01 SES 03 B, Teacher Inquiry
In our longitudinal study we are following 42 teachers, of whom 20 began teaching in 2004 and 22 in 2007. In this paper, we give particular attention to three questions: (i) how extensive was the teachers’ learning and inquiry in this initial period; (ii) how important was the learning for their understanding and practice; and (iii) in what sense could their inquiry be regarded as research and knowledge generation?
The study is relevant to the Conference focus on educational research. One of our findings so far is that the teachers learn far more through informal than formal methods. This means that, if such learning and inquiry could in fact be seen as research and knowledge generation, this could help substantially in an era of decreased funding for academic educational research.
There is some recognition that teachers inquire and learn “on the job.” But people disagree about how much they learn in this way and the status of the knowledge acquired. The current press for “research-based” or “evidence-based” education suggests some lack of confidence in the ideas and practices teachers arrive at on their own.
However, several prominent theorists over the years have argued for a more positive view of both the quantity and significance of the knowledge acquired by teachers in the course of teaching. Schon (1983) rejects what he calls the “technical-rationalist” notion that teacher effectiveness comes primarily through “the application of scientific theory and technique” (p. 21). On Schon’s (1983) view, practitioners do research and generate theory: “reflection on the unexpected results of [classroom] experiment leads to theory” (p. 181). And such theory is “fundamental to practice,” giving “springboards for making sense of new situations” (p. 317).
Similarly, Zeichner (1995) regrets the fact that teachers have to endure top-down PD that “ignores what teachers already know and can do and relies primarily on the distribution of prepackaged and allegedly ‘research-based’ solutions to school problems” (p. 161). In the same vein, Carr (1995) argues that teachers have “extensive theoretical powers” and constantly use theory in “conceptualizing their own activities” (pp. 34-35). Academics must acknowledge teachers as theorists and work alongside them if they are to have significant impact on the field.
Along the same lines, Cochran-Smith and Lytle (2009) state that “practitioners are deliberative intellectuals who constantly theorize practice as part of practice itself” (p. 2). And Burton, Brundrett, & Jones (2008) maintain that “teachers improve their effectiveness…by asking the right questions and reflecting on the responses in light of what they have previously experienced and read about” (p. 3).
By no means are these theorists denying the potential importance of research by academics. Their point is rather that teacher inquiry should be built into our general conception of educational research, bridging the present gulf between teacher inquiry and academic research (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009; Groundwater-Smith, Mitchell, Mockler, Ponte, & Ronnerman, 2013; Pine, 2009; Zeichner, 1995).
Admittedly, teacher inquiry is usually a sub-category of research. It’s typically “qualitative” (Merriam, 2009; Savin-Baden & Major, 2013): among other things, the sample size is relatively small, questions are largely open-ended, and issues are pursued in greater depth than in a survey. Moreover, it is usually a type of “grounded theory” research (Punch, 2009; Savin-Baden & Major, 2013): ideas emerge from the data rather than being specified as “hypotheses” beforehand and formally “tested.” However, this doesn’t imply that it is not research, since a great deal of academic educational research is also of a qualitative and grounded theory variety.
Atwell, N. (1991). Side by side. Toronto: Irwin Publishing. Atwell, N. (1998). In the middle (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Berliner, D., & Casanova, U. (1993). Putting research to work in your school. New York and London: Scholastic. Burton, N., Brundrett, M., & Jones, M. (2008). Doing your education research project. Los Angeles: Sage. Carr, W. (1995). For education: Towards critical educational inquiry. Buckingham: Open U.P. Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. (1993). Inside/outside: Teacher research and knowledge. New York: TC Press. Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. (2009). Inquiry as stance: practitioner research for the next generation. New York: Teacher College Press. Darling-Hammond, L., & Bransford, J. (eds.) (2005). Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Groundwater-Smith, S., Mitchell, J., Mockler, N., Ponte, P., & Ronnerman, K. (2013). Facilitating practitioner research: Developing transformational partnerships. London and New York: Routledge. Kennedy, M. (2006). Knowledge and vision in teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 57(3), 205-211. Merriam, S. (2009). Qualitative research: a guide to design and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Pine, G. (2009). Teacher Action Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Punch, K. (2009). Introduction to research methods in education. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Savin-Baden, M., & Major, C. H. (2013). Qualitative research: The essential guide to theory and practice. London and New York: Routledge. Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books. Zeichner, Kenneth (1995). Beyond the divide of teacher research and academic research. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 1(2), 153-172.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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