Evidence That It Works
Practical wisdom has been described by scholars as the master virtue, because it guides you in enacting all other virtues. Practical wisdom allows you to know what is needed in a given situation and to act accordingly—even in situations where two or more virtues might be pitted against each other. For example, although you value humility and respect during discussions with colleagues, you may also rely on courage and empathy as you argue against a school policy you believe is unfair to your students.
Practical wisdom is what Aristotle referred to as the good sense that helps us to choose well. While little empirical research has been done on it, scholars suggest that practical wisdom includes reflection. Reflection allows individuals to consider the situation and identify which virtues are needed to achieve one’s own ideal of a good life. Reflection is a skill that can be practiced in everyday situations. Furthermore, some scholars suggest that a wisdom perspective can be developed by practicing character traits such as empathy, openness, and fairness.
Why Does It Matter?
Educational professionals face multiple and often challenging decisions on a day-to-day basis. At school, teachers may need to decide what grade to give a student, how to respond to a misbehaving student, or whether to encourage a student to apply to their dream school. At times, such questions can pit some of our virtues against each other, leaving us to wonder if we are making the right decision. Practical wisdom is the tool that allows us to understand what actions we need to take in a given situation in order to attain our valued goals (e.g., being fair, supporting a struggling student, etc.).
Practical wisdom can help foster strong school communities where teachers and staff are better equipped to respond to each other in affirming ways while responding to challenging situations.