01 SES 06 B, Theory and Research: In Search of Improvement
Parallel Paper Session
The research question motivating this study is how teachers may meet a growing expectation of professional conduct through developing the capacity to theorize. Drawing on findings from two qualitative studies we have undertaken in seven schools, we point to a dichotomy between theory and practice among teachers, and argue that there is a need for bridging this dysfunctional gap. In order to do so, we contend that a process understanding of theory will be useful, where emphasis is put on theorizing as a verb instead of theory as a noun (Weick, 1989; 1995). By theorizing, we understand both the construction and the reflective application of theory, in which a differentiated and graded theory concept is applied (Weniger, 1953; Jarvis, 1995; Kvernbekk, 2005; Flyvbjerg, 2006). A graded theory concept means that theory in a stronger as well as in a weaker sense may be placed at the same continuum, where theory in the strong sense is a well-articulated general theory; and theory in the week sense are knowledge structures and beliefs that are less context based and more person and context specific. Weaker theories are typically drawn from the teachers’ primary experiences, while stronger theories are typically associated with, for example, educational theories and theories from related disciplines.
As pointed out by several scholars, in order to be perceived as professionals, teachers must not only justify their conduct by pointing to what works for them, but also by drawing on stronger theory (see for example Weniger, 1953; Eraut, 1994; Brookfield, 1995). The aim of our research is to develop a model that may help school teachers as well as teacher educators overcome the dichotomy between theory and practice through theorizing, and strengthen teachers’ professional identity and legitimacy.We present such a model, and apply the model on our two empirical cases in a discussion of how theorizing may improve professional practice among teachers and school leaders.
Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Eraut, M. (1994). Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence. London: The Falmer Press. Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Rationalitet og magt. Det konkretes videnskab. Bind 1. København: Akademisk forlag. Jarvis, P. (1995). Adult and Continuing Education. Theory and practice. London: Routledge. Kvernbekk, T. (2005). Pedagogisk teoridannelse. Insidere, teoriformer og praksis. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget. Weick, K. E. (1989). Theory construction as disciplined imagination. Academy of Management Review, 14: 516–531. Weick, K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in Organizations. London: Sage Publications Inc. Weniger, E. (1953). Theorie und Praxis in der Erziehung. In: Weniger, E.: Die Eigenständigkeit der Erziehung in Theorie und Praxis. Weinheim: Beltz, p.7-22
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