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AS PLANNERS, WHY DO WE DO WHAT WE DO, AND WHY ARE WE DOING IT?

September 2, 2021 by admin
Policy/Legislative

We learn from others, and we learn by doing. I am reminded of the teaching and learning technique of See One, Do One, Teach One. This method uses observation of a task, hands-on experience performing the task, and then teaching the task to another person. This technique is used by various disciplines, including medicine, engineering, law enforcement, and education. The See One, Do One, Teach One technique has applicability to the teaching and learning of planning.

In 1983, Basic Books (New York) published The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action by Donald Schön. Donald Alan Schön (1930 – 1997) was a social scientist and professor in planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was interested in how professionals learn. Schön in The Reflective Practitioner asked various professional groups, including planners, to adopt an attitude of reflective practice. For Schön, reflective practice meant that professionals become aware of their knowledge base and learn from their experiences. Schön suggested that reflective practice had two (2) components. The first, reflection in action, the second, reflection on action. Focusing on planning and planners, Schön asked that we reflect during the performance of a task by asking ourselves why I am doing this, what is its purpose, what is to be achieved, and do I possess the skills necessary. Reflection on action then occurs after the task is completed. We may then ask ourselves, what did I learn, what could I have done better, is there another way to achieve this task, etc.? Schön’s advice to us would be to continually ask why we do what we do, how we should be doing it, and what is its purpose?

Reflecting on what we do as planners, we may discover that our work is singularly focused. The planning we do may be exclusively land use regulation, transportation management, or environmental policy. All are important. However, do we pay attention to the interrelatedness of our decisions? Do we consider (or reflect) on how our work affects, either positively or negatively, other topics and planning issues? Are we aware that our actions affecting the physical environment also affect the community fabric, including its social, cultural, employment, and demographic profiles? Do we consider how a single action affects the quality of life of all community residents? As we address the various planning issues that challenge our Utah communities, do we ask, as Donald Schön and our Code of Ethics require, how are my actions and decisions interrelated and why do I do what I do, and for what purpose?

 

Bruce Parker, AICP

Planning and Development Services, LLC

Utah Chapter APA Professional Development and Ethics Officer

pds@utahplanning.com

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