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Appendix A


#p[241] Appendix B : off-shoots

Six off-shoots are described here. The seventh, concerning reflection, is covered in chapter 7 and refers to the accompanying article "On reflection" reproduced in appendix C. The rationale for including these "diversions" is described elsewhere.

Initially I was attracted to various "scientific" designs, but gradually became more confident in moving away from this mode of thinking.

Action research offered a starting point but my emphasis on what I thought of as "mess" took me, I felt, too far beyond its prescriptions.

Chaos and circular epistemology were of little use in developing methods but helped to reinforce decision making on when to abandon topics.

Interviewing psychologists could have been a productive line of inquiry, particularly for practice related issues such as in exercising discretion over when to initiate casework.

Schönís reflection-in-action offered some initial, tentative ideas for a model for the method of the project. In my reading of Schön, however, employing reflection-in-action requires the knowledge of an expert professional in order to "see as", to mould the situation to known examples; and then to evaluate the "back talk" from attempts to intervene, in the light of previous experience. In my casework practice I could do that. In my research, I could not.

Off-shoot 1 : a "scientific" investigation of practice.

Diary entries from the early days of the project record my imaginings of a neat design, influenced strongly I suspect by my psychology background. Several variations came to mind. One fantasy I had was to somehow recruit a friendly psychiatrist, psychotherapist and social worker and split a number of referrals between us to compare the

#[p242] "effectiveness" of our different approaches to children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

I abandoned that rather impractical scheme, but not the "scientific" thinking behind it. I realised it would be ludicrous to attempt to compare effectiveness by using different approaches myself. I could compare the use of green manures with chemical fertilisers on my allotment, a classic design, but it would be at the very least dishonest to pretend that I could deploy different approaches to parents, in a kind of randomised controlled trial. However, this kind of science-based thinking later surfaced in a plan to compare families, drawing on attribution theory to generate a hypothesis.

The, to me, superficially reasonable idea was that parents who were "closed minded", with fixed and limited attributions for the causes of their childrenís problems, would show less change in approach, and the children show less change in their behaviour, than parents with fluid, varying, perhaps self-questioning attributions[1]. I even went some way initially towards collecting evidence of parentsí views and factors such as age, social background and occupation which might have some bearing on the matter; drew up a complex coding form; and spent several months diligently filling these in, with the plan of subjecting it all to some gigantic statistical analysis.

Eventually I rather reluctantly jettisoned these ideas (I quite enjoy statistics) as I began to move further and further away from my notion of a "scientific method" and began to search, blindly, for a new "mind set": "[p]rogress is made by the almost deliberate casting off of existing knowledge" (Thomas 1998 p.152). However, part of my initial motivation in seeking a qualitative approach was somewhat banal: I just wanted something different. I did not want to tread the same familiar path of quantitative methods. It was only much later that I came to value the creative potential of, and enormous effort involved in, "unlearning".

Off-shoot 2 : action research.

#[p243] The action research community provided me with a very tolerant way-station as I wrestled with methodology. In part the study is a kind of action research as I examine and change some aspects of practice. I am sure, however, my eventual thinking departs too far from their principles to count as action research. My colleague, Tina Cook, can readily support a concept of "mess". Recounting our focus group discussions (see Cook 1998 for details of its make up) she explains how "we did not have the words to explain" (Cook 1998 p.105):

We had experienced, when undertaking research, a phase in the process ... we could only describe as the Ďmessy bití , the Ďjumbly sectioní etc. and yet we considered it to be a fundamental part of the research process. It was the part that gave it life and meaning. (ibid p.106). There was a rejection of the "tyranny of the methodology" (ibid p.99) and a wish for honesty in reporting: "there is a whole tradition ... of not admitting things ...we get the descriptions of systematic research, systematic rigour" (ibid p.104) and " Ď[r]igourí is misconstrued as Ďneatí " (ibid p.104).

