Reflections about practice-based inquiry: Perspectives from South African and New Zealand teachers.

Year: 2019

Author: Bansilal, Sarah, Jhagroo, Jyoti

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As teachers develop reflective practices, they take ownership of their own practices and personal professional learning. We believe that transformative practice can be encouraged through systematic inquiry of the problems of practice teachers identify and manage. Practitioner inquiry is a familiar genre that has become part of the research tradition in many teacher professional development programmes across the world, which takes a teacher- as –inquirer approach that allows teachers to conduct research into their own practices. Research suggest that practitioner inquiry should involve a systematic inquiry into personal classroom practices, an examination of how personal beliefs are operationalised into classroom practices as well as a process of critical self- reflection. In this paper, we explore the concept of practitioner inquiry and its implication for mathematics professional learning and the creation of local knowledge. While this local knowledge may be beneficial in building teacher knowledge from their own teaching and learning context, the potential of such inquiries contributing to a wider professional conversation is important in developing capabilities through collaboration and shared knowledge. We look at perspectives form two groups of teachers, both of whom participated in practitioner inquiry as part of two different professional development programmes, one in South Africa and the other in New Zealand. The 41 South African participants were enrolled in a teacher training programme designed to help them teach a newly introduced subject Mathematical Literacy and were drawn largely from poorly resourced schools situated in rural areas. The 18 New Zealand participants were enrolled in an initial teacher education Masters in Teaching and Learning programme that was designed to for graduates from non-teaching backgrounds to pursue a teaching qualification. The data that is analysed is drawn from the written reflections of the two groups of teachers about what they had learnt as a result of their participation in their individual practitioner inquiry projects. We explore the shift from the teachers as consumers of external research ideals to their locally generated research-informed realities. The analyses which are situated within the unique contexts of the two groups of teachers, provides a more nuanced understanding of the teachers’ locally generated research insights into their own professional learning and practice.