On reflection

24th March 2000 at 00:00

This book, like many others, follows Donald Schon's inspiring Reflective Practitioner (1983). It was clear then that teachers could no longer claim immunity from public inspection.

To examine why they did not follow an immutable plan of action, Schon explored how professionals "think in action", reflecting on what they were doing and the results they were obtaining, while doing it.

This approach has some awkward features. The first is a classic chicken-and-egg problem in teacher apprenticeship. How could students learn to carry out this reflection before achieving the necessary tacit knowledge of what is going on in the classroom?

The book's cast are six pimary science teachers on a professional development course, plus their tutor - the author. Many would agree with his feeling that the procedures foisted on modern classroom teachers are cruelly at odds with a vision of reflective practice.

Ovens chooses Schon's way of developing the teachers' practice along with theory. He tries only to be a "facilitator" who encourages the teachers to reflect. Some felt frustrated by this, but most did reflect and change, at least to some extent.

Ovens gives a meticulous account of the teachers' progress, together with a commentary on his own reactions, and shows that the problems of applying Schon's ideas have yet to be resolved.

Joan Solomon is professor of science education at the Open University.

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