Tina describes how she feels her action research can accommodate "mess":

Question : how as novice action researchers, could we both utilise prescribed action research models, but also give ourselves permission to break free from perceived structures to develop certain processes or parts of the process? Would including Ďmessí as part of the process give people permission to lose the thread for a while and explore with confidence? (Cook 1998 p.107) She describes how the group had a range of views. Someone points out: Can I put forward a guilty secret here? I donít think Iím doing anything that resembles action research here. I couldnít call it action research. I feel Iím here under false pretences. (ibid p.95) Looking back, I can see that in my case I was beginning to feel that mess was not just a part of the process, in a sense it was the process. I began to move away from the shelter of action research thinking (my stance on change in practice was in any case somewhat ambivalent as explained in chapter 4) , although I continued to draw great support from its practitioners.

#[p244] Off-shoots 3 and 4 : Chaos and circular epistemology. [2]

I will only mention these here only very briefly as illustration of deviations which were not very fruitful.

Off-shoot 3: Some writing in the field of chaos, as I understand it, raises the image of systems circulating around two alternative final states, never repeating the same path (see Gleick 1987 p.140 on "attractors"). My research seemed to flip between the "scientific" and the "non-scientific" and I seemingly endlessly cycled around these two poles, modifying my course and my ideas of both, at the same time.

Another pleasing image was that of "self-similarity" - the way in which, if I have it correctly, many irregular shapes or systems resemble themselves in terms of irregularity at what ever level of "magnification", such as clouds, coastlines, changes in stock prices, electrical noise, river floods (see Gleick 1987 chapter 4). I could draw a parallel with the current research - in broad terms the messy method could be applied at many levels: to studying a difficult article, a book, a part of my practice, a mini-project such as identity or the whole thesis.

While both pictures, attractors and self-similarity, were pleasing, I realised my knowledge of chaos was very shallow as I began to read round and look at applications of chaos in other fields. I abandoned further work on these as outside my field of competence and leading to more problems, not fewer (see chapter 7).

Off-shoot 4: Attention seeking, as described in chapter 3, can in some ways best be understood by replacing notions of linear causation with those of circular causation. That is both its strength (in providing a powerful model for change) and its weakness (in the difficulties of weaning others way from the linear causation of much everyday thinking). Circular processes have been a mainstay of some approaches to family therapy and once exposed to this way of thinking, like Hoffman, a celebrated writer in the field, it is easy to begin seeing circular interactions everywhere "I only saw circles, timeless circles" (Hoffman 1990 p.2).

#[p245] There seemed to be circular processes at the heart of attention seeking; reflection-in-action (see later in this appendix); "double fitting" (see chapter 8); and science ( "the logic of science is necessarily circular" Hesse 1980 p.173; science is "essentially circular" Carr 1987 p. 59). I began to see circles everywhere and tried to develop an article on "circular epistemology". But I quickly realised my knowledge of epistemology was not up to the task and abandoned the effort. However, my early attempts to explain circular causation seemed to "strike a chord" with my critical friend, Ann:

Talking to Ann F. Sheíd been thinking about circular [causation] and now felt she sees it everywhere. She mentioned some friends where parents had died and the child, ... brought up by [grandparents], ... was a "horror". They blamed it on the car crash but couldnít see theyíd made allowances for the child all along e.g. letting her sleep in their bed. (20.4.94 3.30 p.m. at work) I abandoned this off-shoot as it again began to pass beyond the range I could deal with, as explained in chapter 7.

Off-shoot 5: interviewing psychologists.

During 1994 and 1995 I collected a series of questions to ask psychologists, with some intention, I recall, of thereby improving my practice and perhaps making these interviews an integral part of the project. The questions (recorded as part of my diary notes) were, for example:

"What do you get out of child interviews that is of any use?" (5.2.95)

"How do you use [test] materials in a non-standard way" (18.10.95)

"How do you protect time for therapy?" (16.11.95).

"What is the most effective change you ever made to a child yourself?" (20.3.94); "What do you base your ideas on when giving advice to teachers, parents etc." (Ann F. had said all her advice came from her teaching experience, not the psychology 17.11.94)

"What are the barriers to getting teachers to change their approach? (21.2.95)

"What about Ďhopelessí cases?"( 4.2.95)

"How do you go about deciding whether to Ďget stuck iní or not?" (6.2.95)

Several of these topics I explored in casual conversation, some were taken up more whole-heartedly. It is my regret that I did not follow this line; I am sure my practice would have been the better for it.

