10 SES 08 D, Professional Identity, Understanding Wellbeing and Care and Responsibility
Research Outline and Question:
Wellbeing is increasingly in the limelight across all levels of education globally (Pring), and while much of the focus on wellbeing is oriented to the support and facilitation children’s, adolescents’ and young adults’ wellbeing in education, there is little reflection and research on teachers’ own understandings and experiences of wellbeing, and how in turn, these understandings affect their relationships with students in their care (Noddings 2012). Building on my previous research and pedagogical work with final year students in primary teacher education (year 4 BEd), this research moves beyond earlier explorations of students’ understandings of care and wellbeing and seeks to interrogate more closely how a radical relational pedagogical approach (Critical Contemplative Pedagogy, Kaufman 2017) can foster student teacher reflections on self-care and on their own wellbeing as teachers. Thus, the research is both exploratory in terms of (a). student teachers’ conceptual and experiential understandings, and (b). is significant from a methodological/pedagogical perspective as I introduce a meditative dimension to the ongoing reflective and critical work. The research also examines how this new element of contemplation within a developing pedagogy can further facilitate students as they learn to reflect on care and wellbeing.
A qualitative critical/emancipatory approach. The teacher education module selected for this research is an element of a specialism chosen by students. Through participation and observation, but most particularly through analysis of students’ written reflections and final meta-reflections, I describe and discuss the development of their understandings of wellbeing more generally and especially for their own work as teachers. I compare this pedagogical approach to that of the previous 2 years, where the critical reflective pedagogy was present but with less emphasis on the contemplative embodied aspect. The reflective writing of students and the reflective reading of the teacher educator are educational artefacts that provide the mirror/ the data for this research.
Staying with the conference theme of inclusion and exclusion, the research is based on a pedagogical praxis framed through a critical phenomenological framework that enables student teachers to explore their own thoughts and feelings regarding self-care and wellbeing and the teaching relation. Given the rise of performativity culture there is greater pressure on teachers to ensure children’s academic standards which often creates tensions in relation to broader educational purposes, the development of the person and their wellbeing. Moreover, in many jurisdictions, teachers are required to teach wellbeing as a curricular subject with little regard for how this relates to their own experiences, identities and practice (O'Brien and O'Shea 2017). The over- emphasis on what is visible and measurable in education means teachers’ or student teachers’ own critical reflection on wellbeing as something inner, and not open to standard interrogation and measurement, is a dimension of teacher/student relations that is often ignored as subjective or irrelevant.
The conceptual and pedagogical framework used in this praxis (crtical contemplative pedagogy and ethics of care and wellbeing, see references) provides students with the conditions in which to explore interdisciplinary discourses on wellbeing and care, and then to relate these through dialogue and ongoing reflection to their own praxis. The research thus explores how the use of an embodied critical and contemplative pedagogy, the provision of critical reading for reflection and dialogue, in conjunction with meditative and breath work practices creates a safe, caring and critical environment for student teachers and teacher educators to work together. These conditions of dialogical practice are conducive to naming our world (Freire) in order to develop and transform ourselves, and are sensitive to particular educational contexts so as to transform the world.
Methodology: The methodology is qualitative and draws upon 28 students' reflections in writing over 12 weeks of the module and meta reflections submitted 2 weeks immediately after. Each student's work was compiled into a folder containing 6 pieces of writing. The reflections/data were based on the students' engagement with each seminar and its theme, and the critical reading provided (see assigned reading in references). I discussed the pedagogical approach with students in the 1st seminar and in particular the embodied dimension which would give them some experience of breath work and meditative focusing. In submitting their work, students often included messages as they emailed the reflections, seeking reassurance or clarification. I read a sample of the reflections as they were submitted to guide the pedagogy and provide formative feedback to the students. The ethical questions around the use of students’ reflections were addressed. I asked the students if I could draw upon their reflective material anonymously for research. Any student who did not want to be part of the research was invited to withdraw (none withdrew). The second ethical dilemma was around grading because of the nature of the developmental and reflective approach. We agreed together that formal attendance was not part of the grading, but as part of their meta-reflection they would evaluate their own participation and development and suggest a grade. In the penultimate session we agreed to assign grades between 60 and 70, grades above and below would need a rationale for the more differentiated grade.I then agreed or moderated the grade. Analysis: The student reflections were thematically organised following the structure of the module; moving from wellbeing theory and a focus on the students' own wellbeing as beginning teachers, to discussions on care and relational responsiveness in teaching. I read each student's 6 reflections and followed their development in reflection and expression, criticality and integration with praxis using a rubric. I assigned a grade to each student's work. Then I analysed the data across all students by themes and process, to search for common issues, significances, challenges and very particular/unique ideas in their reflections. There were particular categories I sought in all students' work- their personal experience and relatedness to their practice, their capacity to link the theme to their own life, engagement with the readings, participation and discussion in class dialogue and capacity to reflect on the embodied aspect of the pedagogy.
