Book by Lee S. Shulman
Review by Timothy J. Jones
The Wisdom of Practice invites readers to think about teaching and learning. In essays spanning a thirty-year career, Shulman writes about his own growth as a teacher and learner, commenting along the way on educational theory from Aristotle, Dewey, and Bruner. Advisors who work in colleges of education should find Shulman’s ideas about pedagogy, case studies, and community most useful. Any advisor who reads this book will come away with a deeper understanding of reflective practice.
About Aristotle’s ideas on pedagogy, Shulman comments, “To reach the highest level of competence as an educator…demands a melding of knowledge and process” (p. 415). This seventh level is pedagogical understanding. Teachers come to this knowledge only by taking the time to think about what it is they do, resulting in an act of reflective practice.
Case studies grow out of reflective practice. For Shulman, “By reading and discussing such cases, we begin to detoxify the recounting of failures and make the possibilities for learning from such experiences more real” (p. 445). Shulman calls for a case-based pedagogy, making the classroom more participatory and learner-centered.
Through writing their own cases and commenting on those of others, students come to a deeper knowledge of how theory and practice relate to one another in context. Teachers, also, can learn from making portfolios in which they gather cases to share with others. This sense of community is critical to the learning process, allowing one’s original interpretations to be altered after dialogue with others in “a learning environment built on activity, reflection, and collaboration” (p. 563).
Although this book demands careful and thoughtful reading, advisors will find useful suggestions about the case method. An essay from Shulman’s book could provide a worthwhile basis for a professional development session or staff meeting. Reminding educators and advisors to take the time to think about teaching and learning is important. Accepting the challenge and making the time for reflective practice is an imperative that should be heard by both educators and advisors.
The Wisdom of Practice: Essays on Teaching, Learning, and Learning to Teach. (2004). Book by Lee S. Shulman. Review by Timothy J. Jones. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 587 pp., $42.00. ISBN # 0-7879-7200-2