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Knowing-in-action

October 20, 2011

“A professional practitioner is a specialist who encounters certain types of situations again and again.  As a practitioner experiences many variations of a small number of types of cases, he is able to ‘practise’ his practice.  He develops a repertoire of expectations, images and techniques. He learns what to look for and how to respond to what he finds.  As long as his practice is stable, in the sense that it brings him the same types of cases, he becomes less and less subject to surprise. …As a practice becomes more repetitive and routine, and as knowing-in-practice becomes increasingly tacit and spontaneous, the practitioner may miss important opportunities to think about what he is doing. He may find that he is drawn into patterns of error which he cannot correct. And if he learns, as often happens, to be selectively inattentive to phenomena that do not fit the categories of this knowing-in-action, then he may suffer from boredom….”

p6 Schön, D. (2002) ‘Reflection-in-action’ in A. Pollard (Ed.), Readings in Reflective Practice (pp5-7) London: Continuum.

He continues, p7, “when this happens, the practitioner has ‘over-learned’ what he knows. A practitioner’s reflection can serve as a corrective to over-learning.”  Schön then sets about depicting a way out of this situation (through reflective practice-in-action): “…Conscious of a dilemma, he may attribute it to the way in which he has set the problem, or even to the way in which he has framed his role.  He may then find a way of integrating or choosing among the values at stake in the situation.”

“Knowing-in-action,” incidentally is defined by Schön as “the characteristic mode of ordinary practical knowledge”

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