Developing a research partnership: teachers as researchers and teacher educators

  • Published on
    30-Mar-2017

  • View
    215

  • Download
    1

Transcript

  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Auckland Library]On: 27 November 2014, At: 16:32Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Teachers and Teaching: theory andpracticePublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ctat20

    Developing a research partnership:teachers as researchers and teachereducatorsChristina Thornley a , Rae Parker b , Karon Read b & VivienneEason ba University of Otago , New Zealand;b East Taieri School , Mosgiel, New ZealandPublished online: 24 Jan 2007.

    To cite this article: Christina Thornley , Rae Parker , Karon Read & Vivienne Eason (2004)Developing a research partnership: teachers as researchers and teacher educators, Teachers andTeaching: theory and practice, 10:1, 20-33

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13540600320000170891

    PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE

    Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to orarising out of the use of the Content.

    This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &

    http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ctat20http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13540600320000170891

  • Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f A

    uckl

    and

    Lib

    rary

    ] at

    16:

    32 2

    7 N

    ovem

    ber

    2014

    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice,Vol. 10, No. 1, February 2004

    Developing a research partnership:teachers as researchers and teachereducatorsChristinaThornleySchool of EducationUniversity of OtagoDunedinBox 56New Zealandchristina.thornley@stonebow.otago.ac.nzChristina Thornley*1, Rae Parker2, Karon Read2 & VivienneEason21University of Otago, New Zealand; 2East Taieri School, Mosgiel, New Zealand

    This paper discusses a combined universityschool research project involving three associateteachers from the pre-service teacher education degree at the University of Otago, New Zealandin the examination of their literacy teaching practice. The provision of resources for thiscollaborative study allowed the teachers to design the project in response to the learning needs ofthe children in their classrooms. The paper specifically analyses the research experience for theteachers as they theorized their classroom literacy practice and utilized the research findings toinform the content and processes of teaching at both the primary and tertiary classroom levels.

    Teachers as curriculum decision-makers

    The translation of curriculum policy into classroom programmes is the incontestabledomain of teachers. Governments and policy-makers have long recognized this factand responded to it in accordance with their beliefs about teacher autonomy,curriculum conformity and the needs of society and children in schools. Since 1887,New Zealand teachers have performed this distinctive activity, and current curricu-lum policy continues to recognize the act of teaching as an act of curriculumconstruction. Indeed the New Zealand Curriculum Framework describes the schoolcurriculum as the way in which a school puts into practice the policy set out in thenational curriculum statements. It takes account of local needs, priorities andresources, and is designed in consultation with the schools community (Ministry ofEducation, 1993, p. 4). It is arguable that the decisions that teachers make at thislevel of implementation are as crucial to children as those that underpin nationalpolicy. The complexity of teaching as characterized by the individuality of students,the dynamic nature of classroom interactions and the demand for innovation defiesany claim that teachers may be simply implementers of something that gains itslegitimacy elsewhere (Grundy, 1998, p. 31). However, teachers decisions arecontingent upon the autonomy they are granted, the degree of curriculum prescrip-

    *Corresponding author: School of Education, University of Otago, Box 56, Dunedin, NewZealand.

    ISSN 1354-0602 (print)/ISSN 8765-4321 (online)/04/010020-14 2004 Taylor & Francis LtdDOI: 10/1080/13540600320000170891

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f A

    uckl

    and

    Lib

    rary

    ] at

    16:

    32 2

    7 N

    ovem

    ber

    2014

  • 8 C. Thornley et al.

    tion and their professional theories. It is for this reason that mandated curricula andtheir associated professional development are perpetually intertwined.

    The current New Zealand curriculum has been developed as part of the systemiceducation reforms of the 1990s and reflects the desire of consecutive governmentsfor curriculum unity throughout the country. The initial indication of this occur-rence came in the governments Achievement Initiative (Ministry of Education, 1991,p. 1) that outlined the intention to establish clear learning outcomes particularly inthe subjects of English, mathematics, science and technology. Progression andcontinuity of learning were to be fundamental principles in the determination ofstandards which can reasonably be expected of students at a particular level oflearning (Ministry of Education, 1991, p. 1). This required that teachers woulddemonstrate an increased consistency of curriculum interpretation and implemen-tation. From the outset, the Ministry of Education recognized the unavoidableimpact of classroom curriculum decision-making by teachers and understood thatlegislation alone would be insufficient to ensure the desired changes. They perceivedthat teachers required opportunities to learn about new national curriculum initia-tives and the provision of state-funded professional development to support therelease of each national curriculum statement was the outcome.

    The Ministry of Education heralded this professional development as a means tofoster a sense of ownership (1993, p. 2) of the reformed curriculum and developthe professionalism of teachers, so that they have information, skills and understand-ings (Ministry of Education, 1996, p. 1). This increased commitment to pro-fessional development (Ministry of Education, 1995) was viewed positively by NewZealand teachers. However, some were concerned that the content and design of theprogrammes emanated solely from centrally controlled curriculum policy and failedto address their learning needs and those of the children in their classes (Thornley,1999).

    International examples of curriculum professional development explain theseresponses. It appears that where curriculum and professional development policiesare nationally mandated, as for example in England, there is a greater degree ofteacher resistance to these learning opportunities, thus placing notions of teacherownership at risk. Hirsts (1989, p. 272) observations of the prevalent professionaldevelopment practices in England and Wales support this discussion as he notes thechanges that have occurred for teachers as their professional development has beenincreasingly associated with national initiatives. He considers programmes to beconcentrating severely on the practical demands of new legislation. Day (1993,p. 230) described this as a manifestation of the movement away from the oper-ational definition of teacher as professional towards that of teacher as technician.The teachers in this research were sympathetic to the needs of national initiativesin the short term, [although] many were concerned that their longer term needs werebeing squeezed out (Day, 1993, p. 229).

