Critical reflection to identify gaps between espoused theory and theory-in-use

Riki Savaya*, Fiona Gardner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Critical reflection (CR) is a process by which one may identify the assumptions governing one's actions, question them, and develop alternative behaviors. This article presents two cases that demonstrate the use of CR to raise social workers' awareness of gaps between what Schon and Argryis term social workers' "espoused theories" and the "theories-in- use" that actually guide social workers' practice and to help them to develop more effective models of practice based on the understanding they gain. With this, the cases also show that CR can be a painful, even wrenching, process, in which practitioners confront previously unacknowledged qualities or tendencies in themselves that can evoke strong feelings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-154
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Work
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • critical reflection
  • decision making
  • dilemmas
  • practitioners


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