10 SES 06 A, Research in Teacher Education: Cultures and Methodologies
This paper explores the process of introducing a narrative inquiry methodology into the educational programs we developed at the university level. As part of a bigger research project (EDU2016-75776-P) this study aims to shift teacher education programs considering the experiential knowledge that early childhood and elementary teachers held in their daily classrooms’ practices. In this sense, it combines two diverse activities: an inquiry done with teacher educators inside four different schools, and research focused on the educational practices, programs, and proposals that we created for our students as part of the curriculum made in our university classrooms.
Our work delves into the possibilities that narrative inquiry offered us in relation to the diverse ways of embracing and attending the epistemic complexity of the pedagogical knowledge that might guide the teaching university practices. In this sense, we wonder about the ways in which working with the stories shifted our teaching practices as well as increased the educational experience of our students. Being alongside elementary teachers in their schools and attending to how they lived and told stories of the children, allowed us to appreciate and acknowledge the pedagogical wisdom that addressed their educational work. A wisdom that we became aware of through the capacity of making sensitive pedagogical judgments (Biesta, 2017) and the ability to modify the professional images that teachers held (especially by not accommodating a pre-constituted knowledge, Piussi, 1996).
The stories that these teachers told and retold, generated a series of counter-stories (Huber et al., 2014) that allowed us (and required from us) to explore and to deepen understand the teaching profession from other ways of living and being in the educational world. The process of retelling the stories that occurred inside the school supported the need of naming other practices that escaped from the dominant narratives; dominant precepts that tended to show us the reality as a static fact, homogeneous and pre-fixed, in which the results of our intervention could be measured (Contreras, 2016).
It is through the experience of being inside the schools and alongside the elementary teachers that we began to think with the stories of the teachers, not about them. This fact led us to ask how we built our teaching activities and programs considering the educational issues that had been instituted so that these issues could become an instituted creation process. That is, how to displace in our teaching programs and practices the elements and reality that was given to us to make room for what was about to be born in a changing and unpredictable reality. We pondered about how we could vivify the pedagogical knowledge by building safe spaces for the experiences that our students brought into our classrooms as part of the teaching education programs.
Therefore, it led us to think about the university training and its processes of formation as stages of life in which we can tell and retell stories. In retelling and reliving our own stories inside the school classrooms as well as in our own university spaces, we realized how within the school our language and our stories were moved in circles. We needed to develop the ability to listen in circles because there were stories inside stories and stories between stories (Metzger, 2007). In this sense, the schooling stories deepened our own school experiences and the stories of others inside the school opened our pedagogical imagination. What we placed at the core of the inquiry was a pedagogy of experience that explored and expressed the vivid and necessary link between experience and knowledge (Contreras, 2010).
Narrative inquiry is a way to understand experience; it requires collaboration between the researcher and participants in a place or series of places, and in social interaction with surroundings (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). For us, inquiring narratively into an educational experience means to attend to, and take care of the relations that are born through the study, and which bring about something new, unique, and indispensable (Clandinin, 2013). In this sense, as narrative inquirers, we study experience as it is lived and told, and thus engage with our research participants (teachers), our students and our university colleagues in relational ways. This methodology seeks to study experience by drawing on the relational aspects of the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space (temporality, sociality, and place) (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). However, these dimensions bring with them a set of mediations that promote the discovery of new pedagogical knowledge linked to educational practices. In this sense, we conceive narrative inquiry is more than just telling stories: it is trying to make sense of the life as lived. Each story, each version of a story, each interpretation, and each interrogation comprises steps on the living journey that shapes a life. As narrative inquirers inside four different elementary schools and two universities, we have needed to be bold and imaginative, courageous and skeptical, tentative and exploratory. In this sense, Clandinin and Connelly (2000) reminded us how significant was the language of wakefulness because it allowed us “to proceed forward with a constant, alert awareness of risks, of narcissism, of solipsism, and of simplistic plots, scenarios, and unidimensional characters” (p. 43). This paper includes field notes and conversations from the work we did alongside four elementary teachers and other sets of documents and field texts from our teaching practices at the university alongside our students. We collected pieces from their assignments that were related to the ways in which the stories shaped their ways of being and thinking the educational world.
Thinking about our university classes as lived spaces shared with our students and as spaces of full of life where stories can be told, helped us to build a link between teacher education and the schooling world. We connect this experience with the notion of regarding the significance of what is happening and not what should be taught or learned (Greene, 1987). Our research forced us to build pedagogical bridges for our students in nurturing a sensible disposition towards their educational life and the way in which they might perform as potential teachers. The movement they experienced shifted also our ways of attending to their needs as well as to have the commitment to stop any preconceived idea of the other, having the purpose not to enclose the encounter due to what was preestablished at the educational program requirements section. We also have learned that both, the life in our classroom and the training proposal we created, must be inhabited. Therefore, the daily life of what happens and happens acquires value and relevance in this co-composing the sense of investigating together, of thinking in relation and in presence recognizing the knowledge (and sometimes the confusion) that brings the other. The stories we shared in our classrooms and the story of the classroom that we co-composed allowed us to kept alive the question about the meaning of education. However, in the midst of the research process, we also experienced tensions and difficulties. As teacher educators, we highlighted the importance of making an institutional time livable crossed by rigidity and excesses. Also, in our students, we highlight: a) stopping looking at what happens to start to look oneself inside what is happening; b) letting ourselves be challenged by what the stories "tell" us.
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