01 SES 05 B, Issues around Professional Roles
This paper examines how teachers approach and engage with knowledge in collaborative settings, and how teachers’ collaborative work with knowledge constitutes of professional roles and responsibilities.
In contemporary societies, teachers’ relations to knowledge are in transition. New modes of governance, including a turn towards output based curricula, increased emphasis on national and international testing and the introduction of teacher standards, contribute to new ways of talking about knowledge in the teaching profession and to the framing of teachers’ knowledge as a key issue in educational policy (OECD, 2005). Also, the knowledge landscapes of the profession are changing through an increased emphasis on research based practice and the introduction of new actors (e.g. knowledge clearing houses) that mediate between teachers’ local work settings and broader knowledge landscapes. New ways of organising work in schools, such as the shift towards increased collaboration, imply that teachers are to a greater extent expected to make the basis of their work explicit and open up their practices to collective scrutiny.
Through such developments, teachers’ knowledge relations are put at stake. These developments challenge long established orientations within the profession towards experience based knowledge and individual approaches to assessing, developing and validating knowledge (Little, 1990; Lortie, 2002 ; Pedder & Opfer, 2013). Teachers are now expected to adopt more collective approaches to practice development and collaboratively engage with a variety of knowledge resources. However, while much research has focused on what and how teachers learn as collaborative settings (Stoll et al., 2006; Vescio et al., 2008), less attention has been paid to how knowledge is approached and developed through collaboration. A key objective of this paper is therefore to examine teachers’ collaborative work with knowledge resources, and illustrate how knowledge resources may take a constitutive role in such interactions.
The developments described above also put at stake teachers’ roles and responsibilities, as new modes of educational governance reposition teachers’ relationship to the curriculum, create new indicators of teachers’ knowledge and introduce different forms of ‘professional standards’. Much research has investigated how teachers’ roles are constituted in national policy documents (Beck, 2009; Evans, 2011), how notions of teacher professionalism can be theorised (Evetts, 2009), and how teachers' experiences of autonomy are changing in light of recent policy developments (Day & Smethem, 2009). However, less attention has been paid to how teachers’ roles and responsibilities are constituted through their engagement with knowledge in everyday work. The second objective of this paper is therefore to investigate how teachers’ knowledge work with pedagogical resources is linked to the constitution of professional roles and responsibilities, and examine the implications of teachers’ knowledge work for notions of professional autonomy and agency.
The following research questions are pursued: How are professional roles and responsibilities constructed through teachers’ collaborative work with pedagogical resources? What are the implications for teacher agency and autonomy?
These questions are examined using analytical resources from cultural historical theory (Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1991) and social practice based perspectives (Schatzki et al., 2001). Rather than approaching the profession’s knowledge base as a separate unit of analysis, I examine how engagement with knowledge is enacted as part of everyday work, which I refer to as ‘knowledge work’. A social practice perspective on knowledge in the professions enables an analysis of the contingent and emergent dimensions of professionals’ relations to knowledge, and allows us to examine not only what kind of knowledge professionals engage with, but also the how and why-dimensions of teachers’knowledge engagement. In turn, the how and why-aspects of the analyses can be used to examine how teachers’ roles and responsibilities are constituted when they explore, develop and assess knowledge resources.
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