10 SES 11 A, Teachers as Agents of Change and Mentors
Topic and History of the research
As care and wholistic wellbeing in the public domain are increasingly under pressure due to idelologies of performativity and neo liberalism, this paper seeks to explore the issue of care, relationships and their significance in the context of first-level teacher education with a sample of final year students. The paper builds on a qualitative research project I presented last ECER which explored care and its significance for student teachers in in Ireland with a small group (n=19) of final year BEd students. The current study seeks to further develop these insights on student teachers' understandings and of their values in relation to care and student wellbeing in the context of changing society and a radically altered global context of care.
Working with a new and larger group of final year students (n=44; 1/8 of all final year students enrolled in the institution in 2017) I have gathered data in the form of 2 sets of artefacts: a) 5 bi monthly reflections from each student submitted on their care and wellbeing module and from associated set readings, and b) a poster submitted on completion that reflects their own particular interest on any aspect of the care and wellbeing module. (The module is taken as part of their specialism that they select in year 2 - all modules within that are compulsory and this is the final one).
Against the backdrop of a growing wellbeing discourse and developments in care theory, the research seeks to explore the question of student teachers' understandings of care and wellbeing as key concerns for their parctice and as goals of education. The research explores if and how students' understandings of these issues deepen over the period of a final semester, and secondly, how the students hold / cope with tensions in relation to issues of students' and teachers' wellbeing and increasing curricular and performative demands on primary school teachers.
Under the imperative of habitual reform in education, and yet one that may not necessarily attend to the real goods of education (Dunne, Ball, Biesta), this research seeks to explore final (4th) year ITE students' experiences and understandings of wellbeing; as a goal and a process of education.While the discourse on wellbeing has complexified and enriched over the past decade, and in the field of educational practice, there is currently a tendency towards the commodification of wellbeing and of overuse and banality (what McAllister has termed pseudo-wellbeing). The conceptual framework used here draws on the international wellbeing discourse and current critiques. Linked closely to the dicourse of wellbeing and flourishing is the conceptual field of care theory and relationality. The paper draws on influential care theorists (Noddings, Held, Gilligan) and brings this work into conversation with the broad conceptual and interdisciplinary field of wellbeing more generally (Allardt, Sen, Seligman) and as it has been applied to the field of education (Lynch, O'Brien, Thornbury, Pring, Sidorkin among others). The scholarship in this rich conceptual space of care is not necessarily in agreement, and indeed may often be in tension, reflecting diverse disciplinary and value perspectives. However, taking a comprehensive approach to discourses on wellbeing and care provides a more complex and dialogical space in which to explore the meaning(s) of wellbeing and care with students, and to begin to understand the value they place on these ideas and practices as developing professionals.
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