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Professional Life and Work

Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change

Educational Research as a Public Intellectual

For these reasons I would be against the notion that our focus for collaborative work between teachers and externally located researchers should be mainly upon practice.  In some ways, regrettably, this is the logical outcome of the phrase 'teacher as researcher' (a movement whose value position I strongly support), for the converse is the 'researcher as teacher'.  As we have noted, the teacher's work is politically and socially constructed.  The parameters to practice, whether they be political or biographical, range over an extremely wide terrain.  To narrow our focus to 'practice as defined' is to ensure that our collaborative work may fall victim to historical circumstances and political tendencies.  At the moment, quite clearly, the New Right in many western countries is seeking to transform teacher practice into that of a technician, a trivialised and routinised bureaucratic deliverer of pre-designed packages, guidelines and prejudices.  To accept these definitions and to focus our collaboration and research on practice so defined is to play into their hands.

Whilst, of course, some of the more valuable critical and collaborative work has sought to critique and transcend the politically dominant definitions of practice, this does not avoid the substance of the critique.  For by starting our research and collaboration by focusing on practice in this way, the initiative for defining our very starting point has been conceded to politicians and bureaucrats.  It is my profound belief that to sponsor more autonomous and critical collaborative work we need to adopt a wider lens of enquiry.  This lens of enquiry could take a number of forms.  It could focus on critical incidents in teaching, as David Tripp has eloquently argued (Tripp, 1994, pp. 65-76).  It could focus on theories of context, it could focus on the teacher's life and work or it could focus on teacher's stories or narratives, it could focus on public education more broadly conceived of than only schooling by concentrating on developing a "learning society" as Young has argued (Goodson 1994).  It should in short be possible to develop a broader lens for collaborative educational study in the future.  Much of the emerging work in the areas I have listed now indicates that a rich flow of dialogue and data can be assembled through broadening our lens of enquiry and collaboration.  Moreover, this broadened focus may (and I stress may) allow teachers greater authority and control in collaborative research than has often appeared to be the case with practice-oriented study.  The focus in that work has been on teacher practice, almost on the teacher as practice.  What is now required is a collaborative modality that listens above all to the person at whom 'development' and 'implementation' is aimed.  This means strategies should now be explored and developed which facilitate and maximise the potential for the teacher's voice to be heard in collaborative work.  I believe this strategy for developing collaboration and re-inscribing the theoretical mission is well under way and it behoves us to push much harder to ensure that this kind of work sets up an articulate counterculture to the current initiatives that occupy 'the high ground' in so many western countries.

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Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives
  • Date of publication: 01/09/2003
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 160
  • Publisher: Open University Press
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
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  • Appears in:
    Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change
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  • Price of book: £23.99
  • ISBN: 9780335204113
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