Teachers' intuition-in-action: How teachers experience action

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Calgary]On: 07 October 2014, At: 17:28Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Reflective Practice: International andMultidisciplinary PerspectivesPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/crep20

    Teachers' intuition-in-action: Howteachers experience actionThorbjrn Johansson a & Tomas Kroksmark ba Gteborg University , Swedenb Jnkping University , SwedenPublished online: 18 Aug 2010.

    To cite this article: Thorbjrn Johansson & Tomas Kroksmark (2004) Teachers' intuition-in-action: How teachers experience action, Reflective Practice: International and MultidisciplinaryPerspectives, 5:3, 357-381, DOI: 10.1080/1462394042000270673

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  • Reflective Practice, Vol. 5, No. 3, October 2004

    Teachers intuition-in-action: howteachers experience actionThorbjorn Johanssona* and Tomas KroksmarkbaGoteborg University, Sweden; bJonkoping University, Sweden

    Reflection is frequently used and plays an important role in teachers work, but the concept ofreflection is not always clear. In this article the focus is on the (re)introduction of intuition inteaching. We examine and make explicit different ways of using and understanding reflection andintuition, concentrating on the essentials of the two concepts. The concept of intuition is knownand used all over the world. In this particular study, it is necessary to limit the historicalconceptualization to western philosophy and also to its use in Swedish philosophy and pedagogyin the twentieth century. The aim is to conceptualize teachers intuition through analysis ofqualitative interviews. Data is collected from 13 interviews with professionally active primary andsecondary school teachers. The study is carried out within the framework of phenomenology. Theprincipal methodological source of inspiration is Herbert Spiegelberg and the definite framepresented in his work The phenomenological movement (1984, pp. 678719) With that as base, anumber of different items are adopted to describe and analyze the experience of teachers. Theresult shows that the concept of teachers intuition-in-action contains an extremely evidentdimension in the teachers work. This dimension is conceptualized in a qualitative area andorganized into the themes of the how and what aspects of intuition. The result also indicates thatteachers are more inclined to talk about teachers intuition-in-action than about teachersreflection-in-action when articulating the practice of teachers. In the discussion we argue for theimportant content-aspect of teachers own experience captured in the concept of teachersintuition-in-action. Using a stricter definition of both intuition and reflection their obviousrelation is discussed. Finally we try to highlight the necessary and integrated conection intuitionhas to teachers work, how it enrichens and widens the understanding of pedagogical practice andthe important impact it should have in teacher education.

    Afterwards, you wonder where on earth you got that from [] if you sit down and wonder[]

    (Teacher in the study)

    Every teacher is usually (more or less) well prepared for her own teaching, for longterm as well as short term planning. She plans the content of each lesson, the bestconceivable disposition, the best way to encourage students to learn, and the best

    *Corresponding author: Department of Education, University of Goteborg, Box 300, 405 30Goteborg, Sweden. Email: thorbjorn.johansson@ped.gu.se

    ISSN 1462-3943 (print)/ISSN 1470-1103 (online)/04/030357-25 2004 Taylor & Francis LtdDOI: 10/1080.1462394042000270673

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  • 358 T. Johansson and T. Kroksmark

    possible way to make the content exciting and interesting. This takes place prior tothe lesson through pedagogical predictions, which later turn out to be right or wrongin the actual activity. In cases where the planning does not work, the pedagogicaldisposition is turned off, and the teacher has to depend on her practical andprofessional qualities. Lately many researchers have interpreted this sequence ofeventsby way of the so-called Schon traditionas teachers reflection-in-action(Zeichner, 1984; Lauvas & Handal, 1993; Alexandersson, 1994a). This may be anexpression of an exaggerated expectation of what teachers are capable of doing, apedagogical desk product, a model which has been imported from disciplines withother professional realities than those of teachers.

    Stuart Parker claims that the concept of reflection is used too vaguely in connec-tion with teachers work. According to Parker (1997, p. 30), it refers to thinking ingeneral terms. In this sense we can probably agree that teachers reflect when they actas well as when they do not. In a stricter definition of the concept of reflection(Bengtsson, 1995, pp. 2332), it seems considerably more complicated to talk aboutteachers reflection-in-action. Is it at all possible to reflect in a professional work-dayas nuanced and complex as the teachers? Can you have dialogues, themes and/ordistance to the ongoing pedagogical action? Can you freeze the actions of chalkdust? In previous studies (Johansson, 2000) and in conversations with teachers(Johansson & Kroksmark, 2000; Kroksmark, 2004), we have noticed that teachersare more inclined to talk about teachers intuition-in-action than about teachersreflection-in-action.

    It is possible to talk about teachers intuition in cases when it is identified byteachers in action. The question is what is meant by an intuitive pedagogical action,how this is related to the current opinions of the concept of intuition in philosophyand what implications it may have on teacher education (Schon, 1987) and theunderstanding of teachers practice. In this article we will describe an empiricalstudy carried out to conceptualize teachers intuition-in-action through analysis ofqualitative interviews (Fontanta & Frey, 1994).

    The word intuition comes from the late Latin word intuitio meaning gaze,consideration. It is built from the classical Latin verb intueri, a compound of thepreposition in, directed towards, and the verb tueri, to see. Gradually themeaning has extended to mean not only seeing with the eye but also with theintellect, that is to perceive, to understand. This is the basis of the philosophicalconcept of intuition.

