-solve and improve during their own experiences, rather than just afterwards. This is especially useful in careers appointments with vulnerable or disengaged students, where the careers advisor may be unable to arrange another meeting with them.

Another positive is that the methods really give the user a better understanding of their own working style, by incorporating other professionals. As well as learning from themselves intuitively, users can also gain a lot of knowledge from sharing their experience with others and then receiving feedback. This means that the model can really help to benefit someone practically, as they can then apply this knowledge and understanding to their own practice.


However, a drawback of the model is that is doesn’t take emotions into account. Although one could use their initiative and quite easily take account of emotions whilst reflecting (particularly during ‘reflection-on-action’), emotions aren’t implicitly mentioned during the other two types of reflections. For some users it might be all too easy to avoid taking their feelings into account (either because they forget, or they purposely don’t do it), and so valuable information could avoid being extracted here.


To incorporate this model into your practice, it is wise to bring it up with your manager or another colleague during a meeting or review. Once your colleagues are aware then they will be able to aid this method of reflective practice so that you can get the most out of it. Remember that constructive criticism is one of the most beneficial ways of learning when used correctly, so make sure to try this!


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