Reflection in Action

Recently I had the experience of co-facilitating a group along with a very experienced and skillful facilitator. I found that my response time was lagging, and that she would often jump in to the group discussion before I had formulated my question or comment to the group. I talked to her about the 30-second-delay I was experiencing, and she said that she used to have a 5-minute delay! She had attained her swiftness in response to the group by what Donald Schoen calls “Reflection-in-Action”. In his book, The Reflective Pracitioner¬†(1983) Schoen describes how through a feedback loop of experience, learning and practice, we can continually improve our work and become a ‘reflective practitioner’. The skilled facilitator was improvising, much like Schoen wrote about conversation, “In a good conversation–in some respects predictable and in others not–participants pick up and develop themes of talk, each spinning out variations on her repertoire of things to say. Conversation is collective verbal improvisation. At times it falls into conventional routines…which develop according to a pace and rhythm of interaction that the participants seem, without conscious deliberation, to work out in common within the framework of an evolving division of labor. At other times there may be surprises, unexpected turns of phrase or directions of development to which participants invent on-the-spot responses.”