The guru of praxis …

Sounds like a good name for an arthouse movie or an avant-garde band … but is in fact referring to Professor Stephen Kemmis, whose AARE workshop on Professional Practice Theory I attended last weekend at the University of Queensland. Stephen is a guru in my eyes, perhaps best known for co-authoring one of the bibles of critical practice, Becoming Critical (Carr & Kemmis, 1986).

Praxis is all about critically reflecting and acting on practice, with the intention of changing practice for social good. So we would be practicing this in the workshop? Not exactly …

Stephen began the workshop with a confession of his tendency to monologue, and pleaded with us to alleviate this through asking questions, contributing to discussion, and initiating group conversations. Then he began to speak … about the history of schooling and of universities … of the design of classrooms and the design of the book (did you know that books were designed to be chained to tables and shelves so that they could not be stolen?)… of the bureaucratisation of teaching … of the redesign of the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences … where was this leading?

… to ‘Practice architectures’, a construct which accounts for contextual aspects of practice, proposing that it is “profoundly located”.  Rather than try to spell out all the dimensions of this, here is a version of Stephen’s model for researching educational praxis as related to its architectures, drawing on ideas about practice from Habermas, Bloom, Marx, Foucault and Bourdieu:

“an expanded view of the relationships between the individual and cultural–material–social purposes of education”

Related to this is the concept of ecologies of practice – the interconnected system of social practices that support and inform each other (also see Lemke’s ideas around ecosocial systems). And so the workshop went along, in the style of an inspiring and occasionally interrupted monologue, brimming with ideas from the beaming and benevolent guru, ranging from Aristotle to Foucault, Bourdieu and Schatzki.

And after the workshop, Stephen kindly autographed my copy of Becoming Critical 🙂