Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Self-Study Method?

The Problem:
“Why when we are asked as teachers to be innovative with technology we are not?”
The Question:
“What conditions need to be in place to support an innovative technology classroom?”
The Method:

I have been called an innovator when it comes to student use of technology in my elementary classroom yet I feel more pressure each day to teach and measure my students work by traditional methods, as well I doubt my own strengths and abilities for integration. My ideas and concerns seemed to be trapped in my own classroom. In the Alberta Programs of Studies (1995-2009) teachers currently are being asked to make a fundamental shift in our practice away from a teacher centred delivery of content to a more generative and collaborative exploration of content. This shift the curriculum requests requires a major adjustment of the traditional power relationship between myself and my students. We are also being asked in the Learning and Technology Policy Framework to “develop the competencies to integrate technology successfully into their teaching and to guide students in the use of technology to achieve learning goals”(2004).Even though I am willing why is it so difficult for me to connect my student’s questions to the current read and write tools I know are available through technology and how do I share my story with others? There have been many arguments for and against the use and cost of technology in classrooms but all of that in my mind is completely beside the point. We live in a technological world and all of us need to learn how to participate in it and that means learning to use the authoring tools available through web 2.0 technologies, yet if seems so hard. This question is extremely personal, yet I do not believe that I am alone with this question. I am not looking for a universal truth but a shared one. I also believe the only way to get inside of this problem is to reflect on the borders of my own practice and experience and mix it up with dialogue with teachers who are attempting to be innovative .

Given my assumptions as a teacher/researcher I believe the method I need, will involve collaborative dialogue where I bring my experience as a classroom teacher along as a resource. I think it will be kind of an improvisational critical autoethnography. Too wordy I know, but in using the term improvisational I am not referring to jazz music per say. It just means that the way I am looking at my problem is coming from the interpretive nature of social research; it will allow me to be reflective about my own situation and contains the notion of shared understanding and lived knowledge. I use the word critical to mean that it is not enough to merely describe this issue; I hope to bring about change. And autoethnography speaks to the first hand knowledge I need to answer this question and the need to examine my question with others in the place it exists. However this place is personal, I am the subject (knower) and also the object (place) so while I need to bring my own voice I will not understand without the inclusion of other voices. Explanations may contain the seeds to solutions but people are the solutions to the problems that confront us. I want to see if a narrative study with other teachers can be not just a meaning making event but a catalyst for change in our own practice.

I could also approach this problem from a narrative inquiry tradition. Can I make myself (the narrator) the protagonist as an actor in this story? As I am to understand a narrative inquiry is verbal action, “a process of collaboration involving mutual storytelling and re-storying as the research proceeds. In the process of beginning to live the shared story of narrative inquiry, the researcher needs to be aware of constructing a relationship in which both voices are heard” (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990 p.4). This description underlines the importance of relationship in research and social construction, a relationship in which both teachers and researchers feel cared for and have a voice with which to tell their stories.

Then again the method that seems to be the most functional fit at this point is self-study. Self-study is an extension of both narrative and reflective practice. It goes beyond normal professional development and it speaks to a much wider audience and consideration of ideas (p. 106 Craig 2006). In the end I need to take my practice somewhere else because of this experience. It is important to tell my story but to be changed by the telling. What makes this method useful to me is that it is a sequence of reflective moments. It will allow me to place my personal problem out in public. There with collaborative, critical voices it can be reframed and redefined in community because of this participation. It will be a shared adventure. It will not be an expert-novice relationship or just critical friends. In this case I need to assume a ‘working with’ stance through narrative threads. In self-study, “The participants will be jointly involved in developing the study and learning through collaborative experiences (Loughran, J., & Northfield, J. 1998 p.14-15).

Critical Questions:

Can I create the kind of collaborative experience that is required for self-study? Can I make my personal struggle to make sense of my practice with the current ICT curriculum public? Who will share it with me? How will I find my critical friends? What will they get out of this experience? How will I measure what I gained at the end of my research?

Any thoughts anyone?

Some theoretical roots

• Teacher as ‘knower’
• Knowledge is embedded in situation revised through social interaction and adapted over time
• Reflective practitioner

Alberta Learning. (2000-2003). Information and communication technology, kindergarten to grade 12: Program of studies. Curriculum Standards

Alberta Learning. (1995-2009). Programs of Study. http://education.alberta.ca/teachers/program.aspx

Alberta Learning. (2004). Learning and technology policy framework. http://www.learning.gov.ab.ca/reading/policy/techframework

Craig, C.J. (2006). Change, Changing, and Being Changed: A Self-study of a teacher educator’s becoming real in the throes of urban school reform (pp.105-116). Houston: Routledge.

Connelly, F. M., & Clandinin, D. J. (1990). Stories of experience and narrative inquiry. Educational
Researcher, 19(5), 2–14.

Ham, V., & Davey, R. (2004, June). Are we the very models of the modern teacher educator? Paper presented at the fifth international conference on Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices,
Herstmonceux Castle, England

Loughran, J., & Northfield, J. (1998). A framework for the development of self-study practice.
In M. L. Hamilton (Ed.), Reconceptualizing teaching practice: Self-study for teacher education
(pp. 7–18). London: Falmer Press. Google Books

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