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The transition from craft to science

Prepared by John Church, PhD, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Discovering that there is a very considerable tradition of scientific research in child development, in basic learning processes, and in the relative effectiveness of many commonly used teaching procedures does not mean that the transition from craft to science in teaching practice has begun or will now begin. The change from craft to science in medical practice required the presence of a number of social conditions and took the better part of 70 years. A similar transition in teaching practice is likely to take a similar amount of time and is unlikely to occur until certain conditions are met. Some of the conditions which appear to be necessary for a transition from craft to scientific practice in classroom teaching include the following.

  • A more detailed knowledge by teachers of the conditions on which different types of learning depend.
  • A more detailed understanding by both teachers and researchers of the complexities of classroom practice.
  • A greater understanding of teachers’ beliefs about teaching and the way in which these beliefs constrain the changes which are possible.
  • A more widespread recognition of the nature of teachers’ work and the way in which this limits the kinds of changes which are possible.
  • A greater recognition of the fact that teacher education has the potential to improve teaching practice.
  • Recognition of the fact that a move to evidence based practice will require a very much greater research effort than is currently occurring.
  • Recognition of the fact that progress will depend upon research of a much higher quality that that which is currently being undertaken.

In this section we examine each of these conditions and the likelihood that they will occur in the New Zealand setting.