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 - problems and possibilities

Yet Becker reminds us that the terrain of research involves not only differentiated voices but stratified voices. It is important to remember that the politicians and bureaucrats who control schools are part of a stratified system where 'those at the top have a more complete picture of what is going on than anyone else'. It would be unfortunate if in studying teachers' lives, we ignored these contextual parameters which so substantially impinge upon and constantly restrict the teacher's life. It is, therefore, I think a crucial part of our ethical position as researchers that we do not 'valorize the subjectivity of the powerless' in the name of telling 'their story'. This would be to merely record constrained consciousness - a profoundly conservative posture and one, as Denzin has noted, which no doubt explains the popularity of such work during the recent conservative political renaissance. In my view teachers' life studies should, where possible, provide not only a 'narrative of action', but also a history or genealogy of context. I say this in full knowledge that this opens up substantial dangers of changing the relationship between 'life story giver' and 'research taker' and of tilting the balance of the relationship further towards the academy.

I think, however, that these dangers must be faced if a genuine collaboration between the life story giver and the research taker is to be achieved. In a real sense 'it cannot be all give and no take'. In what sense is the 'research taker' in a position to give and provide the basis for a reasonably equitable collaboration? I have argued elsewhere that what we are searching for in developing genuine collaboration in studying teachers' lives is a viable' trading point' between life story giver and research taker. The key to this trading point is, I believe, the differential structural location of the research taker. The academic has the time and the resources to collaborate with teachers in developing 'genealogies of context'. These genealogies can provide teachers as a group with aspects of 'the complete picture' which those that control their lives have (or at least aspire to have).

Much of the work that is emerging on teachers' lives throws up structural insights which locate the teacher's life within the deeply structured and embedded environment of schooling. This provides a prime 'trading point' for the external researcher. For one of the valuable characteristics of a collaboration between teachers as researchers and external researchers is that it is a collaboration between two parties that are differentially located in structural terms, Each see the world through a different prism of practice and thought. This valuable difference may provide the external researcher with a possibility to offer back goods in 'the trade'. The teacher/researcher offers data and insights; the external researcher, in pursuing glimpses of structure in different ways, may now also bring data and insights. The terms of trade, in short, look favourable. In such conditions collaboration may at last begin[i].

[i] Goodson, I.F. and Walker, R. (1990) Biography, Identity and Schooling, London, New York and Philadelphia: Falmer, pp. 148-9. 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

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