Propositional vs. practical knowledge: exploring the metaphors and images of pre-service teachers

Robyn Torok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines how pre-service teachers deal with the commonly reported theory-practice divide during their early teaching experiences by focusing on key elements of their practical theories. The findings come from a mainly qualitative case study of three pre-service teachers in their final year of university study. Participants had their practical theories elucidated through an interview process, as well as several profiling instruments. Views of how participants coped with the theory-practice divide were narrowed to two areas: behavior management and pedagogy. Multiple data sources were triangulated and relationships developed on an a posteriori basis. The findings are presented as case studies of each of the three participants. Participants' schooling experiences, educational philosophy and personality type were found to be significant in influencing perceptions of the usefulness of educational theory. A filtration system model was developed where theory flows to practice through four main filters, with the amount of material progressing determining the size of the theory-practice divide. The major finding was that it was not so much the nature of this divide that was a hindrance to the development of pre-service teachers but the constraints of teacher-centred pedagogy imposed by supervising teachers that prevented the pre-service teachers from experimenting and developing their own practical theories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-29
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Pedagogies and Learning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • pre-service teachers
  • theory-practice divide
  • behaviour management
  • pedagogy


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