Reflective practice (Schön, 1983) is seen in almost, if not all, professions as something which enhances professional practice. It helps professionals understand problems encountered in their practice from others’ perspectives (Ferry and Ross-Gordon, 1998; Yanow and Tsoukas, 2009; Kilminster, Zukas, Bradbury and Frost, 2010). It encourages professionals to question what they know and thus expand their knowledge (Betts, 2004). It enables a professional to look more deeply at what they do.
Practitioner inquiry (Andersen and Herr, 1999) is a step up from reflective practice, particularly in that it involves making explicit the assumptions that underpin one’s practice so that these can also be reflected upon. This form of reflective practice, along with the rigour of an investigation, helps a professional to not only become aware of their practice but to devise ways in which their practice can be improved. Often practitioner investigation involves understanding of what counts as ‘good’ in a particular practice and what therefore will enable the practice to become ‘better’.
Research supervision practice has for some time emphasised the value of reflective practice. It is a practice filled with rich traditions but as one that is also seen as a private or hidden practice (Manatunga, 2005). It can benefit from the illumination through focussed reflective practice as well as structured practitioner inquiry. Since the mid1980s there has been a growing agenda in the higher education literature to examine research supervision practices with a view to helping professionals become much more aware of the professional choices they make in undertaking research supervision. Such agendas also enable research supervisors to address institutional requirements for their own professional development.
When groups of professionals come together to explore a common practice this has come to be known as a Community of Practice (Wenger, 2000) and has the benefit for practitioner inquiry of generating conversations between professionals as well as valuing and affirming the knowledge that each professional has about their practice.
Anderson, G. and Herr. K. (1999). The New Paradigm Wars: Is there room for rigorous practitioner knowledge in Schools and Universities? Educational Researcher, 28(5), 12-21.
Betts, J. (2004). Theology, therapy or picket line? What’s the ‘good’ of reflective practice in management education?, Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 5(2), 239-251.
Ferry, N. and Ross-Gordon, J. (1998). An inquiry into Schön’s epistemology of practice: exploring links between experience and reflective practice. Adult Education Quarterly, 48(2), 98-112.
Kilminster, S., Zukas, M., Bradbury, H. and Frost, N. (2010). Introduction and overview in Bradbury, H., Frost, N. Kilminster, S. and Zukas, M.(Eds) Beyond Reflective Practice: New approaches to professional lifelong learning. Routledge: New York, U.S.A., 1-9.
Manatunga, C. (2005) The Development of Research Supervision: ‘Turning a light on a private space’, International Journal for Academic Development, 10(1), 17-30.
Schön, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action. Basic Books. U.S.A.
Yanow, D. and Tsoukas, H. (2009). What is reflection-in-action? A phenomenological account. Journal of Management Studies, 46(8), 1339-1364.
Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization, 7(2), 225–246.