    Alternative approaches that foster teacher learning in response to self-selectedcurriculum problems are well explained by Lang et al. (1999) in their discussionconcerning the relationship between the origins of curriculum policy and thepurpose of professional development. They describe models of professional develop-

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f A

    uckl

    and

    Lib

    rary

    ] at

    16:

    32 2

    7 N

    ovem

    ber

    2014

  • Developing a Research Partnership 9

    ment from The Netherlands and Germany, which are associated with teacher drivencurriculum innovation. The outcomes of such practice where the teachers haveidentified and developed solutions to curriculum problems show that when teachershave control over their learning, they can produce relevant solutions that are highlyvalued by their colleagues (Lang et al., 1999, p. 127). In Andalusia, teachers havethe option of working in self-training programmes that give them room to learnabout what they want and are motivated by (Estebaranz et al., 1999, p. 154). Suchteacher learning processes that are self-directed have been shown to foster inno-vation in teachers theories and practices concurrently. It is learning that comesfrom their own experience, and from direct contact with the problems (Estebaranzet al., 1999, p. 169).

    By 1997, some teachers in New Zealand believed that they were experiencing anerosion of their own decision-making opportunities in the face of increased demandsfor uniformity. They saw this as being reflected through the increasingly prescriptivecurriculum requirements and the technicist nature of professional developmentprogrammes (Thornley, 1999). McGee (1997, p. 289) elucidates this further in hiscurriculum discussion regarding central versus local control. He explains that NewZealand teachers are in a response situation in that the curriculum decisionsoccurring in schools are interpretations of prescribed curricula. However, even insuch circumstances the decisions that teachers make are still highly significant fortheir students. The challenge then becomes one of seeking ways for teachers todevelop as professionals with knowledge and understandings that enhance theircurriculum decision-making in a manner that is not dichotomous to national goalsfor schooling.

    Teacher-generated curriculum knowledge

    Current New Zealand accountability and compliance procedures require that teach-ers document their planning and the assessment of their students learning from thenational curriculum statements (Ministry of Education, 1999). The EducationReview Office, who monitors individual teachers and schools actions in this regard(1999, p. 4), has raised questions about the purpose of some assessment data and itssubsequent usefulness, stating that in many cases the only use made of thoserecords is to provide information that helps teachers report to parents. This wouldsuggest that the aims of using assessment to improve childrens learning andclassroom programmes (Ministry of Education, 1994) have been addressed predom-inantly at the individual classroom level. Without discounting the importance of thisprocess, the potential of accumulated assessment information to act as a window onteachers curriculum actions and innovations has continued to be overlooked. Suchassessment practices are characterized in two ways: the first being the inattention tothe worth of this material as a foundation for teacher research, and the second beingthe lack of opportunity for the dissemination of this teacher generated knowledgebeyond the immediate classroom context.1

    These claims do not mean to imply that the significance of classroom-basedresearch as a means to disperse practical and theoretical knowledge emerging from

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f A

    uckl

    and

    Lib

    rary

    ] at

    16:

    32 2

    7 N

    ovem

    ber

    2014

  • 10 C. Thornley et al.

    classrooms has been completely ignored, but rather severely under-utilized. In thepast, the involvement of researchers from the Ministry of Education, Universitiesand Schools of Education has contributed to an emerging understanding of curricu-lum implementation within the New Zealand context. Despite this, a recent Minis-try of Education (2000) research contract reports significant gaps in the research oncurriculum, assessment and pedagogy [claiming that] There is a dearth of re-search evidence about what happens to the individual learner. For this reason, thefeasibility of New Zealand teachers contributing to this knowledge must be investi-gated. However, Stenhouse (1975, p. 143) in his statement concerning such re-search raises the point that it is not enough that teachers work should be studied:they need to study it themselves.

    Endorsement for teacher research as the foundation for professional developmentmodels (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993; Cole & Knowles, 1993) is extended to makethe connection between curriculum and teacher learning by Stenhouse (1975,p. 143), who states that curricula specification should feed a teachers personalresearch and development programme . This intertwining of curriculumspecification with teacher research and professional development has contemporaryimplications for New Zealand primary teachers. Certainly they are operating in anenvironment of curriculum specification as has been claimed earlier in this work, buttheir professional development programmes are typically founded upon models ofteacher learning that fail to recognize the significance of theory and research as abasis for teacher knowledge generation. In accordance with the recognition of thepivotal role that teachers play, attention must be given to the theoretical foundationsthat underpin the curriculum construction that occurs through the on-going deci-sions made in classrooms.

    Teacher research: possibilities or improbabilities.

    An initial review of the research literature uncovers points for inquiry emanatingfrom concerns over the feasibility of teacher research at this moment. While on onehand there are those researchers who would strongly advocate for this means ofteacher learning, there are others who take a more cautionary stance. Routman(1996) claims that teachers already fulfil the role of researcher and simply need tobe making the mental shift to thinking like one (p. 169). Specifically she explainsresearch as:

    wondering, posing questions, problem solving, trying out new procedures, workingout our thoughts through writing, and ultimately acting on our new insights bychanging our practices. (Routman, 1996, p. 168)

    Cochran-Smi...

Recommended

View more >