#[p246] One colleague, Lois T., agreed to be interviewed. This revealed her uncertainties about the job, which re-assured me about mine (although as she was leaving the post, she may not have been a good example). The extract below is taken from some way into the interview. It centres on decisions when to get involved or not in cases, and has resonance for me in my own work. I return to this point in chapter 10. The interview has not been subjected to the kind of "analysis" or "making sense" of the diary notes, as it is not the main data source. I have simply picked out what seemed to be the relevant point, concerning decision making.
 
 

Extract from interview with Lois T.

Nigel: I'm interested in how psychologists make the decision to become involved with a particular case. Not so much what you do when you get involved, or not so much how you stop getting involved at the end, but how you go about deciding to get involved and how much flexibility. Do you have any choice? What do you take into account when you make the choice, is the problem clear? Just tell me a little bit about how you go about getting involved and making a decision.

Lois : I think it's probably very fuzzy and unsystematic. I think I do have quite a bit of choice but not complete choice. Just an example of how I do have choice -I've decided that I probably wasn't going to do any in-depth counselling with teenagers because I felt my skills were too rusty after being [away] for three years and a lot of the problems that they give me, I just felt that if I was getting into really heavy family problems with teenagers. I would just feel a bit scared and out of my depth and worried about getting involved with that and I'm a bit worried about the way we do counselling without having other people to talk about it to and semi-supervision. I don't think it's very healthy for us to be doing it like that without anybody else that we're sharing our cases with. So I more or less decided I wouldn't do that, more from a confidence point of view than anything else

Then along came a case of a girl who had had some pretty hairy problems ... I somehow decided actually this is somebody that I'd quite like to support ... So that was a totally unsystematic and idiosyncratic, deciding to be involved with somebody because I just wanted to be involved with that particular kind of case. (22.3.95 interview extract)

My own casework displays similar concerns over decisions to start casework: Concerning home visit to Mr. L. ... house in a mess, Mr. L. very intense/ obsessive/ upset, kids all over the place ... I was conscious that although R. [the referred child] shows many attention seeking symptoms, this is a case I donít want to get involved in (custody hearing due soon [it looks very complex]) (2.2.95 9.00 p.m. in bath) #[p247] I began to question more deeply when and why I choose to take on a case. In the rest of the extract below I record a collection of motives, some of them base. My disparaging comments about "cases" being "no-hopers" reflect more perhaps my own feelings of helplessness in the face of families with massive social problems. My skills may only begin to scratch the surface of some of their needs, although at times, as for example with one memorable family I can recall, Suzie I. and her mum, there may still be scope for productive work. The issue of where I can be most helpful, is not one I have resolved. In chapter 4 (section 6) I mention earlier attempts to set some personal criteria. I cannot be all things to all people. Which influences effect my decisions, however, and the consequences of these (e.g. for excluded groups) need to be examined along with how far my "espoused values" and my "values in practice" match up. I return briefly to this issue in the concluding chapter. [I realised] I can select which cases to work on by (a) simple prejudice (b) what looks like a possibility rather than a "no-hoper" (although with Suzie I. [an unlikely prospect at the start] it worked out in the end) (c) anything else like time/energy etc.

... Have I got the right to choose? ... all year long Iím compromising and choosing - where to work, which school/ child to work on, what to specialise in, when a report is "good enough" etc. Should I just be a "taxi rank"? ... social services have protected case loads, we donít. (2.2.95 9.00 in bath)

At one point I arranged for a research colleague to interview me. This revealed my yearning for a lost, perhaps rose-tinted time, of working in a team with Eric and other psychologists, all following the same approach. I could envisage a whole study focusing simply on colleagues attitudes to, and beliefs about, practice in the area of emotional and behavioural difficulties. Similar questions became a site of constant concern and I brought these up many times in our regional "therapy interest group" during the time of the project. My efforts to examine and improve practice, as a result of these and other discussions (while not reaching any definitive answer), helped form the training pack for psychologists, currently in preparation (Mellor forthcoming a)

Off-shoot 6 : reflection-in-action.

