The skilled teacher: a heideggerian approach to teacher practical knowledge

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The concept of teacher practical knowledge (PK), with its emphasis on the intuitive and situated nature of teaching practice, has provided a compelling approach to understanding what underlies teaching practice. However, much of the literature around PK focuses on teacher reflections on their practice and leaves unexplored the question of how a teaching situation elicits particular practices from teachers. Moreover, there is a tendency to focus on individual PK, and this means that the social dimension, and particularly the socially normative element, of teaching practice is perhaps underappreciated. This article develops what I call the skilled teacher approach (STA) to teaching practice, which shifts the focus from teachers’ individual cognitions about practice to what teachers directly perceive as possible in their fundamentally social teaching environment. This approach is rooted in Heidegger’s phenomenology but also draws substantially on ecological psychology literature and argues that what teachers do in practice is largely a product of the affordances they directly perceive in their practice environment. It also argues that much of the landscape of affordances that a teacher perceives is socially constructed. Consequently, a significant part of PK relates to a sensitivity to the socially given affordances and knowing intuitively “what one does” as a teacher. This approach offers a different, yet complementary, understanding of teaching practice and suggests new ways of engendering positive change in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalCurriculum Inquiry
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sep 2021


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