Principles of Practice: The Missing Link Between Educational Theory and Teaching Practice?

Principles of Practice: The Missing Link Between Educational Theory and Teaching Practice?

Date & Time

09 May 2012, 00:00




Office of Education Research (OER)

Events Details

Time: 1.30pm - 3.00pm


A major problem in teacher education, the so-called 'theory-practice' gap, seen by teachers as a lack of relevance of what are taught as educational theories to the realities of their classroom experience. It is a problem that bothered the speaker, Dr David Tripp, in his own initial teacher training (1965-1969), and became a serious difficulty for him when he began lecturing in teacher education in 1978 (Tripp 1993:xiii-xv). Although he had found a practical solution by 1980, Dr Tripp only began to make theoretical sense of it when he recast the problem as a ‘theory-theory’ gap, caused by attempts to apply theory generated elsewhere (in psychology or sociology, for instance) to teaching Tripp (1993:146). Dr Tripp suggested two ways to deal with the problem. The first was for educational researchers to shift from seeking to apply the theories of other disciplines to classroom teaching, to theorising teachers' experiences, and much of his 1993 book was devoted to demonstrating the value of that process. The second approach suggested was to look for the presence of theories generated in contexts other than teaching in teachers’ practice.

That second approach proved to be difficult because the theories tend to be residual, highly transformed and not consciously recognised in teachers’ practice. Recently, however, in view of current proposals to centrally manage teacher education and performance, Dr Tripp has returned to the process. Drawing on earlier work on ‘principles of action’ (Tripp, 1985), he can now show how educational theory and expert practice unite in ‘principles of practice’ in that they both guide teaching decisions and are informed by values and theory.

In this paper, Dr Tripp outlines what these principles are and show how they can be induced from single incidents in teaching. He believes this paper has major implications for teacher education and educational research.

Tripp, D. (1985). Case study generalisation: an agenda for action. British Educational Research Journal, 11(1), 33-43.

Tripp, D. (1993). Critical incidents in teaching: developing professional judgement. London and New York: Routledge (Education Classics Series, 2011).


Dr David Tripp is an Adjunct Associate Professor, Murdoch University, Western Australia. He graduated from the University of Exeter in 1969 and taught English in UK secondary schools before completing a PhD in educational evaluation with Edward de Bono at Cambridge in 1978.

Within the general framework of the learning organisation, Dr Tripp specialises in work-integrated learning, specifically reflective practice and action learning processes in professional and organisational learning, change and development.

In teacher education, he has pioneered a journal writing and critical incident approach to reflective practice, and his book on the method (Routledge, 1993) is a widely used text, now with over 500 scholarly citations; it has been through four reprints, and in 2011 was one of the first four books selected for the Routledge ‘Education Classics’ series. Other published work also includes over 50 book chapters and articles in teacher education, action research, programme evaluation and qualitative (case study) research methods.

Dr Tripp now works from the Murdoch University Centre for Learning change and Development as a freelance lecturer and project consultant. He is currently engaged in a project on the integration of theory and practice.

Email: / Tel: 618 97 321 456


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