Education as initiation into practices

Paul Smeyers, Nicholas C. Burbules

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In this essay, Paul Smeyers and Nicholas Burbules reexamine the concept of "practice" and propose a new way of conceiving it that does justice to the idea that education is in some sense an initiation into practices without endorsing either the conservative and reproductive conception of what initiation entails or the radically social constructionist idea that all practices are arbitrary and groundless. First, drawing from the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Charles Taylor, Smeyers and Burbules outline how the centrality of the concept of "practice" should be understood. Second, they indicate how the concept has come under pressure to the extent that one may doubt whether there are any "practices" left in contemporary society. Third, they differentiate between different kinds of practices in terms of how they are learned and how they are enacted, and suggest the central role that narrativization plays in these processes. They conclude that a theoretical focus on initiation into practices need not lead either to conservative or to relativistic conclusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-449
Number of pages11
JournalEducational Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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