Why isn’t this empowering? The discursive positioning of teachers in efforts to improve teaching

Year: 2018

Author: Gore, Jenny

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teachers are at the core of academic, policy and public discourses addressing school improvement – often positioned as both the problem and the solution. In this paper, I confront three aspects of this reform agenda. First, I examine two prominent conceptualisations of ways to improve teaching – research-informed inquiry and clinical practice. Second, I give systematic attention to the forms of knowledge privileged within each discourse. Finally, I consider the consequences of each discourse for building the profession in ways that empower teachers.
Anchored in an analysis of what the “problem” is understood to be, drawing on the work of Carol Bacchi, I consider how research-informed inquiry and clinical practice, as “solutions” to the quest for better teaching, risk positioning teachers in ways that either undervalue or overestimate their knowledge and experience. In so doing, it is my contention that not only are they limited in their potential impact (as any approach is) but, more profoundly, they risk suppressing the improvement of teaching.
Bringing a critical and reflexive lens to the analysis, I next apply the same critique to the Quality Teaching Rounds approach that has been the focus of my own recent research and explore the extent to which it positions teachers differently. I argue that academic work (both conceptual and empirical) is foundational to reconceptualising teachers’ role in efforts to improve teaching. Such work has important consequences for how teachers are understood and represented within policy and public domains.