The Reflective Methodologists A Cultural Analysis of Danish Pedagogues’ Individualised Silence and Collective Articulations
This article takes its point of departure in a stance found among practitioners – including teachers, preschool teachers, kindergarten pedagogues and other welfare professionals – in which theory is considered abstract and thus irrelevant to or unhelpful in their daily work. In exploring the backgrounds of this stance, I address the issue at two levels: one that focuses on the professional identities, cultural logics and communicative norms of kindergarten staff groups in their actual, contemporary context; and another that focuses on aspects connected to the reception of Donald Schön’s concept of ‘the reflective practitioner’. The analytical and methodological perspectives in the article are informed by the anthropology of education; specifically, by focusing on meaning-making processes and their consequences.
In my approach to the concept of the reflective practitioner, I use a Bourdieu-inspired perspective; here, the social actor’s practical sense and tacit knowledge are related to questions of power and other actors’ strategies for positioning themselves within a social space. In doing so, they produce professional identities, ideals of communication, and colleague relationships. Here, the point of departure is that questions concerning ‘reflective practitioners’ and ‘tacit knowledge’ cannot rely solely on theoretical arguments but should be empirically informed by studies of practices as they unfold in pedagogical institutions. This article analyses the field by investigating these concepts and examining the cultural logics that make such interpretations possible and meaningful. Furthermore, I point to a problematic aspect of Schön’s work with regard to his empirical basis, which demands a particular focus on the historical effect of ‘the reflective practitioner’ concept as a symbolic marker of identity in the cultural logic of the pedagogical field. I also address how this logic considers practice to be the exponent of all that is good, meaningful and correct. From my analysis, I develop the concept of ‘the reflective methodologists’ to describe a professional identity and practice that relies on the critical examination of specific actions instead of ‘tacit knowledge’.
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