Teacher learning and the art of professional conversation

Year: 2004

Author: Sankey, Derek

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Professional conversation is an art. It is different from everyday conversation in that it is situated in practice, in order to understand practice. It involves a high level of interpretation and reinterpretation, and therefore exhibits many hermeneutical characteristics. The purpose of this paper will be to outline and discuss some essential features of hermeneutics, drawing on the work of one of its most distinguished advocates, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and then to show how the model helps to illuminate the kinds of conversations about practice that teachers engage in when conducting Learning Studies. For example, a hermeneutic model is particularly applicable to the pre and post-lesson conferencing, as an example of professional conversation in which all participants are engaged in enhancing their own learning. One important argument of the paper will be that in conducting professional conversation and trying to understand each other's point of view, we need to go beyond empathy. Understanding, from a hermeneutic perspective, is always more than merely re-creating someone else's meaning. It is a more subtle art, which Gadamer refers to as the fusion of horizons.