I am in the process of conducting the analysis but at this stage it is clear that : - Students do in general make a developmental move in week 4 as they understand that reflection involves their personal engagement with the theme and the dialogue. - Students tend to be critical of their earlier understandings of wellbeing and their own reluctance to engaging at a personal professional level. - As the module moves along students take more risks, use more personal examples and are more critical of their education programme and their own lack awareness around care and wellbeing. - Students express a tension between responsibility for fostering student wellbeing and curriculum demands and priorities - Self care and its relation to student care have not been discussed in their programme to date - The process of breath work and meditative practice are initially challenging and some students feel resistant. However, as the practice is embedded students look forward to this time and will use it in their own teaching. It makes a difference to their anxieties. -In general students' understandings and descriptions of themselves as the 'teachers they want to be' change to include their own difficult emotions and recognising their own illbeing moments. -Students graded more cautiously and I raised many of their grades. A small number graded themselves higher although their participation and reflection writing did not warrant this. The conclusions will be around the value of embodied critical reflective work with final year students to enhance reflection and awareness of wellbeing. The students engagement and reflections highlight the absence of self-reflective work on themeselves around their own wellbeing and illbeing over their 4 year degree. Findings suggest that teacher education should include a focus on the self and teachers' own wellbeing and self-care. The issue of teacher vulnerability (Kelthchermans' 2011) was embraced.
Allardt, E.Having, loving, being: An alternative to the Swedish model of welfare research,The quality of life, 8, pp.88-95. Biesta, G., 2013. Responsible citizens: Citizenship education between social inclusion and democratic politics. Reinventing the curriculum: New trends in curriculum policy and practice, pp.99-115. Cassidy, C. (2017) Wellbeing, being well or wellbecoming: Who or what is it for and how might we get there? in ed. M Thornburn, Wellbeing, Education and Contemporary Schooling, London: Routledge. Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, New York: Continuum. Kaufman, P. (2017) Critical Contemplative Pedagogy in Radical Pedagogy, Volume 14 Number 1. ** assigned reading Keltchermans, G.(2011) Professional responsibility. Persistent commitment, perpetual vulnerability? in eds Sugrue and Solbrekke, New Horizons of Professional Praxis, 113-126. Noddings, N. (2003) Happiness and Education. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. *** assigned reading Noddings, N. (2012)The caring relation in teaching, Oxford Review of Education, 38:6, 771-781, DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2012.745047 O'Brien, M. Wellbeing/Welfare, Schooling and Social Justice: Caring relationships with students, parents and community in Thorburn, M. (Ed.). (2017). Wellbeing, Education and Contemporary Schooling. London: Routledge. OBrien,M. (2011) Towards a Pedagogy of Care and Well-being: Restoring the Vocation of Becoming Human Through Dialogue and Relationality.' O’Brien, M. (2008) Well Being and post primary schooling: A review of the literature and research. Dublin: NCCA. *** assigned reading O’Brien, M. and O’Shea, A., 2017. A Human Development (PSP) Framework for orienting education and schools in the space of wellbeing. NCCA accompanying document with Second level Wellbeing Guidelines, online 2017. Pring, R., 2010. The philosophy of education and educational practice. The SAGE handbook of philosophy of education, pp.55-66.Pring, R., 2010. The philosophy of education and educational practice. The SAGE handbook of philosophy of education, pp.55-66.6 Russell, T. and Korthagen eds. (2013) Teachers Who Teach Teachers: Reflections On Teacher Education, London: Routledge. *** assigned reading Scoffham, S. and Barnes, J Happiness matters: towards a pedagogy of happiness and well-being, The Curriculum Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4, December 2011, 535–548. Seligman, M.E., Ernst, R.M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K. and Linkins, M., 2009. Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), pp.293-311.
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