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After Higgins and Dunne: Imagining School Teaching as a Multi-Practice Activity


  • Richard Davies

Correspondence: Richard Davies, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, Aberystwyth University, Penbryn 5, Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23, 3UX, UK.



There remains a concern in philosophy of education circles to assert that teaching is a social practice. Its initiation occurs in a conversation between Alasdair MacIntyre and Joe Dunne which inspired a Special Issue of the Journal of Philosophy of Education. This has been recently utilised in a further Special Issue by Chris Higgins. In this article I consider two points of conflict between MacIntyre and Dunne and seek to resolve both with a more nuanced understanding of the implications of applying the concept ‘social practice’ to teaching. I critique both Dunne's and Higgins' focus on schools and school teaching. It is their focus on school teaching, rather than a broader account of teaching, that leads them astray. The result is that Dunne and Higgins have not shown that teaching is a social practice. School teaching is not a complex activity, but a complex set of different activities co-located in one place and engaged in by the same agents. In a final section I offer an account of ‘school teaching’ as a multi-practice activity which is consistent with MacIntyre's approach, and argue that schoolteachers have both an institutional and an educative role.