#[p248] I will spend some time on this off-shoot, as it was an important formative influence. While searching for a convenient method of research, I spent some time looking at grounded theory approaches. These seemed to offer a reliable, valid, systematic way of dealing with data but I began to question them. The first warning bells were sounded quite early on when I came upon Altrichter and Poschís (1989) critique, particularly their comment that, contrary to suggestions that grounded theory researchers should begin without fixed pre-conceptions, insiders could not (later reading, e.g. Melia (1996) on arguments between Glaser and Strauss continued to reinforce my doubts):

Teacher-researchers cannot enter their field of research in an unprejudiced manner (unlike sociologists who might enter fields they are unfamiliar with) because they already live and work in it. (Altrichter and Posch 1989 p.26 emphasis in original) Whatever the validity of this point (and they raise other criticisms of grounded theory and its inductivist approach which I will not explore) the important issue for me is that they turned me away from grounded theory and introduced me, later in the article, to the work of Donald Schön. This came to be a guiding light. I still admire his "Reflective Practitioner", despite all the subsequent criticisms, and for some time reflection-in-action seemed to offer a theme to tie up my project. In the end, as I will explain, however, I had to reject this as well. I will first outline my understanding of Schönís insights, drawing mainly from "The Reflective Practitioner".

Schön argues that there is an awareness of the complexity of situations and "[m]anagers ... manage messes" (Schön 1983 p.16). Nevertheless, some managers display skills in dealing with these but "they have no satisfactory way of describing or accounting for [their] artful competence" (ibid p.19). He argues that the dominant view of professional knowledge is Technical Rationality i.e. "the application of scientific theory and techniques to ... problems of practice" (ibid p.30). Technical Rationality, however, according to Schön, describes the process of problem solving but not the process of "problem setting" (ibid p.40 emphasis in original). To construct a problem from its surrounding "mess" requires "a certain kind of work" (ibid p.40).

When dealing with these situations, Schön claims, professionals speak of "experience, trial and error, intuition, and muddling through" (ibid p.43). However, their skilful #[p249] actions reveal "knowing more than [they] can say" (ibid p. 51). The professional has tacit knowledge (Polanyi 1958) : " the workaday life of the professional depends on tacit knowing-in-action " (Schön 1983 p 49).

Much practice is carried out routinely. When, however, the relatively smooth flowing of every day action is interrupted, the practitioner (Schön explores these patterns in a number of profession) must switch to another mode of thought : reflection-in-action. This is very different from the process of reflection as commonly understood (which Schön confusingly labels reflection-on-action): the process of looking back over oneís work some time after the events in question.

A. The structure of reflection -in -action.

During reflection-in-action the practitioner adopts a kind of quasi-experimental approach which Schön describes as " a reflective conversation with a unique and uncertain situation" (ibid p.130). This process, which differs in many ways from a conventional "scientific" inquiry includes three stages: (a) Naming and Framing (b) Frame experiment and (c) Holistic evaluation.

(a) Naming and Framing.
 
 

This is the process of "problem setting" where "interactively we name the things to which we will attend and frame the context in which we will attend to them" (Schön, 1983 p.40, emphasis in original). As Schön explains, when "there is a problem in finding the problem he (sic) must Ďreframeí " the situation (ibid p.129).

(b) Frame experiment.

This involves a mini-experiment, testing out the definition of the problem while listening to the situation's "back talk" : the unintended effects of action (ibid p.79). The practitioner acts within the framework newly created but watches out for the consequences of this experiment. The situation, however, is not static, it "becomes #[p250] understood through the attempt to change it and changed through the attempt to understand it" (ibid p.132).

Not all the changes are as anticipated - the situation "talks back" (ibid p.131) through these unintended changes. The practitioner must not behave in a rigid way, clinging onto the initial conception, he or she must simultaneously work within the frame and listen to the back talk. As Schön describes it, we must maintain "double vision" (ibid p.164).

(c) Holistic evaluation. This is the final stage of the mini-experiment where the practitioner decides : do I like what I get? This is an evaluation of the analysis in a "holistic" way (Altrichter and Posch, 1989 p.28). As Schön explains it: "The practitioner evaluates his problem-setting experiment by determining whether he likes these unintended changes, or likes what he (sic) can make of them" (Schön, 1983 p.135). Questions posed at this point may be, for example, "Can I solve the problem? ...[is the solution] congruent with my fundamental values and theories? Have I kept the inquiry moving?" (ibid p.133).

