20 SES 10 B, What Kind of Teacher Competence, Collaborative Knowledge and Perspective are Essential for Working with Multicultural Settings and Different Cultures on Various Levels of Education?
In this paper, I look at the knowledge work practices in a teacher team in an urban school setting in Norway. The focus is on how these knowledge practices – their purposes, content, forms, products, and effects – are being framed by the complexities of the urban context in Norway as well as by the conflicting climates of standardization, on the one hand, and increasing demands for more sophisticated discretion in teachers’ professional practice, on the other.
The study follows the work of a 6th-grade teacher team in a public school located in a socio-economically disadvantaged multicultural suburb of one of the larger Norwegian cities. The data is collected over one academic year and consists of observations, group and individual interviews, teachers’ logs, and organizational shadowing. The study aims to contribute to the strand of educational research that views teachers as knowledge workers in need of a space for epistemic agency and urban schools not as places “in high need” to “be fixed,” but rather as intellectually sophisticated albeit challenging organizational contexts.
Two overlapping practical problems underpin the study. First, high turnover rates and teacher burnout in multicultural urban schools, which handicap professional communities, are often explained by scarce and meaningless collaboration, lack of intellectual drive and a chronic feeling of underachievement. From here follows a need to explore the conditions that can make urban schools more intellectually stimulating and emotionally rewarding workplaces. The second problem has to do with the heterogeneity characterizing urban context in Norway. Unlike other European contexts where mono-ethnic schools are commonplace, Norwegian urban school is generally mixed, with its diversity being intensified by an absence of early streaming. This calls for more knowledge-driven collegial collaboration as professional problems in such diverse and sensitive sociocultural and linguistic context bring about new requirements for knowledge, skills, and professional values.
The study draws on three interrelated strands of research that look at the knowledge base and knowledge practices of teachers (e.g., Little & McLaughlin, 1993; Nerland & Jensen, 2012); teachers’ collaboration and collegiality (e.g., Achinstein, 2002; Kelchtermans, 2006; Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace, & Thomas, 2006), and teachers’ work in urban settings (e.g., Elstad, 2009; Gu & Day, 2007; Kelchtermans, Ballet, & Piot, 2009; Sleeter, 2012; Öhrn & Weiner, 2007).
The theoretical perspective is rooted in understanding teaching as a distinct knowledge-based profession. To this end, two theories are guiding for the study. First, Biesta’s (2015) conceptualization of the three domains of educational purpose that frame teachers’ knowledge work – the purposes of qualification, socialization, and subjectification. Here, the line of analysis is also informed by the concepts accounting for the complexity of teacher’s knowledge work – its inquiry-orientated (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009), heuristic (Ertsas & Irgens, 2016), and teleological nature (Biesta, 2015). Put in simpler terms, at school – and particularly in urban contexts, the three domains of educational purpose inevitably come at odds with one another and this requires teachers’ to use professional discretion (Molander, 2016) extensively. The second orienting framework is Kelchtermans’ (2006) conception of collegiality that accounts for the qualitative aspects of professional collaboration rather than its frequency and density.
Achinstein, B. (2002). Conflict Amid Community: The Micropolitics of Teacher Collaboration. Teachers College Record, 104(3), 421–55. Elstad, E. (2009). Schools which are named, shamed and blamed by the media: school accountability in Norway. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21(2), 173–189. Evetts, J. (2003). The Sociological Analysis of Professionalism. International Sociology, 18(2). Gu, Q., & Day, C. (2007). Teachers resilience: A necessary condition for effectiveness. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(8), 1302–1316. Kelchtermans, G. (2006). Teacher collaboration and collegiality as workplace conditions. A review. Zeitschrift Für Pädagogik, 52(2), 220–237. Kelchtermans, G., Ballet, K., & Piot, L. (2009). Surviving diversity in times of performativity: Understanding teachers’ emotional experience of change. In Advances in Teacher Emotion Research: The Impact on Teachers’ Lives (pp. 215–232). Little, J. W., & McLaughlin, M. W. (1993). Teachers’ Work: Individuals, Colleagues, and Contexts. Teachers College Press. Molander, A. (2016). Discretion in the Welfare State. Taylor and Francis. Nerland, M., & Jensen, K. (2012). Epistemic practices and object relations in professional work. Journal of Education and Work, 25(1), 101–120. Sleeter, C. E. (2012). Confronting the Marginalization of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. Urban Education, 47(3), 562–584. Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional Learning Communities: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Educational Change, 7(4), 221–258. Öhrn, E., & Weiner, G. (2007). Urban Education in Europe: Section Editors’Introduction. In International Handbook of Urban Education (pp. 397–411). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
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