Carrie Watkins

Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Building a Community of Reflective Practitioners: A Reflection-in-Action with MIT DUSP

In 1983, MIT Professor Donald Schön published The Reflective Practitioner. In this book, he challenged the prevailing view of professional practice, which he understood as linked to the positivist practice of technical rationality.  He called on educational institutions to instead train professionals to be reflective practitioners - to practice reflection-in and on-action. In this thesis, I set out to explore the curious dynamics that shape MIT DUSP’s relationship with reflective practice. This thesis is my reflection-in-action, the pursuit of knowledge through active intervention.  I worked with Professor Ceasar McDowell this Spring to facilitate reflective sessions for practicum classes, and through observation, surveys, and interviews, I studied the reflections’ effects on class learning and effectiveness and on how students and faculty value and understand reflection.

I found that, while successful and innovative reflective practices can be found throughout DUSP, a large gap exists between the high value of reflective practice faculty and students espouse and the efforts individuals and the department as a whole actually take to train and incorporate reflective practice. This process uncovered insights that I wove into a set of recommendations for closing this gap between espoused theory and theory-in-use.

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