Teachers' learning towards the dialogic school: Getting real; enacting the rhetoric beyond resistance

Year: 1997

Author: McInerney, Peter, Lawson, Michael, Smyth, John, Hattam, Robert

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Much attention is currently focussed on the professional development of teachers as a catalyst for improving the educational outcomes of students in Australian schools. This paper draws on research emerging from an ARC funded project on 'Teachers' Learning' involving the Flinders Institute for

the Study of Teaching and the Department for Education and Children's Services in South Australia. The project is investigating the supportive conditions and structures in schools to facilitate the professional development of teachers.

The research has begun to focus on the contested nature of teacher development that operates in schools and this paper illustrates school responses against the grain of the hierarchical and managerial models of training and development which inhabit official discourses on teacher development. It highlights the ways in which teachers have resisted attempts to limit the nature of their work to narrow, technical interests which subvert the moral and political purpose of teaching. A theoretical framework is developed as a means of analysing teachers' learning in terms of the rhetoric of change and the reality of confronting the oppositional elements embedded in the official discourse and the complexities associated with school communities. Drawing on findings from the field work the paper describes some of the strategies and processes which teachers have developed as they work through the terrain of resistance in their efforts to achieve a dialogic school - a potentially more democratic and socially just community.