Embodied reflective practice : the embodied nature of reflection-in-action

Gray, Andrew Lee (2014) Embodied reflective practice : the embodied nature of reflection-in-action. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The purpose of this thesis is to examine the applicability of aspects of Schön’s (1983) theories of reflection-in-action in relation to visual art practice. Schön’s (1983) theories demonstrate that whilst they are written with design disciplines in mind, they do not extend to consider the appropriateness of its use in visual art practice. Scrivener (2000: 10) draws the distinction that whilst Schön’s (1983) use of scientific language in reflection-in-action is considered applicable for problem-solving projects in design, aspects of it are problematic for creative production research projects and recommends focusing reflection on the underlying experience of creative production. This thesis proposes that this and other issues, such as the emphasis on problem solving, and particularly, a reliance on a conversational metaphor, is likewise problematic for visual art practice. This thesis therefore moves to examine what is distinct about the application of reflective methods in visual art practice, in relation to design and research in the arts, through a series of text-based and documentary case studies. Analysis of the case studies suggest that there is an emphasis on embodiment essential to visual art processes, which is experiential in nature rather than problem-solving. A thorough examination of recent theories of embodied mind, which provide empirical evidence from a broad range of knowledge fields for the pervasive role of embodiment in shaping human experience, is presented. The primary research method is a review of two existing sets of theories and a synthesis of aspects of them in an original context, a process offered as an original contribution to knowledge. The context in question is the assessment of the applicability of the resulting synthesis to visual art practice, a domain for which neither theory was written. Knowing-in-action (Schön, 1983) describes the tacit knowing implicit in skillful performance when practice is going well, reflection-inaction (Schön, 1983) takes over, and describes the processes cycled through, only when problems are encountered in practice. Through an analysis of theories of embodied mind, and the documentary cases studies, the conclusion is drawn that in addition to these descriptions there is a rich layer of non-verbal embodied experience shaping action, conceptual meaning and verbal articulations of practice. This thesis therefore suggests modifications to theories of reflective practice in the visual arts, by incorporating theories of embodied mind in the development of additional reflective methods to supplement Schön’s theories (1983). Two methods are proposed as worthy of further study. The first researches Mark Johnson’s (1987) theory of metaphorical projection, which is presented as a means of mapping aspects of visual arts practitioners' verbal articulations of practice, back onto source domains in their embodied experiences of practice. The second explores a recommendation from within theories of embodied mind (Varela, Thompson and Rosch, 1993: 27) that mindfulness training could help develop a mindful, open-ended reflection. Taken together, this thesis proposes that an Embodied Reflective Practice could be developed to the benefit of visual art practitioners.

GrayAndrew - final full thesis_Redacted.pdf - Published Version

Download (39MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

View Item View Item