Summary: Exploring the Importance of Reflection in the Control Room
Jonathan Back, Dominic Furniss, Simon Attfield, Stephen Hassard and Ann Blandford. UCL Interaction Centre.
While currently difficult to measure or explicitly design for, evidence suggests that providing
people with opportunities to reflect on experience must be recognized and valued during safety-
critical work. We provide an insight into reflection as a mechanism that can help to maintain both
individual and team goals. In the control room, reflection can be task-based, critical for the 'smooth'
day-to-day operational performance of a socio-technical system, or can foster learning and
organisational change by enabling new understandings gained from experience. In this position
paper we argue that technology should be designed to support the reflective capacity of people.
There are many interaction designs and artefacts that aim to support problem-solving, but very few
that support self-reflection and group reflection. Traditional paradigms for safety-critical systems
have focussed on ensuring the functional correctness of designs, minimising the time to complete
tasks, etc. Work in the area of user experience design may be of increasing relevance when
generating artefacts that aim to encourage reflection.
All control room operators work with a level of uncertainty, dependent on the quality of
information available about the system being controlled. Reflective activities enable the monitoring
of dynamic factors such as the extent to which the system can be trusted, and whether controllers
have sufficient expertise and training to solve persistent problems. Experienced controllers have