The tension and relationship between empirical knowledge and practice experience have long been discussed. Klein and Bloom (1995) describe a lens to evaluate and translate value-driven practice experience and the translation of scientific findings into practice principles are interconnected via the bridge of practice wisdom and feedback loops. The idea of practice wisdom serves the practitioner to translate previous practice experience, empirical knowledge, and theoretical knowledge into particular interventions and activities. This idea of practice wisdom is how we develop the ability to see a phenomenon and know how to best respond based on all of this accumulated knowledge.
Having the capacity to be able to reflect subtleties based on a particular situation can be a challenge to create. It takes sometimes being able to see a type of truth about a particular situation and what is going on in a given situation. Anzaldúa (2012) describes a concept that she describes as la facultad (faculty) which she describes as “capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities. It is an instant ‘sensing,’ a quick perception arrived at without conscious reasoning” (p. 60).
The concept of practice wisdom is mostly related to empirically collected data, theoretical frameworks, and some based on our experience. Anzaldúa (2012) describes the experience of la facultad as coming from adversity. That things that “thrust us into a less literal and more psych sense of reality increases awareness and la facultad” (p. 61). It would seem that both of these are true and could potentially be seen as similar facets of the same system.
As a social worker, I routinely have to manage encounters with extremely negative events happening in people’s lives and very difficult experiences people are going through. It can sometimes feel almost as though I am in a trauma ward, doing triage. In school and ongoing professional development, the idea of developing a professional detachment and having systems of self-care integrated into our lives is frequently cited. For me, it was not more real until I had a long-term client I was working with getting murdered. When I heard the news about the event, I was struck with so many thoughts and was unable to focus. I ended up having to ask my supervisor for permission to leave early and process the event canceling the rest of the appointments I had for the day. It was through this difficult experience and the feelings I had, that I also had to confront how to process and keep my home-life and work-life balance. Without both theories and understanding of self-care and being able to process the experience, I would have been lost, but as well the event also made for a clear example in my life because of the turmoil.
These concepts around our perceptiveness is an interesting subject. I would argue to understand if the perceptions we develop, are laid on an appropriate foundation, we would need to have some sort of feedback loop to test and check our understanding against. Similarly, Montuori (2006) describes that there is a need for students to have a connection between their emotions and intellect, or between their head and heart, or practice and theory, there is also a need to have a connection between la facultad and practice wisdom that we gain. While practice wisdom would focus more heavily on the empirical knowledge and la facultad would look more at the experiential aspects, it would seem there is a third way of learning and sensing can arise that is also related to both. That which is based on patterns and concepts that we find in nature or through our everyday lives.
With the work of my Ph.D. I took a leave of absence at my position at the school district where I have been working for the last several years. I knew I needed to find part-time employment, as my position as an Adjunct for the University I also work out would not pay the bills. About a month a half ago, well before receiving my last paycheck was offered a position at a local mental heal counseling agency. It has taken a long time to get started, and I ended up deciding to do some work in the fields picking apples (which is very hard work and work which I found out I am not fast enough to do work by contract). While I was picking, I found myself having some insights that I already know in my life, but that seemed relevant. Not having ever done this type of work, I didn’t realize how full many of these trees would be. It seemed as if from every angle I would find more apples that I needed to pick. But this pattern in nature made me appreciate the concept in life that we often have to look at any problem from multiple angles. I find myself in many situations finding this type of inspiration from patterns in nature or life.
Whether we are looking at our perceptiveness and the amount of it that should come from scientific inquiry versus experience, or as Moore (2005) discusses looking at double consciousness versus single consciousness related to how we process and deal with generations of abusive treatment that Black American’s have gone through. His description of letting us start with self-reflection is relevant. To transform the ways that we think, “it is never too late to learn, but we must first develop the capacity to value learning. To paraphrase Fanon, we must not just know the world but change it” (p. 762).
Anzaldúa, G. (2012). Borderlands/la frontera: The new mestiza (4th ed.). San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.
Montuori, A. (2006) The quest for a new education: From oppositional identities to creative inquiry. ReVision, 28(3), 4-20.
Klein, W., & Bloom, M. (1995) Practice wisdom. Social Work, 40(6), 799-807. https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/40.6.799
Moore, T. O. (2005) A Fanonian perspective on double consciousness. Journal of Black Studies, 35(6), 751-762.
This essay was originally posted in my class forum for TSD 8210 - Self, Society & Transformation as a part of the coursework for the California Institute of Integral Studies.