ERG SES D 07, Professional Development and Education
This paper argues that dealing with crises is an essential skill required by teachers of all kind of schools around the world. Following a sociological concept, a crisis is not defined as something negative, but as a moment when routines fail. A crisis starts with an irritation and demands a decision about further proceeding (cf. Oevermann 2004).
Thus, teachers are asked to deal with two kinds of crises: a) crises experienced by others, for example by students, and b) crises experienced by themselves. The importance of this task lies in the close link between crisis and development described in various scientific discourses.
In the discourse on teacher professionalism, Oevermann stresses that professionals work with life practices (‘Lebenspraxen’) – persons, groups of persons or larger communities – which have to choose one out of many possible opportunities. That is why there is always the potential that life practices can enter a state of crisis. In these moments, a routinized way of making decisions cannot be continued. A problem arises and demands the development of a new solution. Following the structural approach to teacher professionalism, a life practice becomes a case when it cannot solve such a crisis by itself. It is the teacher’s task to identify the crisis of the case and to solve it by cooperating with the life practice (cf. Oevermann 1996).
In the discourse on learning based on Dewey, it is emphasized that uneasy and perplexing situations lead us to experience disturbance (cf. Dewey 1933) which can be seen as a starting point for learning procedures because “routine and habit are not sufficient to engage the world” (English 2013, 67). Successful learning processes contain the reflection on these irritations and the transformation of an indeterminate situation into a problematic one (cf. Dewey 1938, 109). A crisis, conceptualized as an irritation and as an expression of discontinuity, then can be seen as a necessary condition for learning (cf. English 2013).
Finally, in the discourse on Bildung (education), Koller defines the experience of crises as “being confronted with problems for the solving of which the figures of the previous world- and self-relations are not sufficient any more” (Koller 2011, 377). ‘Bildung’ is conceptualized as a process of identifying and changing these figures. To explain the beginning of such a process, Koller refers to Buck’s concept of negative experience, i.e. a disappointment of an expectation (cf. Buck 1981), and to Waldenfels’ concept of the strange, i.e. an encounter with something unknown that causes trouble (cf. Waldenfels 2007). Just like in the discourses on professionalism and learning, crises are presented as starting points of developments that question established structures.
Based on these theoretical considerations, the task of a teacher is not only to accompany and support students by solving their crises, but also to initiate those crises in a way that autonomy development, learning and/or ‘Bildung’ can take place. By engaging in the crises of students, the professional teacher can experience an irritation which leads to an own crisis. The teacher then has to find a way to handle both types of crisis. Assuming that teachers’ work is about supporting learning and developmental processes of children and/or adolescents, dealing with crises can be seen as a meaningful requirement for all teachers, independent of the kind of school they work in.
Against this background, this paper gives an insight into a PhD-project which aims to reconstruct in detail if and how teachers deal with crises in their everyday practice. Three main research questions are addressed: What crises do teachers deal with? How do they conceptualize them? How do they deal with them?
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