We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. Click here to find out more. Allow cookies
Professional Life and Work

Studying Teachers' Lives

Studying Teachers' Lives - an emergent field of study

Knowles in Chapter 4 takes this view and argues for a quite focused and specific notion of teacher biography. He argues that 'understanding the origins of student teacher perspectives is largely a product of understanding the impact of biography - those experiences that have directly influenced an individual's thinking about teaching and schools' (p. 102).

A third rationale for studying teachers' lives is articulated in Sue Middleton's work. Work on teachers' lives will provide vital insights into teaching as a gendered profession (as well as the associated and specific aspiration in this chapter of providing a substantive account of the production of one feminist teacher's pedagogy within the specific socio-cultural setting of post-Second World War New Zealand). Other work pursues the experience of women's lives in teaching: Margaret Nelson's attempt to reconstruct the experiences of women teachers in Vermont in the first half of the twentieth century and Kathleen Casey's investigation of why progressive women activists leave teaching. Nelson's work provides a fascinating vindication of the oral history approach. She notes that, 'Numerous studies have shown that there is a gap between what we can discover when we rely on published accounts of some historical event and what we discover when we ask questions of the on-site participants of those same events. This gap looms larger when we are looking at women's history because of the private nature of so much of women's lives.' She adds later, 'Public history often ignores minority views. But women's lives are further hidden because important information is overlooked, consciously avoided, or distorted.'

Middleton argues that, 'Writing one's autobiography becomes, in this framework, in part a process of deconstructing the discursive practices through which one's subjectivity has been constituted.' Butt, Raymond, and Yamagishi, in some senses, pursue similar objectives through their work on collaborative autobiography. Their work, which relates to the earlier discussion about managerialism, reflects a fourth rationale for studying teachers' lives: the desire to produce teacher-centred, professional knowledge. I have recently pursued this argument at length elsewhere but, put briefly, the issue is to develop a modality of educational research which speaks both within and to the teacher [i]. This will require a major reconceptualization of educational research paradigms, but the emerging work on teacher thinking, teacher journalling, teachers' practical knowledge, as well as the new corpus of work on reflective practitioners and action research is, I think, a harbinger of new modalities of research. To date, much of the educational research employed in teacher training has been developed by scholars writing within their own contexts and resonates with their own career concerns in a 'publish or perish' environment. The audience is mainly their academic peers who are addressed through scholarly journals. In the profoundest sense, the knowledge they produce is, from the teacher's point of view, decontextualized. As Woods has argued, 'such knowledge is not under their control. It is produced "out there" and "up there" on an apparently superior plane in forms and terms with which they cannot engage. Further, much of this knowledge appears to be critical of teachers... [ii]

[i] Goodson, I.F. (1991) 'Sponsoring the teacher's voice', pp. 35-45.

[ii] Woods, P. 'Life histories and teacher knowledge' in Smyth, J. (ed.) (1987) Educating Teachers: Changing the Nature of Pedagogical Knowledge, London, Philadelphia and New York: Falmer, p. 121.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Next page

Studying Teachers' Lives Ivor Goodson
  • Date of publication: 06/02/1992
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 272
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    Studying Teachers' Lives
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £42.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-06858-1
  • Purchase this book:
  • Buy used and new from: Amazon