Year: 1990

Author: Yerbury, Hilary, Kirk, Joyce

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The main purpose of critical enquiry in the professions is the improvement of practice or the quality of services provided by professionals. Fundamental to the improvement of practice and to critical enquiry is the assessment and evaluation of merit or "best performance". Evaluation is usually based on criteria and measures derived from various aspects of practice, including mastery of the knowledge base which informs practice, the needs of the users of the services provided by professionals, and standards for service delivery based on accepted norms, some of which may have the force of law. Critical enquiry may be carried out by individuals or groups external to the professions. It may be carried put by individual members or groups within the professions. This paper emphasises the process of critical enquiry used by individuals as they practice, and it argues that the skills of critical enquiry are essential to effective practice. In reviewing the nature of the knowledge base on which professionals make decisions and select courses of action, the paper addresses the relationship between theory and practice and the roles of academics and practitioners in education for the professions. The structure of the Bachelor of Applied Science (Information) program offered by the University of Technology, Sydney is used as a case study to explore the interplay between a formal body of knowledge required for information practice and reflection-in- action, a process which reinforces the need for professionals to develop skills of critical enquiry. The paper concludes with a discussion of the results of a study which investigated students' experiences of information practice and the extent to which those experiences contributed to the development of their senses of being professionals.