Tact of Teaching, The

The Meaning of Pedagogical Thoughtfulness

By Max van Manen

Series: SUNY series, The Philosophy of Education
Paperback : 9780791406687, 240 pages, August 1991
Hardcover : 9780791406670, 240 pages, August 1991

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Table of contents



1. Toward a Pedagogy of Thoughtfulness


The Possibility of a New Pedagogy


Remembering educators' in loco parentis relation
What do we look for in pedagogues?
Becoming reflective about pedagogy as the practice of living


2. The Concept of Pedagogy



The pedagogical intent makes the difference
The vocation of pedagogy animates and inspires us


About the Idea of "Pedagogy"


Pedagogy orients us to the child
Pedagogy is concerned with the child's self and development


3. The Pedagogical Moment

The Pedagogical Moment Expects Something of the Adult


Facts and values are important for knowing how to act pedagogically
But in pedagogical moments neither facts nor values can tell us what to do
Method and philosophy are important for knowing how to act pedagogically
But in pedagogical moments neither methods nor philosophy can tell us what to do


Pedagogy is Sensitive to the Context of Life Stories


Pedagogy asks us to reflect on children's lives
Children need security and safety so that they can take risks
Children need support so they can become independent
Children need direction from us to find their own direction in life
Tensions and contradictions belong to the pedagogical experience


4. The Nature if Pedagogy

The Conditions of Pedagogy


Pedagogy is conditioned by love and care for the child
Pedagogy is conditioned by hope for the child
Pedagogy is conditioned by responsibility for the child


The Nature of the Pedagogical Experience


The pedagogical situation
The pedagogical relation
Pedagogical action


5. The Practice of Pedagogy

Pedagogical Understanding Is Sensitive Listening and Observing


Non-judgmental understanding
Developmental understanding
Analytic understanding
Educational understanding
Formative understanding
Pedagogical understanding is facilitated by trustful sympathy


The Relation between Reflection and Action


Reflection before action
Reflection in action
Thoughtful action in pedagogical situations
Reflection on action
Can routinized and habitual acting be thoughtful?
Pedagogical fitness is the mind-body skill of tact


6. The Nature of Tact

The Relation between Tact in General and Pedagogical Tact


Historical notes on tact
False tact


Aspects of Tact


Tact means the practice of being oriented to others
To be tactful is to "touch" someone
Tact cannot be planned
Tact is governed by insight while relying on feeling
Tact rules practice


7. Pedagogical Tact

How Does Pedagogical Tact Manifest Itself?


Tact shows itself as holding back
Tact shows itself as openness to the child's experience
Tact shows itself as attuned to subjectivity
Tact shows itself as subtle influence
Tact shows itself as situational confidence
Tact shows itself as improvisational gift


What Does Pedagogical Tact Do?


Tact preserves a child's space
Tact protects what is vulnerable
Tact prevents hurt
Tact makes whole what is broken
Tact strengthens what is good
Tact enhances what is unique
Tact sponsors personal growth and learning


How Does Pedagogical Tact Do What It Does?


Tact is mediated through speech
Tact is mediated through silence
Tact is mediated through the eyes
Tact is mediated through atmosphere
Tact is mediated through example


8. Tact and Teaching

The Significance of Tact in Teaching


Tact gives new and unexpected shape to unanticipated situations
The touch of tact leaves a mark on the child


The Primacy of Practice


Tactful teachers find difficulty easy
Tact is interested in the child's interest
Tactful discipline produces self-discipline
The tact of humor creates new possibilities
The tactful structure of thoughtful action


9. Conclusion


The Relation between Pedagogy and Politics

Pedagogy and Culture

Pedagogy is Self-reflective






This thought-provoking book offers an original perspective on the meaning and practice of teaching as a reflective activity. Max van Manen defines pedagogical thoughtfulness as the way that educators grow, change, and deepen themselves as a result of reflecting on living with children. He shows how the processes of teaching require tact —an interpretive intelligence, a practical moral intuitiveness, a sensitivity and openness toward the child's subjectivity, and an improvisational resoluteness in dealing with children. All teachers — current and future — who are concerned about the "caring" aspects of their work will be inspired by this text.

Max van Manen is Professor of Education at the University of Alberta. He is the author of Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy, also published by SUNY Press, and The Tone of Teaching.


"This book is a welcome antidote to the preponderance of psychological texts that paint adult-child interactions as a series of discrete tasks and skills. While acknowledging the place of traditional skills approaches, van Manen openly, directly, and wholeheartedly addresses those dimensions of relationships that psychology cannot handle, primary among which is the elusive ability to be with children in a way that makes personal growth possible. " — Antoinette A. Oberg, University of Victoria

"Modern education has lost much of its moral currency. The passion and struggle for teaching excellence has been inhibited by a variety of social forces including bureaucratic rationality. Current calls for 'participative management' and 'shared governance' are a step in the right direction; however, this type of terminology still lacks the vital moral element which this text addresses. " — James G. Henderson, Kent State University

"From start to finish this is a highly readable, engrossing, and stimulating book; I came away from its reading refreshed and invigorated. The use of anecdotal material (vignettes of children in homes, schools, classrooms, etc. ) is an undoubted strength of the work — I know of no other educational text that makes such extensive use of the commonplaces of everyday life. I found myself relating to these instances time after time after time. " — Rod Evans, University of Calgary