10 SES 06 A, Research in Teacher Education: Cultures and Methodologies
Calls to improve the quality of education is ubiquitous in the current era of global uncertainty. To help teachers negotiate the tensions of increasing accountability, ever-changing policies and diverse student populations, teacher learning needs to be contextualised and meaningful. This need was unequivocal in the 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2015), where teachers chose in-school professional development (PD) as a preferred form of learning. Thus, the challenge for Europe and beyond is to develop responsive systemic approaches to teacher learning.
Teacher or classroom action research, or teacher or professional inquiry, is one way approach. This approach involves teachers examining their practices and developing insights that are timely, relevant and significant to their praxis. However, since these PD endeavours are often personalised, Mockler and Groundwater-Smith (2015) advocated for teacher inquirers to develop ways to acknowledge, examine and challenge the unexamined assumptions, beliefs and values that underpinned praxis. In this paper, we will argue that the professional inquiry space can be used as a means to better understand the cultural work that teachers live and do.
For this paper, we investigated teachers’ experiences with teacher inquiry, a systemic form of PD that has been implemented in Aotearoa New Zealand since 2007. In Aotearoa, teacher inquiry is unique because it has multiple purposes. It is a form of PD (Timperley, Wilson, Barrar, & Fung, 2007), a teaching strategy (Ministry of Education, 2007), a professional responsibility (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, 2018) and a teacher evaluation tool (Education Review Office, 2012). These purposes enable teacher inquiry to be formal, yet localised and customised experiences. This flexibility has allowed us to study teachers’ experiences with inquiry through a cultural lens.
The research that informs this paper is drawn from a doctoral, narrative inquiry into eleven teachers’ experiences with teacher inquiry (Lim, 2016). For this paper, we refined our research question to: what cultural considerations surface when teachers inquire into their practice? In our presentation, we will feature vignettes that contain, explore or allude to the cultural issues that teachers encountered through inquiry. These vignettes accentuated teachers’ idiosyncratic ways of grappling with some of the cultural implications of their inquiries. Through this focus, we can grow our appreciation for the work that teachers do to make their praxis culturally responsive.
Our attention to the particular is attached to the work of Geertz (1973), who followed the “particular, the circumstantial” in order to encounter and wrestle with questions around culture (p. 53). For him, culture can be understood as a guiding mechanism that people use to mould thinking, behaviour and social norms (Geertz, 1973). He used stories to explore, analyse, posit and interpret, magnifying how the latter is a tool that researchers can use to attend to the sense-making that occurs within narrated experiences (Geertz, 1973). We adopted a storied, interpretive lens (Andrews, 2012; Clandinin, 2012) to deepen our understanding of the cultural work that teachers undertake. Research into teachers’ experiences with cultural work can inform and strengthen how we become more intercultural and culturally responsive in education (Álvarez Valdivia & González Montoto, 2018; He, Lundgren, & Pynes, 2017; Smolcic & Katunich, 2017). The insights that we discuss will be of interest to initial and ongoing teacher education researchers and stakeholders, because we will discuss how contextualised PD such as teacher inquiry can be used to better understand and cultivate teachers’ understanding of cultural work within education.
