Sunday, March 22, 2009

Article: Shulman 1987

Lee S. Shulman: Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform, Harvard Educational Review Vol. 57, No. 1, February 1987

As in his 1985 article, Shulman here is on a crusade to change the discussion of teacher knowledge, which he thought was too little concerned with "comprehension and reasoning, transformation and reflection". Instead of only looking at "the management of students in classrooms" he is concerned with "the management of ideas within classroom discourse".

A powerful example of the importance of content knowledge is Colleen, a teacher student with a master's degree in English. The contrast between her confident and highly interactive teaching of literature and her lack of confidence and her "didactic" style when teaching grammar, is highly illustrative. (The example is actually from Grossman (1985).)

Shulman tries to show what are the sources of the knowledge base for teaching. One of the headings is "Wisdom of practice", and he mentions one of the main problems with teaching as a profession, in my view - I will quote the paragraph in full:
One of the frustrations of teaching as an occupation and profession is its extensive individual and collective amnesia, the consistency with which the best creations of its practitioners are lost to both contemporary and future peers. Unlike fields such as architecture (which preserves its creations in both plans and edifices), law (which builds a case literature of opinions and interpretations), medicine (with its records and case studies), and even unlike chess, bridge or ballet (with their traditions of preserving both memorable games and choreographed performances through inventive forms of notation and recording), teaching is conducted without an audience of peers. It is devoid of a history of practice.

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