Reflecting on Reflection and Practice: In it or on it?
May 5 , Noon – 1:30p.m.
Social Ecology I Room 306
“There is nothing so practical as a good theory.”
— Kurt Lewin (ca. 1946)
“How d’ ya get to Carnegie Hall?”
How does an administrator or a manager know how to do what she does? Most likely, she was not born knowing whatever this knowledge (know-how? know-that?) is. How did she come by it?
The act of reflectivity or reflexivity has come, in certain areas of “practice studies,” to play a central role in theorizing about learning and about knowing as aspects of work practices. And yet there seems to be some lack of clarity concerning the character of the relationship between “reflecting” and “practicing” in the context of work: is the relationship one of reflecting on practice, or is it a matter of reflecting in practice — or is there no difference between the two? I will argue that there is a difference, and that understanding the difference is of central importance to understanding something about the character of organizational learning and other management practices. This paper is situated in the context of collective approaches to organizational learning. It is intended to be a theoretical contribution, but one informed by empirical research that serves here to illustrate the theoretical argument.
Dvora Yanow (Ph.D., 1982, Planning, Policy, and Organizational Studies, M.I.T., Department of Urban Studies and Planning) teaches and conducts research in two substantive areas, public policy and organizational studies, as well as in the philosophy of social science and interpretive research methods.
An organizational and policy anthropologist, her research focuses on interpretive approaches to policy and organizational analysis, guided by an overall interest in the communication of meaning in policy and organizational settings. In a policy context she is particularly interested in immigration and race-ethnic related policies. In organizational studies, she has focused on organizational learning (from a collective, practice-based perspective), organizational culture, and organizational diagnosis.
Her books include How Does a Policy Mean? Interpreting Policy and Organizational Actions (Georgetown University Press, 1996); Conducting Interpretive Policy Analysis (Sage, 2000); and Constructing “Race” and “Ethnicity” in America: Category-making in Public Policy and Administration (M. E. Sharpe, 2003. winner of the first “Best Book” prize awarded by the Section on Public Administration Research of the American Society for Public Administration), and the co-edited Knowing in Practice (M.E. Sharpe, 2003) and Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the “Interpretive Turn,” co-edited with Peregrine Schwartz-Shea (ME Sharpe, forthcoming).