Multiple Perspectives for the Study of Teaching: A Conceptual Framework for Characterizing and Accessing Science Teachers' Practical-Moral Knowledge

Multiple Perspectives for the Study of Teaching: A Conceptual Framework for Characterizing and Accessing Science Teachers' Practical-Moral Knowledge

Sara Salloum (Long Island University – Brooklyn, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7363-2.ch030
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This chapter outlines a framework that characterizes science teachers' practical-moral knowledge utilizing the Aristotelian concept of phronesis/practical wisdom. The meaning of phronesis is further explicated and its relevance to science education are outlined utilizing a virtue-based view of knowledge and practical hermeneutics. First, and to give a background, assumptions about teacher knowledge from a constructivist and sociocultural perspective are outlined. Second, the Aristotelian notion of phronesis (practical wisdom) is explicated, especially in terms of how it differs from other characterizations of practical knowledge in science education and how it relates to practical-moral knowledge. Finally, the authors discuss how the very nature of such practical-moral knowledge makes it ambiguous and hard to articulate, and therefore, a hermeneutic model that explores teachers' practical-moral knowledge indirectly by investigating teachers' commitments, interpretations, actions, and dialectic interactions is outlined. Implications for research and teacher education are outlined. Empirical examples are used to demonstrate certain points. A virtue-based view of knowledge is not meant to replace others, but as a means to enrich the understandings of the complexity of teacher knowledge and to enhance the effectiveness of teacher educators.
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A broad aim of this chapter is to further elucidate a framework for understanding teaching practice as more than an arena for the application of theoretical knowledge and sets of skills (craft), but as a practice where teachers continuously engage a form of non-theoretical practical-moral knowledge. Acknowledging the role of non-theoretical knowledge in teaching has gained momentum in science education and several terms have been used to refer to it: practical knowledge (e.g., Duffee & Aikenhead, 1992; Fenstermacher, 1994; Lotter, Hardwood, & Bonner, 2007; Mulholland & Wallace, 2008; van Driel, Beijaard, & Verloop, 2001); practical-moral knowledge (Salloum & Abd-El-Khalick, 2010); and personal practical theories (Smith & Southerland, 2007). A complicating aspect of studying non-theoretical teacher knowledge though is elucidating and conceptualizing its character: Is it form of knowledge, reasoning, or an aspect of one’s ‘being’ (e.g., Breire & Ralphs, 2009; Feldman, 2002)? Is a set of conceptions, skills, values, and beliefs that teachers develop with experience (e.g., van Driel, et al., 2001)? How can we study such knowledge? These issues have more practical importance than their esoteric nature suggests (Southerland, Sinatra, & Mathews, 2001), specifically since models promoted and utilized in educational research and teacher education are greatly influenced by conceptualizations of teacher knowledge and its nature.

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