Tacit Knowledge in Learning to Teach: What are the Possibilities for Student Teachers?

Warren-Lee, Nicola (2017). Tacit Knowledge in Learning to Teach: What are the Possibilities for Student Teachers? EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ce9d


This study focuses on a particular type of knowledge which is referred to throughout as tacit knowledge and has been identified as a personal form of knowledge, which plays a key role in the practice and professional development of teachers. In the context of initial teacher education tacit knowledge is important to consider as what student teachers are learning and how they are learning it is of current, pressing concern to initial teacher education in England.

The role of and access to tacit knowledge in student teacher learning were investigated using a case study approach employing stimulated recall interviews wherein mentors were asked to reflect upon their teaching and explain their teaching actions. Stimulated recall interviews involved student teachers taking on the role of interviewer. Thematic analysis of data revealed that student teachers probed key teaching episodes and encouraged mentors to reveal complex decision making which may otherwise have remained undisclosed.

Main findings show that both student teachers and experienced teachers see tacit knowledge as useful in the learning to teach process. Interviews reveal that observable teaching actions had complex underlying reasoning and this was elicited via objective-led dialogue between student teacher and mentor, post-teaching. Student teachers were able to independently select teaching events to examine further, and were able to understand their mentor’s actions and judgements more deeply as a result of stimulated recall interviewing.

The implications arising out of this study include a need for change to observation and debriefing practices in school, with student teachers and mentors becoming more aware of the value and purpose of tacit knowledge. The benefits of student teachers being instrumental in initiating and asking questions which can elicit experienced teachers’ tacit knowledge are clear; and findings show the potential for student teachers to become more pivotal in their own learning. Where stimulated recall interviews were used mentors were encouraged to reveal embedded reasoning underpinning their classroom practice.

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