It has been a long while since I posted here… strange how days,weeks, and months quickly disappear…but I continue to think about the issue of reflective practice. When I last posted, I was writing about ways to make reflection in action more explicit and obvious. I am still thinking on that, not having come to a firm conclusion or resolution. However, in the mean time, another idea has arisen.
Recently, I have been reading some things by R. Keith Sawyer about collaboration and improvisation. At first glance, one assumes that improvisation is an open-ended, ill-structured situation. Sawyers argues that there is a structure and form within domains of improvisation. In Improv theatre, the actors share common understandings of themes and things like a narrative arc that become mediating tools that support their collaborative act. Therefore, improvisation is not a free-for-all, letting each individual diverge down an independent path. The form or structure arises from the shared knowledge of the participants. More important here is that the improvisation is a responsive activity in which participants must perceive, acknowledge, and act in response to the on-going storyline and the other actors. This sounds in some form similar to my thinking about reflection in action.
However, as I think back on the premise of improvisation being based on shared knowledge and understanding, I wonder whether my relationship to reflection in action holds. Or rather, whether it holds for novices. Clearly an expert has knowledge and understanding that make reflection in action somewhat synonymous with improvisation. But, novices do not always enter contexts with that level of knowledge. Yet, I would maintain that they act in the context, in response to the feedback from the participants in that context. Thus, the question is, can a novice improvise? Furthermore, is it warranted to improvise based on limited knowledge?
Another issue that I am trying to resolve in correlating Improvisation and Reflection is the analogical reasoning that I used in prior posts. That idea about reflection and refraction, based on scientific ideas and explanations, was productive in thinking about the activity. However, with improvisation there is not a predictable outcome. Physical science typically relies on the belief that causal reasoning is effective for explaining most phenomena in the world. However, this notion of improvisation begins to crack open that analogy to reveal its limitations. I guess this gives me more to consider.