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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Program planners’ practical knowledge Sloane-Seale, Atlanta


The adult education literature offers little analysis and understanding of the practical knowledge of the program planning process planners hold and use. Rather, a comprehensive review of theoretical sources revealed the widespread use of the academic model, informed by Tyler’s rationale, which has yielded a linear model of planning and a technical view of planners. By contrast, the theoretical sources on practical knowledge and on curriculum and teachers’ thinking pointed to the use of an experiential model, informed by Schwab’s theoretical concepts, which has presented planning as deliberative, and planners as creators and possessors of knowledge. The purposes of the study were to: gain an understanding of the kinds of practical knowledge planners in a university continuing education unit find useful and relevant to their decision making in program planning; acquire a greater understanding of the planning process from their perspective; and develop categories for interpreting these understandings. The research was guided by an interpretive perspective and qualitative methods. The study was conducted in two phases. A pilot and a follow up study. In total, a purposive sample of six planners, two males and four females, none of whom had pursued graduate study in adult education, working in the same institution, were interviewed. It was concluded that practical knowledge, which informs planning practice, consists of three kinds of knowledge: declarative, procedural, and conditional which stand in dialectical relationship to one another; and that planning practice requires that planners have and use all three kinds of knowledge. Further, planning is indeterminate and contingent on the context and planners’ knowledge. These planners’ practical knowledge incorporates a framework of concepts, rules and routines or strategies, beliefs, values, principles, and metaphors of practice. This framework has implications for planners’ criteria of valid and reliable knowledge, informal and formal planning strategies, the ideological character of knowledge, and ethics of practice. As well, these planners use a combination of planning approaches which are directly related to the nature of the planning context and their own capabilities. The contextual and problematic nature of planning is made explicit. The study challenges the prevailing assumptions associated with a traditional view of planning.

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