Reflective practitioner

<-- Back to the quality model

The Quality Model is based around the notion of reflective practice, in this case of the teacher/facilitator who is engaged in an iterative cycle of reflection for, in and on action. This notion draws on the work of Donald Schön (1983) who developed the idea of the reflective practitioner which essentially relates to the ways in which practitioners think about and enhance their practice. Schön paid particular attention to the idea of reflection in action, reflection in the moment of doing:

“The practitioner allows himself to experience surprise, puzzlement, or confusion in a situation which he finds uncertain or unique. He reflects on the phenomenon before him, and on the prior understandings which have been implicit in his behaviour. He carries out an experiment which serves to generate both a new understanding of the phenomenon and a change in the situation.” (Schön 1983: 68)

Reflecting-on-action (a related concept) allows the practitioner to consider how the act of ‘responsive thinking’ or ‘thinking on one’s feet' (Smith 2001) informs understanding of practice. Here this notion is incorporated into the cycle of monitoring and evaluation. Further to this the idea of reflection-for-action was introduced (McAlpine et al 1999) which corresponds in the model described here to the iterative cycle of planning and adaptation.

Case study example

Intercultural communication: adding cognitive and experiential dimensions, University of Southern Denmark

This case study evaluates student responses both during and after classes which formed part of a new approach to teaching intercultural communication skills through the use of simulations. These were carried out in multicultural groups (assigned by the teacher) and developed in response to a lack of cross-cultural interaction and an over-emphasis on theory (rather than experience/attitudes) in a previous version of the course. Observations from the classroom, and also during coffee breaks, revealed changes in behaviour in terms of greater interaction between different cultural groups, which included international students, as the course progressed. However, there was an incident when students left the classroom during the coffee break apparently because there were to be simulations after the break. This apparent negative event was turned positively around in discussions after the performances when notions of discomfort and ambiguity with new or anxiety-provoking situations (which presumably lay behind the observed student behaviour) could be given expression.

Download the full version: Download (pdf)


McAlpine L., Weston C., Beauchamp J., Wiseman C. & Beauchamp C. (1999). ‘Building a metacognitive model of reflection’ in Higher Education 37: 105–131, 1999. Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers

Schön, D. A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action London: Temple Smith

Smith, M. (2001) donald schon (schön): learning, reflection and change (accessed at, last updated 2009)

<-- Back to the quality model

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

european project logos