10 SES 03 E, Research on Teacher Educators
This research study addressed the neglect of teacher educators’ voices in the discourses surrounding teaching and teacher education (Swennen, Jones and Volman, 2010). In this study, five Queensland university teacher educators articulated, through the narratives of their professional lived experience, their thoughts and concerns about current and future education policy and practice. The context of the study is an international educational environment dominated by government reviews of teacher education, neo-liberal policies, standardised curriculum, ongoing assessment, and accountability.
Evidence of the neglect of teacher educator voices emerged from a search of the literature on teaching and teacher education from England, Finland, and California as well as across national boundaries such as the European Commission Thematic Working Group (2013) report “Supporting Teacher Educators”. The introduction of the UK government “Prevent” strategy (2011) places an expectation on classroom teachers to be frontline of actors in implementation of the strategy. These reports make comment on and recommendations about the current and future practice in teacher education but do not indicate the ways in which teacher educators have or have not been involved in the discussion of and preparation of the reports.
The overarching research question was: “How do five Queensland university teacher educators articulate, through the narratives of their professional lived experience, their thoughts and concerns about current and future education policy and practice”.
The principal objectives were, firstly, to break the silence of teacher educators’ voices in the policy/practice debate. Secondly, to make their voices heard through publication of what they articulated through presentations and journal articles. A third objective is to encourage other teacher educators to make their voices heard in political debates and policy decisions within their own national contexts and globally.
The theoretical framework was narrative inquiry (NI) as both methodology and method using the commonplaces of temporality, sociality and space (Clandinin & Rosiek, 2007). In the conceptual framework, the commonplaces were envisaged as three rivers flowing towards a confluence that became a generative space from which flowed the next steps in life.
NI is a research methodology that uses story through personal narratives to explore through a three-dimensional form of inquiry participants’ lived experience in the context of the topic being explored. The commonplaces of NI are temporality, sociality and space (Clandinin & Rosiek, 2007). These were envisaged in the conceptual framework as three rivers flowing towards a confluence that became a generative space from which flowed the next steps in life.
For the purposes of this research I used the term narrative to mean the encompassing of the stories of life into a whole telling of that life. Frank (2002) noted that, “Being narratable implies value and attributes reality” (p. 111). This has been evidenced through the process of co-constructing the participants’ narratives and their responses to this process which revealed they felt they had a story worth telling and recognised their professional lived experience and informed their professional identity as teacher educators.
Methodology Narrative inquiry (NI) has its foundation in the work of Dewey (1938) who stated his belief that there is a tight relationship between experience and learning. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) drew on the work of Dewey to develop their methodological framework for narrative inquiry by asserting, “For us, narrative is the best way of representing and understanding experience” (p. 18). To make sense of an experience, individuals need to verbalise their thoughts either in writing or audibly. The words then become the data source for exploring and making meaning of the experience as was the case in this research. Such a way of thinking about research demands that the researcher abandons the tight control of the positivist way of reducing knowledge to absolutes. Consideration should be given instead to an individual’s narrative of experience and the knowledge and understanding revealed within that narrative. The purpose of this research was to reveal the thoughts and concerns of teacher educators about current and future education policy and practice through reflection on their professional lived experience. Method In this research, the participants were drawn from teacher educators in both Schools of Education at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). I chose to limit the participants to those in my own university because of the relational nature of the chosen methodology and method. This was a practical decision because inviting participants from other universities would have meant time having to be spent building the professional relationships that I had already built with my colleagues at USQ. The number of participants was limited to five and the participants self-selected by positively responding to an email invitation sent to all faculty members. Narratives use words to express what the participant wants to share with us. Those words become the field texts in NI research. The term “field text” is used rather than “data” because “…the texts we compose in narrative inquiry are experiential, intersubjective texts rather than objective texts” (Clandinin, 2013, p. 46). Retelling, reliving and reflecting on life experiences place the experience within the temporal, social and physical context of remembered events. In this study, the field texts were composed through two conversations between each participant and the researcher. There were a number of key points that I wanted to explore with each participant and I compiled a list of six stimulus questions to keep in mind as the conversations developed.
Expected outcomes/results A significant outcome of the study was that the researcher and the participants were able to learn more about themselves and each other. What emerged from the narratives was there is no one entity that is the “teacher educator”. In diverse and multiple ways, they brought own life experience, as well as their professional experience, to inform and shape who they were as teacher educators. The status of teacher educators both in the university and in schools is questionable. The narratives revealed the need for academic status to be established through gaining a doctorate and by having a recognised publications record. In schools, teacher educators are regarded as being remote from the classroom and expounding theory that has little or no practical value. The sense of being undervalued was evident in the narratives. The importance of this study rests in the realisation that teacher educators are highly qualified and motivated educators. What is not readily recognised is the importance of the role that the teacher educator plays in the development and education of the classroom teachers. Intent of publication This study serves to remind us of the fundamental principle of the Magna Charta Universitatum (1988): “A university is the trustee of the Humanist tradition: its constant care is to attain universal knowledge; to fulfil its vocation it transcends geographical and political frontiers, and affirms the vital need for different cultures to know and influence each other” (p. 1). Transcending the geographical and political boundaries is the true basis for all education and gives enduring and profound meaning to our roles as educators whether in Europe, America, Australia or any other part of the world. Educators in an era of risk should aim to transcend the vagaries of specific ideologies.
Clandinin, D. J. (2013). Engaging in narrative inquiry. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Clandinin, D. J., & Rosiek, J. (2007). Mapping a landscape of narrative inquiry: Borderland Spaces and Tensions. In D. J. Clandinin (Ed.), Handbook of narrative inquiry: Mapping a methodology (pp. 35-75). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Dewey, J. (1938). Experience & education. New York: Simon & Schuster. Frank, A. W. (2002). Why study people's stories? The dialogical ethics of narrative analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 1(1), 109-117. May, T. (2011). Prevent strategy. London, England: UK Government Retrieved from www.homeoffice.gov.uk. Observatory Magna Charta Universitatum (OMCU). (1988). The Magna Charta Universitatum. Retrieved from http://www.magna-charta.org/ Swennen, A., Jones, K., & Volman, M. (2010). Teacher educators: Their identities, sub‐identities and implications for professional development. Professional Development in Education, 36(1-2), 131-148. doi: 10.1080/19415250903457893 Thematic Working Group, Teacher Professional Development. (2013). Supporting teacher educators for better learning outcomes. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/education/school-education/teacher-cluster_en.htm.
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