1. Serious thought or consideration.
    1. An idea about something, especially one that is written down or expressed.

At Design Academy Eindhoven reflective thought is part of a reflective practice, meaning that reflective thought not only involves discursive thinking, but also includes action (thinking through making). Knowledge creation and design research involve reflection. Reflection means establishing distance to the design(research)er’s activities, examining the decisions which have been made, and revisiting the actions taken. In the design and design research field this often means looking at what has been made and trying to analyse what may at first seemed to have occurred intuitively. As such it can be viewed as distinct from intuition, where a certain result has been achieved, but the designer may have difficulty in expressing how and why this particular result came about.

Donald Schön writes about reflective practice, pointing out that the insights that come from practical experience are valuable. This form of gaining knowledge does not necessarily have to be made explicit, on the contrary, Schön makes it clear that competent practitioners usually know more than they are able to put into words (tacit knowledge). Their knowing is often implicit – it is in the action: knowing-in-action. The reflective form of knowing-in-action is known as reflection-in-action. Reflection-in-action takes place in the present moment, during the event. In the field of design, reflection-in-action plays a particularly important role in how professionals learn. In reflection-in-action, doing and thinking are complementary – according to Schön, each feeds the other, and each sets boundaries for the other. Note that this kind of reflection is different from a trial-and-error approach, it involves gaining an awareness of one’s implicit knowledge, and is a conscious, purposeful activity. Schön distinguishes between two kinds of reflection: reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action, which takes place after the action on which it is reflecting – for example when evaluating a process.

To be able to reflect, a design researcher needs to be able to trace back what has happened. Keeping a record of some kind, a journal or workbook, helps to do this more rigorously and systematically. At Design Academy Eindhoven first year students produce so-called process books. In keeping these books they learn how to frame and reframe problems and to document their learning process. This not only stimulates an inner dialogue, but also helps them to communicate the process to others, thus allowing others to follow the processes of thinking and making, and enabling them to understand the knowledge that was created through design research. In this way reflection is a meaning-making process that transports a community of learners from one experience into the next with deeper understanding of its relationships to other experiences and ideas. It is the thread that makes continuity of learning possible .

DAE examples

  • Anne Ligtenberg, Dyslexie, Graduation project Man and Wellbeing, 2014


  • Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
  • Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Collier Books/Macmillan.
  • Korthagen, F. (2001). A reflection on reflection. In F. A. Korthagen (Ed.), Linking practice and theory: The pedagogy of realistic teacher education (pp. 51–68). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Rodgers, C. (2002). Defining reflection: Another look at John Dewey and reflective thinking. Teachers College Record, 104 (4), 842–866.
  • Schön, D. A. (1984). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Aldershot: Ashgate.
  • Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.