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Technical rationality in Schön’s reflective practice: dichotomous or non-dualistic epistemological position

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Donald Schön’s theory of reflective practice has received unprecedented attention as an approach to professional development in nursing and other health and social care professions. This paper examines technical rationality in Schön’s theory of reflective practice and argues that its critique is a broad and often overlooked epistemological underpinning in this work. This paper suggests that the popularity of Schön’s theory is tied in part to his critique of technical rationality, and to his acknowledgement of the significance of practitioner experience and indeterminate zones of practice in the development of expertise. Schön tapped into a growing disillusionment with technical rationality that coincided with a crisis of knowledge across a range of disciplines. The question is raised as to whether Schön’s critique sets up a dichotomy between technical rationality and experience, or overcomes it. The conclusions suggest that Schön is not discarding research-based professional knowledge, but rather challenging conflated views of its practical significance. In this way, it is proposed that his critique of technical rationality can be interpreted as an attempt to overcome dualistic thinking as it pertains to professional knowledge.
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Keywords: Donald Schön; epistemology; professional knowledge; reflective practice; technical rationality

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-04-01

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