    The concept of intuition is known and used all over the world. In this particularstudy, it was necessary to limit the historical conceptualization to western philosophyand also to its application in Swedish philosophy and pedagogy in the twentiethcentury. We have very briefly described some of the questions the concept ofintuition give rise to, how the concept was treated during a particular historicalperiod, how these same questions appeared again several hundred years later andhow these concept was treated in philosophy and pedagogy at that time (Larsson,1925a). Despite this limitation the area is enormous. Please note that philosophyrelates to intuition in a general sense, while our study is directed towards intuitionwithin a specific professional area, primarily teachers intuition-in-action.

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  • Teachers intuition-in-action 359

    The history of intuition in western philosophy may broadly be outlined as in thefollowing extremely condensed version. Plato (428345 BC) defines four kinds ofknowledge: imagination, persuasion, discursive knowledge and intuition. Throughintuition, knowledge is completed and the individual gains insight into the world ofideas which Plato perceives as the supreme kind of knowledge. In Bauch deSpinozas (16321677) philosophy, knowledge moves from experience, adequateknowledge over to intuition. The intuition results in an insight that the world isrationally organized, that it consists of a systematic entirety. Intuition goes beyondthe borders of discursive thinking since it with one single gaze understands what isessential. When the individual, by way of intuition, sees himself as necessary in thisentirety, he is filled with intellectual love for God. Friedrich Wilhelm JosefSchellings (17751854) system of thoughts moves from a simple sensation to a highspiritual activity. According to Schelling, this supreme activity appears in thecreative activities of the artistic genius. This artistic intuition is similar to theintuition a philosopher applies in his work. Even Schelling considers intuition aspiritual insight, a work of the soul (Aspelin, 1990, part II, p. 192ff). To Plato,Spinoza, and Schelling, intuition is a spiritual insight into the essence of things andthe essence of the world.

    Rene Descartes (15961650) believed the individual receives knowledge aboutsimple, obvious truths through intuition. He considers intuition a spiritual insight.According to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (16461716), knowledge is reached if thesesimple concepts or truths are reached by way of intuition. Complex concepts andjudgements can later be built on this basis. In John Lockes (16321704) philosophywe gain knowledge about the simplest relationships between simple ideas throughintuition. Complex ideas, on the other hand, require discursive evidence and haveto be connected to the intellect. Locke perceives intuition as knowledge about thesesimple relationships. To Descartes, Leibniz, and Locke, intuition appears to beknowledge about the simple and the obvious (Nordin, 1995).

    Arthur Schopenhauer (17881860) claims there is a foundation of metaphysicalknowledge when while watching we are able to gain knowledge about the thingitself in a direct intuition. While experiencing our own body, we experience anobject which also is a subject. As every other perception, the body is extended intime and place as a link in a chain of reason. We experience, however, that ourbodily movements are expressions of our own will. According to Schopenhauer, wecan understand that this will is our innermost essence in a direct intuition. Hence,we may conclude that other objects also are objectives of a fundamental will.Schopenhauer perceives intuitive knowledge as an experience of what can be sensedhere and now (Schopenhauer, 1992). It concerns direct knowledge as opposed toreasonable knowledge which employs abstractions.

    According to Edmund Husserl (18591938), the so-called intentionality is afundamental feature of every conscious act. That means we can differentiate be-tween the conscious act itself and what it is directed towards in every case. Husserlbelieves he has come to this conclusion by way of the so-called looking at theessence, with which he claims it is possible to exceed the actual existing acts, and byusing our imagination we can vary these until we reach a point where variation nolonger is possible. Husserl points out that there exists an insight into a necessity of

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    essence at this very point. He claims that this knowledge of essence is intuitive incharacter. The task of phenomenology is to reach this intuitive security through amethodic and gradual reduction. According to Husserl, intuition results in a securitywe experience when knowing there is a total agreement between what we mean withsomething and the way in which the thing is given (Kitaro, 1986; Levinas, 1995).Intuition is a term for knowledge of the essence indicating an extended understand-ing of experience of the directly given.

    Christian von Ehrenfels (18591932) claims that an entirety of something takesshape as more than the mere sum of the individual components. All the characteris-tics of this entirety cannot therefore be reduced to the individual components.According to Ehrenfels, we gain access to this entirety by way of intuition. Ehrenfelsunderstands intuition as experience of the objects in their entirety. Henri Bergson(18591941) describes a methodic experience of the directly or immediately givenin its entirety as opposed to abstract divided thinking. Intuition is a methodicexperience of the directly given in its entirety.

    The concept of intuition in Sweden in the early 20th century can be described bythe following examples. Hans Larsson (18621944) argues in several of his works(Larsson 1892, 1912) for the need of an intuition that is characterized by synthesisand which summarizes manifoldness in oneness. According to Larsson, intuitionfollows the rules of logic; it is logistically articulated. He perceives intuitive thinkingas the opposite of discursive thinking (Larsson, 1909). Bertil Hammer (18771929),the first Swedish professor in pedagogy from 1910 to 1929 (Kroksmark, 1991),challenged the prevailing scientific methods (Hammer, 1909) and claimed that withintuition as method, reality is not exclusively quantitative. Instead Hammer arguesfor a more down-to-earth and intuitive pedagogy (Kroksmark, 1989) and wants toapply intuition with a methodic purpose. As opposed to Larsson, John Landquist(18811974) claims that intuition is an absolutely simple act (Landquist, 1971;Kroksmark, 1989). He who understands by way of compounding and synthesis,does not understand simple matters. The act that understands what is simple...