B. Reflection-in-action, technical rationality and day-to-day practice.

This somewhat circular process of reflection-in-action stands in contrast to a more conventional view of the approach of an "objective scientist":

According to the model of Technical Rationality, there is an objectively knowable world, independent of the practitioner's values and views...

In a practitioner's reflective conversation with a situation [however]... he (sic) shapes it and makes himself a part of it (ibid p.163)

Reflection-in-action does generate a form of knowledge, however, according to Schön: He (sic) produces knowledge that is objective, in the sense that he can disconfirm it. He can discover that he has not made a satisfactory change.... but his knowledge is also personal, bounded by his commitments to appreciative systems and overarching theory. It is compelling only to members of a community of inquiry who share these commitments (ibid p.166) #[p251] For me, the important and most illuminating part of Schönís analysis comes at just this point : the description of the way in which practitioners "mould" the circumstance to fit their style of working[3]. In my understanding of Schön, the professional forms a view of a situation (in Schön's terms they "frame" the situation) which then allows him or her to approach it in a confident, familiar manner. ...the [new] question lends itself to a method of investigation which the [practitioner] knows how to pursue (ibid p.119).

He (sic) sees [the unique] situation as something already present in his repertoire (ibid p.138 emphasis in original).

The practitioner makes his hypothesis come true (ibid p.149).

They seek to make the situation conform to their hypothesis but remain open to the possibility that it may not (ibid p.150).

The phenomena that he (sic) seeks to understand are partly of his own making (ibid p.151).

he (sic) shapes it and makes himself a part of it (ibid p.163)

...the restructured material lends itself to the kind of intervention that the practitioner is good at undertaking (ibid p.318).

This description reverberates with my daily practice. I am not a Freudian, a systemic family therapist, a social worker or a dispenser of pills. I have ways of working which I feel comfortable and confident with. According to Schön, the experienced professional selectively perceives the situation to fit his or her preferred way of dealing with it. In my case, the preferred way may include an attention seeking analysis. As Harvey (1983) emphasises, however, for example, failure to make headway with this attention seeking approach to changing the parentsí behaviour may point to more fundamental problems in their own relationships and circumstances which need to be addressed. The situation "talks back". As Schön argues, if we maintain "double vision", this "back talk" from the intervention confirms its appropriateness or otherwise. We do not simply carry on regardless : "if he (sic) ignores its resistances to change, he falls into mere self-fulfilling prophecy" (ibid p.153). The practitioners "seek to make the situation conform to their hypothesis but remain open to the possibility that it will not" (ibid p.150).

C. Some critical comments on reflection-in- action

Eraut (1994) outlines the difficulties arising from the phrase "reflection-in-action" in Schön's work, and centres these on the term reflection: "it has caused nothing but #[p252] confusion" (p.148). Criticism of Schön from a number of perspectives has also been raised e.g. for lacking consideration of a critical dimension (Thompson 1995, Carr 1995); being conservative/ not radical (Fish 1989, McFee 1993); not distinguishing between knowing -in-action and reflecting-in-action (Brown and McIntyre 1993); being reactive rather than proactive (Brubacher et al 1994); implying the automatic development of reflective skills in experienced professionals (Rudduck 1992); lacking empirical investigation (Munby and Russell 1989); not considering the role of emotions (Dadds 1993); underestimating the complexity of professional life and its embededness in a political arena (Hart 1995, Newman 1996) and lacking a collaborative dimension (Converey 1998, Hart 1995).

The important point that I feel may be missed by some of Schön's critics, however, is that reflection-in-action is, to my mind, a specialised routine which experienced professionals can apply. In my reading of Schön (as outlined earlier), the practitioners initially fashion situations to fit their preferred ways of working - the ways they are experienced in and most comfortable with. "Back talk" will then either confirm or refute the stance. Although Munby and Russell (1989) for instance find no evidence of these "expert" routines in their research with new teachers, perhaps in this instance they were simply looking in the wrong place.

