Rethinking professional knowledge: Learning work, intellectual work, hard work

Year: 1996

Author: Groundwater-Smith, Susan, Sachs, Judyth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper will focus upon the production, development and utilisation of professional knowledge through facilitated practitioner research. Drawing upon our experiences working on two national projects: Innovative Links between Schools and Universities for Teacher Professional Development and the National Schools Network, both of which are concerned with redefining the relationships between the academic and school communities, we argue that conditions are now ripe for a redefinition of teachers' professional knowledge and a reconceptualisation of practices in schools and universities.

The processes of facilitated practitioner research, as embodied in these projects, requires a cultural and ideological shift on the part of both teachers and their university colleagues. Our view is that we, as an educational community, should be encouraged to reposition ourselves professionally and intellectually to engage in critical enquiry into our practices and the contexts which shape those practices in ways which will contribute to the wider professional and political debate.

The Innovative Links Project and the NSN have both demonstrated that when teachers and teacher educators move beyond purely practical discourses there is a revitalisation in the ways they see themselves situated in the education industry.

The evolution of an informed professional discourse, based upon teacher research, has implications in several arenas. Not only does it produce knowledge about teaching and learning which can be used by other teachers to improve and inform their practice, it also provides evidence which may be used in local, regional and national policy formulation.

We argue that well grounded, well defended and peer reviewed facilitated practitioner research has the potential to become a significant force in the development of education policy. Within such a context, teachers, with their university colleagues, are given opportunities to work in concert and be strategic in the ways in which they position themselves, professionally and publicly.

In order to develop our argument, two key questions will be addressed, these being:

What are the conditions that help support and sustain the production, development and utilisation of teacher professional knowledge?

How can systems and professional organisations build on initiatives such as The Innovative Links Between Schools and Universities for Teacher Professional Development Project and the National Schools Network, to enable teachers to develop a sustained research voice which both embodies theoretical and practical discourses?