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Which clippings match 'Information Processing' keyword pg.1 of 1
12 JUNE 2014

Interpreting the theory-practice relationship

"Theory provides ways of interpreting practical knowledge. Practical knowledge–the basis of our ability to perform successfully as participants in a social practice–is largely tacit and unconscious (Schön, 1983). Imagine trying to explain to someone everything you know that enables you to carry on a successful conversation with another person. Although you might come up with a few general rules (use eye contact, listen, be relevant), no amount of explanation could more than scratch the surface of the complex habits, skills, background information, and situational awareness that even a simple conversation requires, much of which cannot be articulated verbally. As every novice user of cookbooks or computer manuals knows, even the most explicit instructions can be useless to someone who lacks the skills and background knowledge required to follow them. No theory can tell us every– thing–or, in a sense, anything–we need to know to participate in a practical activity. Practical knowledge comes only with the accumulation of direct experience.

Is theory, therefore, useless? The largely tacit nature of practical knowledge does limit the role of theory to some extent; however, it does not warrant the extreme conclusion that theory and practice are unrelated (see Craig, 1996a, in reply to Sandelands, 1990). Theory contributes to 'discursive consciousness' (Giddens, 1984), our conscious awareness of social practices and ability to discuss them knowledgeably. Discursive consciousness enables activities such as reflection, criticism, and explicit planning, thereby shaping practical conduct. A theory of a practice provides a particular way of interpreting practical knowledge, a way of focusing attention on important details of a situation and weaving them into a web of concepts that can give the experience a new layer of meaning, reveal previously unnoticed connections, and suggest new lines of action. Classroom communication, for example, can be discussed in terms of information processing, group dynamics, or ritual, among other theories. Each theory illuminates a different aspect of the situation and suggests a different approach to practical problems."

(Robert Craig, 2006)

TAGS

2006Anthony Giddens • background knowledge • classroom communication • communication theory • computer manual • connectionsconscious awarenessconversationcookbookcritical reflectioncriticismdirect experience • discursive consciousness • Donald Schon • explicit instructions • explicit planning • focusing attention • general rules • group dynamics • important details • information processing • interpreting practical knowledge • lines of action • Lloyd Sandelands • practical activity • practical conduct • practical knowledge • practical problems • ritual • Robert Craig • social practicestacit knowledgetheorytheory and practice • theory of practice • unconscious understanding • web of concepts

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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