However, this point about the "expert" dimension was relevant to the project in another way. Altrichter and Posch (1989) complete their article by advocating reflection-in-action as a model for inquiry. Whatever other criticisms could be lodged against this suggestion, from my reading of Schön it posed for me one major problem as researcher: at that stage I was a novice researcher, I had no familiar routines to fall back on. I could not "see as and do as". I had no preferred lines of investigation with which to experiment in a "reflective conversation" with the troubling (research) setting. I thus felt I could not develop reflection-in-action as my research method. I had to move on. My diary at quite an early stage emphasises this predicament:

After going round in circles for ages it occurred to me that there are three different levels: #[p253] 1. I have a problem solving framework for looking at problems which occur in my professional practice. When these crop up I can use Schönís approach [of reflection-in-action].

2. I donít have a framework for analysing practice [choices] e.g. if I wanted to [select]... different approaches to a problem (like for instance the Eric Harvey approach or a Freudian approach or a rational emotive approach or counselling approach or whatever). I donít have the framework to decide how to tackle the problems that choices of approaches brings up. Perhaps the person to do this would be [for example] a very experienced psychologist who had got into lots of different approaches, if such a person existed i.e. something like a professional practice consultant [they could apply reflection-in-action to this problem of the choice of method].

3. The third level is having a framework for analysing problems of research i.e. answering questions about "how is my practice to be researched?" and [ideally I need] to be able to see that within a framework [where] I know how to go about the business of solving research problems i.e. as a professional researcher. Such a person would have a framework for analysing research problems and then could apply Schönís method [to the current problem. I could not]. (1.10.94 emphasis added)

Some of the difficulty, of course, arose because of the on-going difficulty of not really knowing exactly what it was I was trying to achieve: It occurred to me that part of the methodological problem is what questions do I want to ask about my practice ... About the same time ...I asked myself what questions is it possible to ask my practice, rather than what questions do I want to ask it. In other words, the practice maybe limits what can be done. (1.10.94 - 12 midnight, emphasis added) Some of the concern centred on the final stage of Schönís analysis: the holistic evaluation: Musing about methodology for no very good reason. Wondered how far "I like what I get" is applicable to research [as opposed] to being applicable to practice ... I donít know much about research therefore what I like is simply what I know or what Iím comfortable with or what Iím experienced at so far i.e. may be just due to my limitations. In other words Iím not "the expert" in this situation. Whereas [in my] practice I am skilled in certain aspects and can judge the situation from the view of the expert in this practice i.e. I can relate this situation to lots of other ones in my past experience. I canít do that with research i.e. I canít judge whether my research is right just by saying "I like what I get" in Schönís way. (24.9.94 8 a.m.) Apart from the problems reflection-in-action raised for research, I also began to explore the difficulties it threw up in practice areas (e.g. its limitations in the stressful real-life world of day-to-day work). There is scope here for further inquiry. But my interest #[p254] started to turn away from reflection-in-action and towards reflection, as a way to examine practice. It is there, with an article eventually published in our professional journal, included as appendix C, that the tale of these side roads ends.

Notes

[1] My latest position on such a hypothesis would be to see a number of possibilities, one being that a matrix of half understood, "confused" beliefs may actually be as resistant to change as one clear position, see discussion in chapter 3. I do not pursue this line of inquiry, however.
[BACK]

[2]The term circular epistemology appears to have evolved in the field of family therapy, drawing on the work of Gregory Bateson. For a fuller description see Gurman et al (1986). Other writers decry its use, seeing the phrase as part of the "semantic pollution" (Bogdan 1987) of the field; and seeing epistemology as being used in unconventional ways in family therapy (Held and Pols 1985). As I do not develop the idea, I will not expand on this debate, and stress again that the discussion touched on here is not part of the arguments of the thesis.[BACK]

[3] Schönís later work on "Educating the Reflective Practitioner" (1987) in part appears to confirm this reading, but does not emphasise the point in the way I have taken it here. In this later book he focuses mainly on students. These display a range of capabilities from novices with little skill in the professional field, and little associated ability to reflect-in-action, to quite competent "students" taking master classes who can both perform and reflect-in-action well.[BACK]


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Appendix C

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