Reflective practice
What is reflective practice?
Donald Schön, in his book The Reflective Practitioner (1983), described reflective practice as “the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning”. This concept centres around the idea of life-long learning where a practitioner analyses experiences in order to learn from them. Reflective practice is used to promote independent professionals who are continuously engaged in the reflection of situations they encounter in their professional worlds. The act of reflection is a great way to increase confidence and become a more proactive and qualified practitioner by closing the gap between theory and practice.

Another key writer on the subject, Graham Gibb, described the process of reflective practice in his book Learning by Doing (1988), as a cycle involving six steps:

▪ Description – what happened?
▪ Feelings – what did you think and feel about it?
▪ Evaluation – what were the positives and negatives?
▪ Analysis – what sense can you make of it?
▪ Conclusion – what else could you have done?
▪ Action Plan – what will you do next time?

It is a ‘cycle’ because the action taken in the final stage should feed back into the first stage, beginning the process again.

The use of reflective practice in design education
The appeal of the use of reflective practice for teachers of design and their students is that, as the processes of design are complex, and there is not necessarily one right approach, reflecting on different versions of the designing activity, and reshaping past and current experiences, will lead to improvement in future practice. Working in this reflective way allows students to take control of their learning and development as a designer and to make changes in their practice that will develop their overall ability. Effective reflection requires students to be open-minded and to examine, question and assess their own practice, so as to develop their skills and knowledge.

We decided to harness this exceptionally useful activity for design students and embed the practice into each project and module assessment, not only to enhance their learning experience but also to help prepare them for the professional world they are about to encounter.

Students are asked to undertake reflective practice at various points during the project and module cycles, which build, step-by-step, into a visual and written personal development resource:

• Daily, by uploading that day’s design activity, as a diary entry, to their own blog. More about these blogs can be found here.

• At the conclusion of projects, by completing a self-evaluation document about the individual project. More about these evaluations can be found here.

• At the conclusion of a module, by completing a self-evaluation document and PDF portfolio about the module. More about these evaluations can be found here.

The cycle of reflective practice

diagram of reflective practice cycle
link to katie roberts' blog
link to project evaluation