CyberEnglish: The Web-Book

Case Studies: Practical Theory

o my way of thinking this chapter is the most important because in it I will be spending time looking at a selection of scholars' work and speaking about what was happening at the time, what was done behind the scenes, and making an assessment of the work and process. I call it "practical theory" because it is my practice and the scholar's practice which is then explained and analyzed by some theory. It also may be based on a theory I heard about and I tried to put it to practice. It is always hard to know when we do something if it is conceived by theory or derived in practice, either new or revisited from our past practices. Hence I see it as "practical theory" one influencing the other and informing the other. They are not separate but joined. Some teachers do not start teaching until they have completed college and earned an advanced degree in education and gatrhered lots ofm theory before teaching a class. Other teachers just jump into the classroom after college. Within a few years both teachers are engaged in "practical thoery" because they are teaching, the practice, and they are engaged in professional conversations either in their school or in a graduate program, the theory. "Practical theory" is the teacher walking the talk of education, first one foot, either practice or theory, then the other foot. "Practical theory" can best be illustrated by one of my favorite quotes:

    One must learn by doing the thing.
    For though you think you know it,
    you have no certainty until you try.

    Sophocles (BC 495-406, Greek Tragic Poet)
We may know the theory of riding a bike, but we don't know we can ride until we get on that bike. This is the same in teaching. We may have a head full of theory, but not until we get into the classroom can we realize that theory. And similarly, we may be teaching a class, but until we explore some theory we may not know what we are doing or make the proper adjustments in our practice. Practice and theory are the ying and the yang of teaching I call "practical theory."

In addition this chapter will provide you a guided tour of the scholars' work and help provide the reader with some entry points and some prescribed paths to follow and why. I offer, that if any readers find their own paths through the scholars' work and chose to write about it, to publish it here with these case studies. Interaction with the reader is always desirous by the author.


Teaching for Social Justice

The Power of Going Public

On Being Wired

The class of 97 discusses the writing process.

Hypertext Webfolios of Class of 98.


Case-based Learning:
We believe the best professional development revolves around real-world experience. The core of our system is the teacher case study - a rich, Internet-based video document of teachers at work in real classrooms. The case study captures teaching methods, student reactions and efforts to learn, as well as other complex classroom dynamics, allowing educators with access to Teachscape's site to observe the challenges teachers face - the choices they make, the solutions they devise - within their classrooms. Fully integrated with the video components of the case studies are many other online resources: lesson plans, assessment tools, commentary from experienced and distinguished practitioners, examples of student work, and more.

© Ted Nellen 2000