Practice

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"An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory." E F Schumacher

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Education is a captivating field. As a practice concerned with human learning it sits at the intersection between biology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, politics, anthropology, the numerous sub-disciplines these broad areas of human thought contain, and the many forms of interdisciplinary study that connect the dots between them.

 

Making sense of education implies considering all of the above and much more besides, a fascinating task. However, as practitioners, our job is not just to make sense, but to translate our sense into practices that contribute positively to the lives of children, society, and the world. What we think - our theory - has a profound influence on what we do, so it's important to think carefully, but ultimately it is what we do - our practice - that matters.

Practice is not an abstract activity. It always takes place in a unique geographical, social and historical moment with a unique group of people. As such, while theories and ideas drawn from other places and times can be useful, they must always be adapted to and tested in our special situation. What works in a native community in Northern Italy will not work in the same way in an international community in Southern Spain.

A useful way of conceptualising this theory-practice dynamic is as an ongoing open-ended conversation. In this conversation, academics and pedagogues tell us many useful things, but by far the most important voices are those of the young people we work with. The measure of the value and validity of our practices, as well as the driving force in their evolution, is not their idealism, elegance, or theoretical strength, but the extent to which they support our community to thrive.