Practice as a Key Idea in Understanding Work-Based Learning

  • Paul Hager


There has been a prominent trend in recent decades for theorising within the arts and social sciences to appeal to human practices as the fundamental bearers of understanding, intelligibility and meanings. This effect of this ‘practice turn’ is that the once-favoured mental entity concepts of earlier theorising (beliefs, desires, emotions and purposes) are displaced by concepts associated with human practices (embodied capacities, know-how, skills, tacit understanding and dispositions). The practice turn has a strong philosophical lineage including Hubert Dreyfus (inspired significantly by Heidegger), Alasdair MacIntyre (strongly influenced by Aristotle) and Theodore Schatzki (strongly influenced by Wittgenstein). Other philosophers influential amongst practice theorists are Dewey, Brandom and Charles Taylor. As well, leading social theorists (e.g. Bourdieu, Giddens) have also produced detailed accounts of practice.

The practice turn is evident in diverse disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, history, anthropology, cultural theory and science and technology studies. Not surprisingly, the concept of practice has also featured increasingly in recent writings on education and learning. However, it is noticeable that the term practice is employed in very diverse ways in these literatures, though most writers appear to take the meaning of ‘practice’ to be unproblematic. This chapter will, firstly, offer an overview of the main different ways in which various writers construe something as a practice. Advantages and limitations of various understandings of the term practice will be discussed. In particular, this chapter will examine the possibilities and limitations for illuminating work-based learning that result from adopting various construals of the term practice.


Workplace Learning Rich Understanding Human Practice Practice Theory Sociocultural Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Social ScienceUniversity of TechnologySydneyAustralia

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