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The issue of being 'practical' presents a continuous challenge, because student teachers' meanings for that word tend to be in sharp contrast to meanings that allow inquiry and are connected to personal and cultural histories. Instructor and student perspectives elucidate the struggle to find a compromise within this tension in the form of a particular narrative exercise assigned in a foundations course of a teacher-training programme. Investment of identity and performative language were required in order to construct collaboratively a narrative repertoire of techniques and strategies that was practical in a non-technical sense.