Is a teacher’s knowledge tacit or just uncomfortable?

The following is a response to a post by Carl Hendrick, an educator who writes about education theory and practice.

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I enjoyed another thought-provoking and thoughtful post, Carl!

In terms of tacit knowledge, however, I don’t believe that most of what we know is tacit. I think, in fact, that much of what we learn as teachers is actually quite coherent and articulable. The problem is that few people in power want to hear what we have to say. As a teacher of 23 years, I feel quite ignored, and whenever I or other veteran teachers speak up about teaching practice and learning, our leadership gets quite uncomfortable. I once led an after-school collaboration group on direct instruction. People higher up the food chain were almost apoplectic, and they let me know about it. I was Satan’s seed.

When it comes down to it, what I have to say is not “innovative”. I refuse to accept the paradigm of constant change and innovation, particularly since it’s usually a variation of Romanticism. My pedagogy is based upon the refinement and deepening of good teaching practice, and much of that practice, in my opinion, has remained stable for centuries. And that is what I offer to new teachers if they’re willing to listen.

Of course, this is not what the “movers and shakers” want to hear (or offer) as they ascend the hierarchy. Refinement of existing teaching practice doesn’t get anyone out of the classroom and into the school board office. It’s definitely not sexy, and it definitely cannot be packaged within the realm of “constant change and innovation”. It also doesn’t give the careerists power over the rest of us; indeed, a pedagogy that values refinement reverses the locus of control and places knowledge and its power squarely back in the hands of front line practitioners.

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