The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10, NIV)
A few years back, I was tasked with being responsible for the implementation of a federal grant that required the use of a specific evidence based practice for youth alcohol and other drug treatment. The project was a national implementation project. In order to assure that all of the sites were implementing the practice according to fidelity, and that we would be able to compare our outcomes equitably across sites, each implementer also had to use a specific, research based assessment tool. This assessment was electronically based, and could take a young person two to three hours to complete. If you know much about teen-agers who struggle with addictions, a two to three hour electronic assessment is not practical. We had other outcome tools which we were required to use, also developed by researchers, were not as cumbersome, but equally challenging for youth.
The result of this project? We had great research. We had poor client experience with the actual assessment tools (the practice implementation worked just fine). The experience affirmed what so many practitioners had long believed: research is great, but tools developed by researchers were inappropriate for actual service delivery. There was a huge gap between the tasks of gaining knowledge and developing practice wisdom. The research team assigned to this project were well respected and effective in their goals, but they also seemed to communicate that the practitioners, the people who would actually be using their work, were incapable of offering meaningful, scholarly, input.
Caroline Ramsey attempts to address this gap in her articles, “Management learning: A scholarship of practice centred on learning?”  and “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice” . Ramsey argues that the development of meaningful practice research comes from attending to the relationships and context that shape practice, as opposed to simply inserting an idea or theory into the practice context. She notes her own experience, and the experience of other researcher/learners, in working with a practice setting to implement change. In all instances, a change needed to occur, and there was an idea about how to accomplish this change, but the change did not occur as planned. Instead, each researcher/learner partnered with the practitioners to adapt a model or theory to be more effective in the workplace.
One of the concepts that Ramsey discusses is that of “mindfulness.” This caught my attention as it is an Eastern practice wisdom or philosophy that has become more prominent in the mental health and social services arena. Mindfulness draws the participant to be conscious of their overall state of being, and to attend to the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the moment. Reactive people tend not to be as mindful, while those who are able to slow themselves, and consider multiple factors, are able to act from a calmer place. Some might call this wisdom. “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” (Proverbs 14:29, NASB) Other versions refer to being patient, but the idea here is that when we slow ourselves down, and consider the context, the other person, we gain understanding (and limit foolishness). And if we apply that understanding, perhaps it will lead to wisdom.
The key here, for me, is what is the source of that calming? That peace? The Psalmist writes that it is the Lord. That when we center ourselves on Him, when we seek to live in His peace, we are better able to slow ourselves and listen first to Him, and then to the other. In practice, what this means for me, is recognizing that the practitioner or the student, has just as much to add to the development and implementation of theory to the field as the researcher. In fact, the practitioner may well have more to offer because they have the experience and understanding of the context. They can say right away whether something will or will not work in their context. And then they can help generate better ideas on how to apply knowledge.
I am a teacher. I develop programs. I have led large groups of practitioners. But I am a learner. My teams and my students are only successful because they are active participants in the learning and developing and implementing of ideas. I think that this is part of what Ramsey was trying to suggest: That when we engage in a collaborative process of learning, we create better and more useful outcomes. I would add that when we center ourselves on Christ, we are better able to step back and consider how the development of knowledge can lead to greater understanding of people and contexts, and ultimately wisdom.
 Caroline Ramsey, “Management Learning: A Scholarship of Practice Centred on Learning?” Management Learning, 45:1, 2014, pp 6-20.
 Caroline Ramsey, “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice,” Management Learning, 45:2, 2011, pp 469-483.