Critical Incidents in Teaching: Developing Professional Judgement

Critical Incidents in Teaching: Developing Professional Judgement

Critical Incidents in Teaching: Developing Professional Judgement

Critical Incidents in Teaching: Developing Professional Judgement


What are the 'instincts' of a good teacher?

Can they be taught?

Good teachers use good techniques and routines, but techniques and routines alone do not produce good teaching. The real art of teaching lies in teachers' professional judgement because in teaching there is seldom one "right answer". This combination of experience, flexibility, informed opinion and constant self-monitoring is not easy to acquire, but in this re-released classic edition of Critical Incidents in Teaching - in print since 1993 and which includes a new introduction from the author - David Tripp shows how teachers can draw on their own classroom experience to develop it.

In this practical and unique guide, the author offers a range of strategies for approaching critical incidents and gives advice on how to develop a critical incident file. Illustrated with numerous classroom examples for discussion and reflection, Critical Incidents in Teaching is for everyone concerned with the development of professionalism in teaching. Although aimed at teachers who want to improve their own practice and pass on their expertise to others, it is also part of David's long term agenda to improve the public status of teaching and to encourage more inductive research in education; he sees classrooms as situations to be explained rather than as places in which to apply theories developed in other disciplines.


Recently I was asked what I had hoped to achieve by writing this book, and knowing fame and fortune were hardly realistic, found myself saying that it was the professional growth of individual teachers, and through that, growth in the professional status of teaching. I was thinking of that when I sat down to write this introduction for the book’s republication in this new series, and my next thought was whether it had actually made much difference. The short answer was that it hadn’t, for although action research and reflective practice courses in Education have burgeoned, the vast majority are instrumental in orientation; what passes for educational theory is still dominated by psychology, sociology and the other ‘—ologies of education’ (as discussed in Tripp, 1990); there is still very little inductive theorisation of educational practice in educators’ higher degree work or the journals; and there is no developing literature on the nature of professional judgement in teaching. In other words, there’s been little progress with what was outlined in the final section of the book, The task ahead.

But there is another side, of course: others, such as Brookfield (1987, 1995) and Senge (1990) have made outstanding contributions to how practitioners can inform their professional judgements, and over the past 18 years sales of this volume have been high and remarkably steady for an academic book; it was translated into Polish, becoming a set text for all student teachers in Poland for several years; more recently it has been translated into simple Chinese; and various extracts are still used in teacher education courses. That evidence changed my initial pessimism to a more optimistic recognition that it has been of value to many teachers, some of whom have found it sufficiently useful to take the time to thank me for it. Even if it’s only to individuals, I could see some of the differences it’s made, particularly for those like Margaret who wrote:

I am a primary teacher in Scotland… applying for chartered teacher status
– a new grade of teacher. I am at present writing my reflective report on my
teaching. It’s not easy when you have been teaching for almost 25 years, so
much to say, so few words…. I decided to read your book ‘Critical incidents
in teaching.’ I could not put it down. I want to thank you for your honesty and
for giving me so much to think about. I thoroughly enjoyed your book and

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