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Extension > Family Matters > Reflecting on Our ‘Artistry of Practice’

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reflecting on Our ‘Artistry of Practice’

By Mary Marczak, Research and Evaluation Specialist

Mary Marczak
A recent conversation with my mother made me laugh. A devout Catholic who attends church twice a week, she told me rather derisively about “Catholic CEO’s.” She didn’t mean the ones who run major companies — she was talking about the “Christmas and Easter Only” churchgoers! Easter, which is this coming Sunday, April 5, is considered the holiest day on the Christian calendar — explaining the 30 percent or so increase in church attendance that day.

The arrival of Easter also marks the end of Lent — the 40 days leading up to Easter when Christians reflect on past actions and ways of being. This act of reflection prepares them to renew their covenant (a contract or promise) at Easter to act in ways that brings them closer to God.

This talk of Lent and Easter with my mother made me wonder what would happen if we, in FD, set aside a few minutes every day for 40 days to reflect on our practice, delivery, and interactions with families and communities.

Many of us in FD have discussed concepts of reflective practice in the past. I really enjoy talking about ideas from Donald Schön’s book, Educating the Reflective Practitioner. The book was published nearly 30 years ago, but it’s still considered a classic!

Schön argues that “a core of artistry” is embedded in skillful practice, calling for artistry in practice around problem framing, implementation, and improvisation (adaptation). “Learning the artistry of skillful practice lies at the heart of reflective practice,” he writes.

For Schön, learning the artistry of skillful practice assumes learning is an iterative process of reflection on experience, which leads to the formulation or rethinking of ideas that are then tested in action. He believes that dialogue is critical to learning from experience through reflection, and he suggests dialogue with people such as experts in your field, experienced and inexperienced colleagues from diverse disciplines, and participants in your programs. It is in conversation with others, he says, that “ideas are challenged, new approaches and perspectives are encountered, and notions of what is possible and what is ‘good practice’ are developed and shared.flowers

How often does your team reflect and have conversations about what you are doing well, what could be better, and what could you stop doing? Next week is FD’s Qualey-Skjervold Professional Development Conference. This may be a time to kick off that reflection and those conversations. Furthermore, what better occasions than Easter and spring — times of renewal — for your team to renew FD’s promise to do our best to strengthen our communities and enhance the quality of life for Minnesota families.

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