Case Studies: Practical Theory
o my way of thinking
this chapter is the most important because in it I will be spending time looking at a selection of scholars' work
and speaking about what was happening at the time, what was done behind the scenes, and making an assessment of the
work and process. I call it "practical theory" because it is my practice and the scholar's practice which is then
explained and analyzed by some theory. It also may be based on a theory I heard about and I tried to put it to
practice. It is always hard to know when we do something if it is conceived by theory or derived in practice,
either new or revisited from our past practices. Hence I see it as "practical theory" one influencing the other and
informing the other. They are not separate but joined. Some teachers do not start teaching until they have
completed college and earned an advanced degree in education and gatrhered lots ofm theory before teaching a class.
Other teachers just jump into the classroom after college. Within a few years both teachers are engaged in
"practical thoery" because they are teaching, the practice, and they are engaged in professional conversations
either in their school or in a graduate program, the theory. "Practical theory" is the teacher walking the talk of
education, first one foot, either practice or theory, then the other foot. "Practical theory" can best be
illustrated by one of my favorite quotes:
One must learn by doing the thing.
We may know the theory of riding a bike, but we don't know we can ride until we get on that bike. This is the same
in teaching. We may have a head full of theory, but not until we get into the classroom can we realize that theory.
And similarly, we may be teaching a class, but until we explore some theory we may not know what we are doing or
make the proper adjustments in our practice. Practice and theory are the ying and the yang of teaching I call
For though you think you know
you have no certainty until you try.
Sophocles (BC 495-406, Greek Tragic Poet)
In addition this chapter will provide you a guided tour of
the scholars' work and help provide the reader with some entry points and some prescribed paths to follow and why.
I offer, that if any readers find their own paths through the scholars' work and chose to write about it, to
publish it here with these case studies. Interaction with the reader is always desirous by the author.
NO TWO ARE ALIKE: A PLEA FOR PERSONALIZED LEARNING
Teaching for Social Justice
The Power of Going Public
On Being Wired
The class of 97 discusses the writing process.
Hypertext Webfolios of Class of 98.
We believe the best professional development revolves around
real-world experience. The
core of our system is the teacher case study - a rich, Internet-based
video document of
teachers at work in real classrooms. The case study captures teaching
reactions and efforts to learn, as well as other complex classroom
educators with access to Teachscape's site to observe the challenges
teachers face - the
choices they make, the solutions they devise - within their
classrooms. Fully integrated with the
video components of the case studies are many other online resources:
assessment tools, commentary from experienced and distinguished
of student work, and more.
© Ted Nellen 2000