Experience, Theory, and Practical Wisdom in Teaching and Teacher Education

Apr. 30, 2009

Source: Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, Volume 15, Issue 2 April 2009, p. 225 - 240.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this contribution, the authors discuss what it means to be a professional teacher with practical wisdom. Furthermore, they discuss how practical wisdom is related to theory and experience. These questions are especially relevant as nowadays, in many countries, teacher education becomes more school-based. Building on theories on the functioning of the human mind in general, and teacher behavior in particular, the notions of practical wisdom, theory, and experience are connected in a triangular model.

The Triangular Model 

It is important to realize that the three elements of this model are essentially different in nature, and that it is the teacher who makes them come together (or not) in the day-to-day school practice. It must be emphasized that this is a complicated, non-linear process, in which the context, i.e., workplace conditions, play an important supporting or inhibiting role.

The authors describe an example that may help to sharpen the distinction between theory and practical wisdom. Novice teachers may know a lot of concepts and principles that have to do with the affective side of learning, and they may even have a deep theoretical insight into the importance of empathy toward the students. Still, this is no guarantee that during teaching, they will be aware of the students' feelings and will be able to react to them in an empathic way. The ability to perceive the students' feelings and needs, to be aware in the here-and-now of their importance, and to act upon this awareness in a pedagogical tactful manner, is the essence of practical wisdom.

The authors elaborate on the idea that each element can be an entry point for practices in teacher education, which brings discussion on the relationship between theory and practice in teacher education into a broader perspective. Several pedagogical approaches are discussed which help to link practical wisdom, theory, and experience within teacher education programs

Updated: Jul. 20, 2009