Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Theory and practice - A rhizom

My previous post was about the relation between theory and practice and how to theorize something you experienced with the tool of reflection. Having said that I would think about tools needed to turn theory into practice I have mainly thought about reflection... again. 

I was reading a chapter about self-learning from Kelly Ferris Lester from the book 'Moving consciously' (a collection of essays edited by Sondra Fraleigh). Lester quotes Paolo Freire, a brasilian pedagogue who said that "reflection - true reflection - leads to action." I am completely taking this phrase out of its context and try to use it with the aim to better understand how theory can lead to practice. 

For teacher students and teachers it can be difficult to transform their theoretical knowledge into practice. As a dance teacher student you learn teaching methods, you learn the development of a child, you learn common faults and how to correct them, ... but as soon as you stand in front of your class, it is not easy to implement this knowledge. What I have found most useful is to take time to listen to the students and to what is happening in your class and then reflect and respond, act or react to the situation. So, yes, "relfection - true relfection - leads to action." But it is easier said than done. 
There are numeruous articles where the link between theory and practice has been researched, but mainly with a focus on 'reflective practice' - or the process of turning experiences in practice into theoretical knowledge. 
So for now, all I can think of in terms of tools to turn theory in practice is to be a reflective practitioner.  

Knowledge is an enormuous rhizom. This rhizom grows with elements we learn from practice and with elements we learn from theory (books, conferences, conversations, ...). All the roots and shoots are interconnected and reflection helps us see those connections and apply or theorise them. While we practice our art or teach, we let our actions be nurtured by this rhizom and therefore we have to be attentive to what is happening in front of us and react. Reflection helps us in this process. 


  1. I do agree, practicing the theoretical knowledge is easier said than done..though we start working with basic knowledge, it is only later we learn through range of experiences, and then we apply them to practice. We may gain knowledge in three ways quoted by Bolton- first by reflection which is noblest, second by imitation which is easiest, and third by experience which is the bitterest.

    1. I like the quote, thank you! I guess experience is the bitterest also because it takes time, it demands patience, and you don't necessarily realise that your knowledge is growing, so it is also invisible.

  2. Dear Maite, once again its very inspiring to read your blog. I like the thought that knowledge is like a rhizome. Interconnected and interweaved and not hierarchically structured. I think to perceive knowledge this way, not only influences the way you approach learning (and therefore teaching), but also the teacher student relationship. Away from the all knowing teacher, that passes on his knowledge to the student to a relationship, that is based more on dialogue, listening, facilitating and accompanying the students on their learning journey, letting them find their own connections. (Of course as you say, thats much easier said than done!!!). I often remind my students that learning is a process and therefore always in motion. Reading your blog made me realise, that I often forget, that also teaching is a process and therefore constantly in flux, changing and evolving. And reflection is a really great tool, to shape the direction you wish your teaching to take.

  3. I think the art of turning theory into practice is itself a skill that needs practicing. It's like learning a language--I'm learning French, and I can understand a grammar concept, but using it on the fly in conversation is something else entirely. So too with teaching I think... even more so since a classroom full of people are all watching your every move!