How do teachers make use of theoretical and expert knowledge as opposed to tacit and experiential knowledge?
How do teachers working with children with special needs balance 'knowing the child' with knowledge derived from diagnostic categories?
What is the role of inter subjective relationship and the emotional aspects of working with children in the work of teachers with special needs?
Can a psychodynamically derived psychosocial approach help is make sense of these questions?
Can psychoanalytic object relations theory and the work of Wilfred Bion, one of the leading psychoanalytic theorists of the 20th century, help us understand the professional practice of teachers with children with special needs and the work of caring professionals more broadly?
The answers to these questions are explored in my new book
Professional Uncertainty, Knowledge and Relationship in the Classroom: A Psychosocial Perspective
published by Routledge.
Using case studies focusing on teachers working with children with autism, a particularly fertile crucible for considering uncertainty, the book explores how the radical 20th century psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion's epistemological approach to uncertainty can be used to re-frame Donald Schön's concept of reflection in action, offering a new perspective on the practice of teachers and other caring professionals. Several areas of potential uncertainty are identified, including uncertainty relating to areas of practice including diagnosis, the relationship between expert knowledge and practice, the implications of autism for autonomy and agency, and uncertainties in relation to the understanding of and use of new technologies. A strong argument is made, based on both theoretical and empirical grounds, that in juggling between theoretical and tacit knowledge in the classroom there is more to be gained by staying with the struggle with uncertainty than by fleeing from it too early, into the promise of expert solutions. Consideration is also given to the relative importance of specific theoretical training for teachers, both in general and in relation to working with children with special educational needs, in the context of international and UK policy developments in this area.
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