Theodore Schatzki: Practices and Learning

This essay considers the contribution that practice theory makes to understanding learning. It argues that practice theory does not foster a new conception of learning but instead holds insights regarding learning as standardly conceived.  Part one considers the Lave & Wenger idea that learning is coming to participate in practices. This idea is often taken as an alternative to the traditional idea that learning is acquiring knowledge. I argue that coming to participate in a practice amounts to acquiring the knowledges needed to participate in it. As a result, learning qua coming to participate in practices is a version of the traditional conception of knowledge that highlights practical knowledge and ties contents and processes to knowledge to the organization of social life as practices. Part two both explores implications of the ontological centrality of practices for learning—e.g., that learning occurs within practices, that learning takes paths, the idea of a learning curriculum—and illustrates how practice theory ties the contents and processes of knowledge to practices. Part three focuses on the notion of knowledge, in particular, the location of knowledge and the idea that acquaintance is a third form of knowledge in addition to knowing how and knowing that. The concluding section argues that training à la Wittgenstein—the processes by which children fall into line with ways of acting for which there are no justifying reasons—underlies the acquisition of knowledge, thus participation in practices, and is itself a form of learning .

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