The focus of this volume, and of Pupil Strategies (Croom Helm, forth-coming), is on the means by which teachers and pupils try to achieve their ends, and the factors bearing on them. The character of ‘means’ and ‘ends’ is highly problematic. We are no longer content to accept what teachers and pupils seem to do, that is, for example, to ‘teach’, to ‘learn’, or even to ‘mess about’. The realities behind these activities have suggested other connotations than those implied. ‘Teaching’ and ‘learning’ may be ‘fronts’ — dramatic activities designed to cover more significant ones, or merely one kind of activity, and not necessarily the most important, among many.1 ‘Messing about’ has been shown to have meaning, and to be rule-governed.2 Nor can we accept so readily what teachers and pupils say they do. This is not to imply wilful deception on the part of teachers and pupils. It has been shown that generally there is a big disjunction between what people say and what people do, either because of an inevitable distinction between ideals and practice, or some confusion in communication and interpretation.3 We also have reservations now about what people think they do. If it is not a product of alienated thought processes, it may be a too ready assumption about the appropriateness of patterns of beliefs and values, levels of abstraction, causal chains, etc., belonging to one life-world (such as that of teaching) in another (such as that of sociology).4 More simply, the complexity of school life and the lack of time for reflection leads to a great deal of routinised and ritualised behaviour, upon which rationalised accounts might be superimposed.