Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Patricia Jones


pedagogical reasoning, phronesis, practical wisdom, teacher knowledge, teacher learning


Given the teacher-as-technician view and the instrumentalist values that pervade professional schools, practices, and policy decisions (Kinsella & Pitman, 2012a; Zeichner, 2012) with regard to teacher qualification, evidence-based practices, and scripted curricula, there is growing concern that something of fundamental importance and moral significance is missing from the vision of what it means to be a professional, particularly in the field of education. In order to articulate teacher practical knowledge in a way that reflects the complexities of practice, a framework that captures the complexity of teaching practice and helps to define the type of knowledge beyond content and technique, which enables teachers to make practically wise decisions is needed. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the practical reasoning of highly competent teachers as it is revealed through meaning making about their experiences of pedagogical reasoning. The aim of this study was to provide an interpretive description of teacher pedagogical reasoning, then utilize the construct of professional phronesis as a framework for understanding the dimension of teacher knowledge involved in judgment (Coulter & Wiens, 2002; Kinsella, 2012).

In order to develop a detailed, multi-perspectival account of the constructs of pedagogical reasoning and professional phronesis, I employed an interpretive phenomenological case study design (Smith et al. 2009) to examine the experiences of three participants. Analysis of the data revealed the pedagogical reasoning of the participants as a knowledge that continuously develops over time through a corpus of instructional experiences including: purposeful professional

development, problem solving and reflection. The pedagogical reasoning of the participants was also found to operate as an instructional decision-making process that occurs in two modes: in deliberate planning and preparation for instruction, and spontaneously as they engage in instruction. Finally, the pedagogical reasoning of the participants was characterized by an orientation towards achieving multiple goals at once. All participants acknowledged the content of her discipline as an established goal; however, they described their decision-making in terms of goals for both themselves as practitioners regarding their role in student learning, as well as goals for student outcomes that extended beyond the development of student content knowledge. Professional/personal and instructional goals are tied to the identities of the individual participants and reflect how the unique dispositions of the participants influences the factors they consider in making instructional decisions, regardless of operational mode. Finally, all participants discussed a personal paradigmatic shift in focus from an early-career focus on content delivery to a focus on the needs of individual students and the necessity of developing relationships with students in order to achieve their personal/professional goals and goals for student growth. These themes regarding the experience of pedagogical reasoning reflected the six features of professional phronesis outlined by Kinsella and Pitman (2012b), which suggests that phronesis is a viable construct within the practice knowledge of highly competent teachers.