Our research is founded upon a narrative inquiry approach, known as a methodology and a method of inquiry (Clandinin, 2006). This qualitative foundation affords insights into teachers’ lives because it is based on storied accounts of experiences. Acknowledging the “part art, part science” aspects of qualitative research portrays reality as messy, unpredictable and open to subjective interpretation (Charmaz, 2016, p. 47). With this foundation, we seek to privilege teacher voice through lived experiences of ‘doing’ cultural work within their practice. Adopting a narrated, humanistic or person-centred approach to understanding the world brings forth storied, interpretive, and self-constructed realities to the fore. When people describe their lived experiences, they account for the details in the “particulars” (Bruner, 1986, p. 13), allowing researchers to glimpse into these private, inner sanctums of constructed realities. When these realities are acknowledged, it opens doors to the thinking, doing and being that shapes the “complexity of human action” (Polkinghorne, 1995, p. 7). In our research, we focused on these complexities, attending to how teachers rationalised their thoughts and actions, thereby enabling us to illuminate some of the cultural work that teachers do. We answer the call for narrative research to provide robustness and rigour through qualities of believability, trustworthiness and verisimilitude (Pinnegar & Daynes 2007). In the doctoral study upon which our narratives are drawn from, teachers participated in single, unstructured interviews. Their narratives were member checked with a focus on the accuracy and tone that represented their experiences (Lim, 2016). Through “narrative reasoning”, we listened to narrative threads that amplified or attenuated the inherent reasoning, flow and structure within experiences (Polkinghorne, 1995, p. 21). By ‘listening’ to these threads, we encouraged contextualised moments within lived experiences to surface, aligning to a “case centred” mentality towards narrative analysis (Riessman, 2008, p. 74). In this research, we looked for moments that touched upon the intentional or unintentional cultural work that teachers engaged in through inquiry. These analytical methods that underpin our narrative inquiry prioritise considerations that are less evident through other methodological approaches
By examining teacher narratives of lived inquiry experiences, we were able to foreground the lived particularities of teaching praxis and in turn, draw attention to some of the embedded, nuanced and complex cultural considerations within education. We posit that amplifying the relational and reflective aspects of teacher inquiry can stimulate ongoing critical conversations around routinised practices. Through critical collegial conversations, we see space for teachers to contemplate some of the cultural implications of teaching, which we believe will allow teachers to deepen their understanding of student learning, wellbeing and achievement. Adopting a narrative approach to foreground teachers’ cultural work in Aotearoa also foregrounded some of the strengths of adopting a multifaceted implementation of teacher inquiry as a form of PD. Our work demonstrates how professional inquiry can serve as a platform for contextualised teacher learning experiences. As stated earlier, in an era where technology erodes geographical boundaries, and economies unravel social and political systems, teachers require PD that will append to their ability to navigate and negotiate the complex demands of education in an era of uncertainty. This is why our research on the cultural work that teachers do when they inquire professionally is apt. Through this focus on teachers’ cultural work, we extend conversations around developing teachers’ capacity to teach across multiple cultures, contexts and challenges; befitting the larger focus of this conference around education in an era of risk.
Álvarez Valdivia, I. M., & González Montoto, I. (2018). Teachers' intercultural competence: a requirement or an option in a culturally diverse classroom? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 22(5), 510-526. Andrews, M. (2012). Exploring Cross-Cultural Boundaries In D. J. Clandinin (Ed.), Handbook of Narrative Inquiry: Mapping a Methodology. SAGE Publications, Inc. Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Charmaz, K. (2016). The power of stories and the potential of theorising for social justice studies. In N. K. Denzin & M. D. Giardina (Eds.), Qualitative inquiry through a critical lens. New York, NY: Routledge. Clandinin, D. J. (2006). Narrative Inquiry: A Methodology for Studying Lived Experience. Research Studies in Education, 27(1), 44-54. Clandinin, D. J. (2012). Handbook of narrative inquiry: mapping a methodology. Education Review Office. (2012). Teaching as inquiry: Responding to Learners. Wellington, New Zealand Education Review Office,. Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: selected essays. New York: Basic Books. He, Y., Lundgren, K., & Pynes, P. (2017). Impact of short-term study abroad program: Inservice teachers' development of intercultural competence and pedagogical beliefs. Teaching and Teacher Education, 66, 147-157. Lim, J. (2016). Teacher Inquiry in New Zealand: A Montage. (Unpublished Doctoral Thesis). University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand curriculum for english-medium teaching and learning in years 1–13. Wellington, NZ: Learning Media Ltd. Mockler, N., & Groundwater-Smith, S. (2015). Seeking for the unwelcome truths: beyond celebration in inquiry-based teacher professional learning. Teachers and Teaching, 21(5), 603-614. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2015). Embedding Professional Development in Schools for Teacher Success (Vol. 10). Pinnegar, S., & Daynes , J. G. (2007). Locating Narrative Inquiry Historically: Thematics in the Turn to Narrative. In J. D. Clandinin (Ed.), Handbook Of Narrative Inquiry: Mapping A Methodology. Sage Publications. Polkinghorne, D. E. (1995). Narrative configuration in qualitative analysis. In J. A. Hatch & R. Wisniewski (Eds.), Life History and Narrative: Taylor & Francis Ltd. Riessman, C. K. (2008). Narrative methods for the human sciences. Los Angeles: Sage Publications. Smolcic, E., & Katunich, J. (2017). Teachers crossing borders: A review of the research into cultural immersion field experience for teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 62, 47-59. Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand. (2018). Our Code, Our Standards. Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]. Wellington, N.Z: Ministry of Education.
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