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Philosophers have suggested that we can improve teacher thinking--and hence teaching and education--by improving the premises in teachers' practical arguments. They assume that if we can assure that teachers' premises have empirical reference and that they are complete and coherent we can make progress toward improvement. This essay examines the concept of practical argument, considering questions such as: how does rationality manifest itself in teaching? Must thinking of consequence for action be necessarily and centrally connected to decisions about what to do? Do values of theoretical reasoning, such as universality, logical order, explicitness, and completeness translate to the practical domain? The author argues that relying on practical arguments for the improvement of teaching ignores the extent to which teaching is an act of wisdom and belongs to the contemplative life. She contends, second, that--in representing teachers' arguments for purposes of analysis and improvement--we must make good the distinction between simplification and misrepresentation. She concludes by discussing some major philosophical difficulties in the analysis of practical reasoning that need to be kept in mind if researchers and teacher educators are to work with the concept of practical argument to good purpose.
Does teaching begin and end in contemplative thought? In exploring this question, Margret Buchmann suggests that conceptions of teacher thinking must be expanded beyond planning and decision making. People's ordinary conception of thinking includes imagining, remembering, interpreting, and caring. Hence, to understand the full scope and meaning of teachers' thoughts, researchers and teacher educators have to broaden and diversify their ideas. Contemplation is a process of thinking that, though remote from action and utility, directs and supports the comprehensive practical life. Describing contemplation as careful attention and wonderstruck beholding, the author examines subject matter and children as objects of teachers' contemplative concern. Her argument for the practicality of contemplation is based on a concept of practice going beyond what an individual teacher does or what can be typically observed in schools. This collective, moral concept invokes intrinsic ends and ideas of perfection: constitutive fidelities of teaching that are made available in contemplation.