The purpose of this paper is to theorize the theory-practice gap and to provide examples of how it currently expresses itself and how it might be addressed to better integrate between the worlds of thought and praxis.
Two empirical examples exemplify how the theory-practice gap is an institutionally embodied social reality. Cultural-historical activity theory is described as a means for theorizing the inevitable gap. An example from the airline industry shows how the gap may be dealt with in, and integrated into, practice.
Cultural-historical activity theory suggests different forms of consciousness to exist in different activity systems because of the different object/motives in the world in which we think and the practical world in which we live. A brief case study of the efforts of one airline to integrate reflection on practice (i.e. theory) into their on-the-job training shows how the world in which pilots think about what they do is made part of the world in which pilots live.
First, in some cases, such as teacher education, institutional arrangements can be made to situate education/training in the workplace. Second, even in the training systems with high fidelity, high validity (transferability) cannot be guaranteed.
The approach proposed provides a theory not only for understanding the theory-practice gap but also the gap that exists even between very high-fidelity (“photo-realistic”) training situations and the real-world praxis full of surprises.
The authors acknowledge the funding received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Griffith University Industry Collaborative Scheme and the support received by the participating individuals and institutions. The work reported was made possible by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (PI Roth) – data collection and analyses for case studies on electricians and seafarers – and by a grant from the Griffith University Industry Collaborative Scheme (PI Roth) – data collection and transcriptions for case study from the airline industry. All opinions are our own.
CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited