29 SES 03, Drama and Performative Research
Employing a two-phased mixed methods approach, this project aims to explore teacher confidence in the teaching of post-16 poetry across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland with a view to informing teachers' professional development needs in this field. In so doing, it seeks to establish:
- How confident do English teachers assert themselves to be in the teaching of poetry at post-16 level?
- What commonalities exist between the key learning experiences reported by teachers in their development as poetry educators?
- What impact does teacher confidence have on approaches to teaching post-16 poetry pedagogy?
Over the past thirty years poetry teachers have experienced an escalating ‘crisis of confidence’ (Wade and Sidaway 1990) in the classroom. The pressures of educational marketization have resulted in many teachers attempting to balance the often-divergent demands of parents, pupils, management, syllabus and exam. This ‘rising tide’ of accountability in education denotes a global reform movement emphasising standardization and higher stakes accountability (Conway & Murphy 2013). Within this redefined space, teachers may experience “emotional dissonance, a crisis of their sense of professional self-worth, and a sense of loss of control” (Perryman et al 2011: 186). Dymoke (2014) argues “there is a need to build [poetry teachers’] confidence internationally” (37). Aligned with the noted loss of control experienced by many teachers is a lack of creativity and convergence or standardisation (ibid). As a result, for many teachers the potential of poetry remains elusive (Sekeres and Gregg 2007: 467). While the importance of professional support services is frequently highlighted in the endeavour to enhance teachers’ confidence, the frequency and quality of provision are often called into question (Lynch, Hennessy & Gleeson 2013). Perhaps resultantly, continuous professional development participation levels of teachers, for example in the Republic of Ireland, remain well below average (OECD 2009). Notwithstanding the noted challenges experienced by teachers, studies on the teaching of poetry continue to report the benefits, both personal and professional, of engaging in meaningful poetry activities in the classroom where poetry holds the potential to act as a “joyous lifeline in a target driven job” (Wilson 2012).
This study aims to explore the relationship between teacher confidence and poetry pedagogy at post-16 level. Post-16 level forms the focus of this study owing to the noted accountability pressures exerted on teachers at this level of study (Perryman, Ball and Maguire 2011). The study will also aim to establish what supports and resources, as well as personal capacities and skills, teachers view as central to maintaining a sense of confidence in the poetry classroom. It will also unpack teachers’ concept of self-confidence with respect to poetry pedagogy and explore the influence of school culture on the development of this concept.
This research comprises an explanatory sequential design involving the collection and analysis of quantitative data followed by the collection and analysis of qualitative data in order to employ the use of qualitative data to assist in explaining and interpreting the findings of the quantitative phase (Creswell and Clark, 2011). This approach provides opportunity for the mapping, analysis and interpretation of experience and a more holistic understanding of the research area than may be gained if relying on one paradigm alone (Creemers et al 2010: 140). Phase one Phase one comprised the completion of an online semi-structured questionnaire. 100 teachers of Leaving Certificate/A Level poetry across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were invited to partake in the study. Questionnaire results provided an initial indication of the underlying perspectives of Leaving Certificate/A Level teachers in relation to the research question. Participants from phase one were invited to provide their email address if they were willing to partake in a follow-up paired interview. Interim activity A random sample of participants who indicated a desire to contribute to phase two were recruited (n=12 teachers; 6 Northern Ireland, 6 Republic of Ireland). Phase two participants were emailed an interim activity which included a collage exemplar, accompanying notes on critical experiences exemplar and reflection prompts. Participants were required to use these resources to create a `river of experience' in the form of a critical incident collage documenting pivotal experiences in their development as a poetry teacher. An optional river template was also provided for participants to support their reflections on the `dynamic, constantly shifting and restructuring' (Cliff Hodges 2010 p.188) nature of their experiences as poetry teachers. Phase two Phase two comprised six paired interviews (3 Northern Ireland, 3 Republic of Ireland). Participants were asked to bring their `River of experience' collages to the interviews to support their interview responses. Interviews took place in participating schools. Participants will be invited to discuss their critical incident collage and explain how the listed experiences influenced their development as a poetry teacher. A semi-structured interview schedule was employed to support discussion. Interviews were voice recorded with each interview lasting approximately 50 minutes
Data from the study has not yet been analysed. The results of this study hold the potential to inform the development of support services for poetry teachers, particularly in areas dominated by a culture of assessment. Furthermore, greater insight into the influence of self-confidence on pedagogy could lead to enhanced experiences for post-16 students in the poetry classroom
Cliff Hodges, G. (2010) Rivers of reading: Using critical incident collages to learn about adolescent readers and their readership, English in Education 44(3), 181-200. Conway, P. F. and Murphy, R. (2013) A rising tide meets a perfect storm: New accountabilities in teaching and teacher education in Ireland, Irish Educational Studies 32(1), 11-36. Dymoke, S. (2014) Opportunities or Constraints? Making Space. In Goodwyn, A., Reid, L. and Durrant, C. International Perspectives on Teaching English in a Globalised World, New York: Routledge. Dymoke, S. (2015) Making Poetry Happen: Transforming the Poetry Classroom. Bloomsbury Publishing: London. Kress, G and van Leeuwen (2006) Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design, London: Routledge. Lynch, R., Hennessy, J. and Gleeson, J. (2013) Acknowledging teacher professionalism in Ireland: the case for a Chartered Teacher initiative, Irish Educational Studies, 32(4), 493-510. OECD (2009) Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments: First Results from TALIS, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Perryman, J., Ball, S., Maguire, M. and Braun, A. (2011) Life in the Pressure Cooker – School League Tables and English and Mathematics Teachers’ Responses to Accountability in a Results-Driven Era, British Journal of Educational Studies, 59 (2), 179-195. Sekeres and Gregg (2007) Poetry in third grade: Getting started, The Reading Teacher, 60 (5) 466–475. Wade and Sidaway (1990) Poetry in the Curriculum: a crisis of confidence, Educational Studies, 16 (1) 75-83. Wilson, A. (2012) A joyous lifeline in a target-driven job: teachers’ metaphors of teaching poetry writing, Cambridge Journal of Education, 43 (1), 69-87.83
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