Knowledge, judgement and the curriculum: On the past, present and future of the idea of the Practical

Gert Biesta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1970, Joseph Schwab published the first of four papers that argued for a turn to the idea of the Practical in curriculum research and practice. In this paper, I revisit Schwab's original paper and explore the extent to which his case for the Practical is still relevant today. I first look at the past of the deliberative tradition in which Schwab's argument is located. I argue that a more precise engagement with the work of Aristotle - particularly the distinction between making/production and doing, and between knowledge of the eternal and of the variable - can strengthen Schwab's case and allow for a better understanding of the kind of knowledge and judgement needed in education. In relation to the present, I highlight three ways in which the current context has changed from when Schwab published his paper. These concern the strongly diminished space for teachers' professional judgement; the rise of a call for evidence-based education; and the shift in curriculum studies away from practical questions. To (re)connect the field of curriculum studies and research with questions about the 'doing' of curriculum is, in my view, where a deliberative approach such as the one articulated by Schwab remains highly relevant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-696
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Curriculum Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


  • Aristotle
  • curriculum
  • evidence
  • judgement
  • the practical


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