Saturday, April 23, 2011

Korthagan & Kessels (1999) - Linking theory and practice

Korthagan, F. and Kessels, J. (1999). Linking theory and practice: Changing the pedagogy of teacher education. Educational Researcher, 28(4), 4-17.

Episteme Versus Phronesis

In teacher education there is much confusion about at least two different meanings of the word "theory." Kessels and Korthagen (1996) go back to Aristotle's concepts of episteme and phronesis to explain the difference. If a teacher educator offers epistemic knowledge, he or she uses general conceptions, applicable to a wide variety of situations; this knowledge is based on research and can be characterized as "objective" theory, theory with a big T. This is the type of knowledge that plays a central role in the traditional approach and that should certainly not be left out of teacher education programs: Now and then student teachers should be helped to see the larger picture of educational knowledge.

More often, however, they need knowledge that is situation-specific and related to the context in which they meet a problem or develop a need or concern, knowledge that brings their already existing, subjective perception of personally relevant classroom situations one step further. This type of knowledge is called phronesis. We could also call it "theory with a small t."

The character of phronesis is more perceptual than conceptual: It—often unconsciously— focuses the attention of the actor in the situation on certain characteristics of the situation, characteristics important to the question of how to act in the situation.

To put it concisely, episteme aims primarily at helping us to know more about many situations, while the emphasis of phronesis is mostly on perceiving more in a particular situation and finding a helpful course of action on the basis of strengthened awareness.

This strengthened awareness of concrete characteristics in specific situations is also the fundamental difference between phronesis and procedural knowledge (knowledge about "how to ..."). The danger of an emphasis on procedural knowledge in teacher education is that student teachers learn a lot of methods and strategies for many types of situations but do not learn how to discover, in the specific situations occurring

Techne is craft knowledge (Kessels & Korthagan, 2001)

The craft knowledge in teaching, according to Grimmett and Mackinnon (1999), "consists of pedagogical content and pedagogical learner knowledge derived from considered experience in the practice setting" and "represents teachers judgment in apprehending the events of practice from their own perspectives as students of teaching and learning" (p.387). They argue that craft knowledge in teaching is gained primarily through experience and practice, rather than acquiring from books or lectures.

Therese Day: the craft knowledge of teaching is the professional knowledge gained by experience which teachers use everyday in their classrooms but which is rarely articulated in any conscious manner [link]

Wikipedia: Techne, or techné, as distinguished from episteme, which is often translated as craftsmanship, craft, or art. It is the rational method involved in producing an object or accomplishing a goal or objective. Techne resembles episteme in the implication of knowledge of principles, although techne differs in that its intent is making or doing, as opposed to "disinterested understanding."

As one observer has argued, techne "was not concerned with the necessity and eternal a priori truths of the cosmos, nor with the a posteriori contingencies and exigencies of ethics and politics. [...] Moreover, this was a kind of knowledge associated with people who were bound to necessity. That is, techne was chiefly operative in the domestic sphere, in farming and slavery, and not in the free realm of the Greek polis."

Kessels & Korthagan, 2001, Ch.2 of Linking practice and theory: the pedagogy of realistic teacher education By F. A. J. Korthagen, Jos Kessels [link]

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