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The Reflective Practice model

Implementation of Reflective Practice model



Recording Template

Mental Model of Learning Contract (LC)



This paper will present the development of my own theory through the Reflective Practice model and the theory applied in practice. By studying the work of action researchers I have developed a model logically explaining my practice process whilst combining all stages that are evident in my practice. I will introduce the recording template (RT) used to record the work I do within the model.

Fig. 1 Model of design process in practice

design practice model

Schon states that ‘Reflection-in-action is a process we can deliver without being able to say what we are doing’1. However, the importance of reflecting on our action is that it ‘may indirectly shape our future action’ 2. I feel that in practice this does occur, either directly or indirectly, and our previous actions do effect our consequent actions.

McKernan and McNiff introduce the various key people who have formulated the thinking behind action research and their models. McKernan states that, ‘…by researching our work we become different and better professionals’ and that ‘…practices are embedded in rules that can be tacitly followed as opposed to explicitly applied’. 3  By ‘research’ McKernan means, ‘ One attempts to tell the story by collating evidence from the day-to-day life of the project in action’4 .

diagram of the relationship between the model and the relationship between the model and the research tools

Fig. 2 Model describing relationships of research tools to the Reflective Practice model

An RT is required to collate this evidence forming a framework from which we will annotate the project’s life cycle. This reflection will bring about a direct interface with the learning contract (LC) objectives and help shape and control the project as it occurs. Alongside the RT, a daily journal will also be kept and all the notes of communication from peers logged and referred back to. This triangulation of data, will allow me to gain a sense of perspective towards my research. The different evidence will qualify a more balanced view of events.

McNiff outlines the relationship between research and practice most succinctly: ‘The process of research becomes the practice, and because we are involved in a research process of thinking, evaluating and acting, the practice is a form of research.’5

Therefore, from the basic premise of planning, acting, observing and reflecting, this is the framework on which the model will be built.

The Reflective Practice model

I have illustrated the model in two ways. Fig. 1 describes a work process relationship with the model; the core of the model clearly fits within the process of my design management. Each stage translates itself to a box within my RT. This allows me to see instantly where in the process I am, and also how the LC can feed into this process of reflecting in action.

It is important to note that these documents are not just concerned with the outcome of tasks; they are very much dominated by the elements of my LC and the development of my professional self.

Fig. 3 Model of process (theory)

Model of the design process in theory

Fig. 3 explains this further stating the relationship between the process, the RT and my LC. The LC and the process appear separated but the RT unites the two, enabling simultaneous reflection on the job in hand whilst bringing in the aspirations of the LC on the same page.

I have purposefully decided to keep the model simple as the development of it coincided with reading McNiff. She states, ‘...the models are not necessarily representative of the realities practitioners will face’6. Although this is true it is worth noting that some processes must be followed to ensure delivery, yet within these deviations will occur and cyclical patterns may emerge.

To complicate it with offshoots would only dilute conveying the message of the model. The ‘…generative transformational nature of organic systems’7 are always present in the domain of creativity but within this McNiff states, ‘It is possible to address multiple issues while still maintaining a focus on one’8. Indeed this model, in combination with the RT, allows multiple issues (from the LC) to be thought about whilst the focus is on the process, the model and the job in hand. Personal development and motivation (and all the issues within the LC) are balanced with the project objectives in the process model.

Implementation of Reflective Practice Model

On a daily basis the RT becomes the embodiment of the model; if I follow the template the model is adhered to. However, at any point a step could be skipped, or reflected on to impact something else. At these moments the model may change, the demands of the project breaking or re-inventing the configuration. Therefore, the model is a way of explaining what is involved in my practice but it only follows the theoretical path of an ideal scenario.

It could be argued that as soon as the model is committed to paper, the cycle has a rigidity that is not in evidence in my working practice. The working model is a fluid and flexible way of figuring out design problems and ensuring that they are resolved. The re-framing of the problem occurs within this model but its solution is not dependent on strict compliance of this process. It is a living, working model that is susceptible to the chaotic changes of creativity that regularly produces diversions. It allows interaction with my LC and constant critical review of my working practices.


This continuous critical review, always with the LC prevalent, allows me to expand my capabilities. I am rigorous in my approach at planning a project; I look at outcomes and aims, the purpose of the work. I search for clarity and detail in the brief, I re-frame a problem and am happy to break the model or skip a stage if the work is improved and the aim can still be met.

The delivery is not the end of the cycle. Reflection carries over and feeds into the planning stage of other work, sometimes after the event but also simultaneously. There is overlap and integration of ideas. Solutions are increasingly shared across the studio and new approaches are held up as working successes.

The model allows me to be focused on details whilst appreciating the overall scope of the work and its business implications. I feel much more confident as reflection in action enables me to engage with projects critically and rigorously, determining direction as the project develops. I feel energised and pro-active, (contributing, directing and analysing) and feel that the tools I have discovered are now readily obtainable to benefit the studio and the business.




Jean McNiff

Action Research, Principles and Practice

2nd Edition, 2006

Routledge Farmer


Donald Shon,

Educating the Reflective Practitioner



James McKernan,


Curriculum Action Research

1996 (2nd Edition)

Routledge Farmer

Cal Swann,


Action Research and the Practice of Design


Design Issues: Vol 18 Number 2


Rizal Sebastian

The Interface between Design and Management

Winter 2005

Design Issues, Vol 21. Number 1


Ortrunn Zuber-Skeritt,

Action Research in Higher Education


Kogen Page


Jean McNiff,

Action research for professional development

Conscise advice for new action researchers



Bob Dick,

A beginner’s guide to action research

[online] 2000,



Donald Shon,

Educating the Reflective Practitioner




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1 Educating the Reflective Practitioner, 31,Donald Shon, 1988

2 Educating the Reflective Practitioner, 31,Donald Shon, 1988

3 Curriculum Action Research, 255, James McKernan, 1996 (2nd Edition)

4 Curriculum Action Research, 215, James McKernan, 1996 (2nd Edition)

5 Action Research, principles and Practice, 36, Jean McNiff, 2005 (2nd Edition)

6 Action Research, principles and Practice, 52, Jean McNiff, 2005 (2nd Edition)

7 Action Research, principles and Practice, 56, Jean McNiff, 2005 (2nd Edition)

8 Action Research, principles and Practice, 56, Jean McNiff, 2005 (2nd Edition)

Recording Template

recording template

Mental Model of Learning Contract

mental model

‘The Psychic Fish Nappy Trains’.
Sketch of mental model that helped me visualise the key areas of my LC.