Donald Schon: Learning, reflection, and coaching practice

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Donald Alan Schön (1930-1997) was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Brookline and Worcester. He graduated from Yale in 1951 where he studied philosophy, but it was his research into the development of reflective practice for which he is remembered. He was also an accomplished pianist and clarinetist, which he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1952 he married Nancy Quint, an eminent sculptor. He gained both his master’s and doctorate in philosophy from Harvard and started lecturing at UCLA in 1953. After a short time in the army, Schön became director of the Institute for Applied Technology in the National Bureau of Standards at the US Department of Commerce. He then moved to direct the Organization for Social and Technological Innovation (OSTI), a nonprofit social research and development firm in the Boston area. Around this time Schön published his first two books, Displacement of Concepts (1963) and Technology and Change: The New Heraclitus (1967). As a result, he became a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968 and became full-time in 1972 with his appointment as Ford Professor of Urban Studies and Education. During this time he still displayed an interest in music, playing with both jazz

and chamber groups. His passion for jazz and the improvisation required within some aspects of performance led to the development of his concept of ‘thinking on one’s feet’ – the theory of improvisation. Schön believed that people and organizations should be flexible and incorporate their life experiences and lessons learned throughout their life. However, it was Schön’s work on reflective practice that has had a profound impact in all professional fields and has challenged practitioners to learn from their experience to achieve excellence in the art of professional practice. He made his mark in the fields of organization theory and pedagogy by studying how innovation occurs and how individuals and organizations learn. Schön’s best-known books are Displacement of Concepts (1963), Beyond the Stable State

(1973), Theory in Practice (with Chris Argyris, 1974), Organizational Learning (with Chris Argyris, 1978), The Reflective Practitioner (1983), Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1987) and Frame Reflection (with Martin Rein, 1994). Donald Schön died on 13 September 1997, in hospital after a seven-month illness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLearning in Sports Coaching
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Application
EditorsLee Nelson, Ryan Groom, Paul Potrac
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781315746012
ISBN (Print)9781138816572
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2016

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