Teaching as a practice and a community of practice: The limits of commonality and the demands of diversity

Journal of Philosophy of Education 37 (2):339–352 (2003)
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This paper examines some neglected aspects of the conceptualisation of teaching as a ‘practice’ and as involving a ‘community of practice’. The concepts of a ‘practice’ and of a ‘community of practice’ are brought into focus by contrasting the differing senses of the notions employed in the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and Etienne Wenger respectively. Concepts of educational ‘practice’ and ‘communities of practice’ which embody a coherent overall holistic vision of education are contrasted with senses of educational ‘practice’ and ‘communities of practice’ which relate to lower level, specific and subordinate elements of the educational process which are detachable from such visions. The possibility of specifying a single, common, overall, holistic conception of an educational ‘practice’ or ‘community of practice’ in the context of a pluralistic, diverse, liberal democratic society is discussed. It is suggested that the demands of diversity in this context open up the possibility of, and the need for, diverse forms of teacher education and training based on differing and partly competing conceptions of educational ‘practice’ and ‘communities of practice’ involving contrasting, coherent, overall, holistic visions of education.



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