A Reflection on Reflective Practice

Demand Control - Schema textbookThe work by Robyn Dean and Bob Pollard on the Demand Control Schema has represented a foundation for the profession of ASL-English interpreting to shift its orientation in the past decade.  Instead of taking a deontological approach, looking at the rightness or wrongness of specific actions, Dean and Pollard have helped us to look in a more teleological way that focuses on the consequences of the actions for those involved.
Attending the first part of “Instituting Reflective Practice” panel, I appreciated even more deeply the positive directions that all of Dean and Pollard’s work can take our profession.
First of all, it was helpful to hear Robyn describe the ways that our fields use of ethical dilemmas and case studies as being problematic for developing the type of ethical decision-making that we need in our practice.  Too often, ethical dilemmas and case studies make presumptions of what is ethically troubling in the way that the case is framed – and then the student’s task becomes trying to guess what the writer of the case study or dilemma is trying to impart.
Instead, Dean and Pollard have been working with numerous institutions and individuals around the globe to institute reflective practice in a way that allows the practitioners themselves to really determine what ethical challenges they face – and then assess the ways to address these challenges.  Dean and Pollard term this process, “Supervision,” not in the sense that someone is looking over your shoulder and monitoring your work, but in the sense that in being in a collegial relationship in which one is able to talk about one’s work, an interpreter can develop a “superior vision” to be able to see more clearly the path forward.
The process used is described as “case conferencing” during which time an interpreter presents a case.  In this process, she or he will explain the dynamics involved in a specific situation.  This allows the interpreter to identify what was troubling in the situation, what specific demands were faced and what type they were, as well as what controls were utilized in that situation and what were the consequences or resulting demands from implementing those controls. This reflective practice allows for the development of judgement within the interpreting process itself.
In my own work, I have seen how I have been influenced by the frameworks of ethical dilemmas and case studies.  In mentoring interpreters who were preparing for the NIC test, I frequently worked with ethical dilemmas because that was the framework used in the testing process.  Although RID stated that it was seeking to gain insight in to the decision-making process, rather than looking for specific answers, I see now how limiting that approach of using ethical dilemmas as the frame for ethical discussions.
In the future, I look forward to using case conferencing in my mentoring work to support interpreters in being able to present their own cases and engage in collegial discussion about ways that their work can be improved.
For people seeking more information about the Demand Control Schema, they can check here.  Dean and Pollard have also recently published a textbook for use in teaching about the schema.  For more information, click here.

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