Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name



Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Monica Tracey


As a specific type of reflective practice, reflection-in-action emphasizes that unique and uncertain situations are understood through attempts to change them, and changed through the attempts to understand the situations (Schön, 1983). The purpose of this interdisciplinary research was to study reflection-in-action regarding three aspects of design activity (content, context, and process). The study addressed four research questions: (a) what is the impact of reflection-in-action on evaluation processes while a design is developing and not yet complete, (b) what effect does reflection-in-action have on keeping a design project moving forward toward implementation, (c) what impact does the design's problem-solution relationship have on the reflection-in-action process, and (d) what impact does a designer drawing from a repertoire of precedents inside and outside the project have on the reflection-in-action process?

The phenomenological research design studied reflection-in-action using a qualitative approach and used a purposive convenience sample of eight participants designing real projects in their design environments. Using five data collection methods: (a) interviews (b) participant reflective journals, (c) design project timeline, (d) project artifact analysis, and (e) a field journal, data were collected and trustworthiness was established through credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. A constant comparison method was used to compare information units applicable to categories and to integrate properties of categories.

For each research question, three to five themes emerged. Interesting and compelling

themes that have implications for instructional design included when participants reflected-in-action, they took stock in and reacted to external representations, which were rich in context, information, and constraints. Participants interacted with information and a lack of information, which kept the design project moving forward. Participants moved the design forward toward implementation by turning "what ifs" to design decisions. Through receiving and gathering information and working with constraints, participants better understood the problem-solution relationship. Drawing from outside of the design validated design direction, guided the design, and provided "what ifs". Drawing from inside the design informed what could and could not be done, supported the design purpose, and guided the design. Drawing on participants' experience provided design context and made uncertainty more certain.