Education has always been hectic and 2020 stepped that into hyperdrive. The pressure to perform leads to an inward focus, a ‘just get it done’ mentality’. It makes us cognitive misers: we hoard our precious time and energy because we don’t know what’s coming up next.
I found the time to read an article by Andreas Reckwitz, with the snappy title ‘Toward a Theory of Social Practices: A Development in Culturalist Theorizing’. It was a demanding read about cultural theory and its role in research.
Reckwitz synthesises different forms of practice theorists into four groups (he calls ideals). First he defines cultural theory: ‘explains action by having recourse to individual purposes, intentions and interests; social order is then a product of the combination of single interests’. He defines the four ideals into:
Mentalism: meaning made in the mind.
Textualism: meaning is located in symbols, signs and codes.
Intersubjectivism: meaning is located in social in interactions
Practice theory: meaning is a ‘block’ whose existence necessarily depends on the existence and specific inter-connectedness of these elements.
Head spinning stuff! I can’t claim that it was pacy but it did prove to be unexpectedly useful. It took me out of my day-to-day context. It challenged me in different ways. Frankly, it made normal activities seem more comprehensible because the language of the article had been so obscure.
A wise person said once that love is something that we obtain more of the more that we give it away and have less of the more tightly we hold on to it. Perhaps the same is true for hard pressed educationalists. When we hoard time and energy we grow more poor. When we engage in new research or different paradigms we gain new eyes, a different perspective, and with that comes a sense of energy that we may not have expected.