Week 4: A toolkit for inclusive teaching and learning


1. Introduction

1.2. Knowledge for teaching

Learning to be a teacher is a complicated process – yet it is often presented as being straightforward – simply a matter of following a set of rules (knowledge of which is tested by exam) or following a prescribed lesson plan. In order to understand how to become a better inclusive teacher, it is helpful to think about what it is teachers need to know and be able to do.

One way to think about this issue is to consider knowledge about teaching as falling into three categories:

  • Knowledge for practice
  • Knowledge of practice
  • Knowledge in practice

Knowledge for practice: This includes well-established theories about the philosophy, psychology and sociology of education. The teacher learns the theories from lectures and by reading books and papers. It is knowledge which is treated as being objective and fixed. // Knowledge in practice: This develops as teachers practise their craft. It is the tacit knowledge that teachers use to think wisely in the classroom, making ‘in the moment’ decisions about teaching and learning. It is subjective and includes the things that teachers do instinctively when they respond to learners or change an activity which is not working. Teachers learn through reflection on practice and discussion with others. // Knowledge of practice: This is knowledge of the context. It is includes the things that teachers instinctively ‘know’ about their context. Different teachers will experience the context differently, so this knowledge is subjective – it cannot be considered to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Teachers work in the social and cultural environment to build a relationship with learners. Teacher learning involves being prepared to challenge their own assumptions and interpretations, and understanding the context in which they are working, including the needs and background of their learners, in order to develop their own teaching personality.  When a teacher moves schools, they need to work with colleagues to come to understand their new context. Teaching approaches that have worked before might need to be changed. Teachers learn through reflection on practice and collaboration with others.

Figure 1  The three categories of teaching ‘knowledge’ (drawn from Cohran-Smith and Lytle, 1999). View PDF version

Activity 4.1 Knowledge for teaching

Allow approximately 30 minutes for this activity.

  1. Think back about your own experience of learning to be a teacher and of working as a teacher. In your study notebook make a list of what it is that you ‘know’ that someone who is not a teacher doesn’t, e.g. theories of learning, the school curriculum, how to control a class, how to plan a lesson, how to organise the classroom, etc.
  2. Next, draw a table with three columns with the headings: knowledge for practice, knowledge of practice and knowledge in practice. Sort your list from part 1 into the three columns.
  3. Now think about your training to be a teacher. What did the different aspects of your training contribute to what you now know and are able to do? Annotate your table to show how and where you learnt the different aspects of your craft as a teacher. If you are unqualified, annotate the table to show how you have come to know the knowledge and skills you have listed.