Beginning teachers as innovative beginning researchers

Year: 2009

Author: Crerar, Marty

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper outlines doctoral research that was conducted on beginning teaching by a beginning teacher. Set in Tasmania, in 2000, the research project explored one Drama teacher's first year in the profession. This is my story. I was the teacher, and I was the researcher. The research method was autoethnography (Bochner & Ellis, 2002; Ellis, 1997; Ellis & Bochner, 2000; Gergen & Gergen, 2002; Reed-Danahay, 1997).

I conducted this study at a time when beginning teaching was characterised in the literature as a time of survival, or development, or transformation, but policymakers predominantly viewed beginning teaching as a problem needing a solution. I found that an in-depth portrayal of the individual's personal experience of beginning teaching was missing from much of the research literature in this aspect of educational inquiry, especially in the area of secondary Drama teaching.

This research revealed the crucial need to 'see anew', when approaching research into beginning teaching. As an autoethnographer, I offered a different way of knowing about this issue. The resultant thesis was arts-influenced. I wrote in layers, quilting my multiple voices (teacher, researcher, woman, daughter, and mother) with the voices of others (research literature, critical readers and other beginning teachers). I argued that beginning teaching is complex; hence representations of it should be too.

Telling my story opened my eyes. I was guilty of holding a 'limiting' definition of 'beginning teaching'. I stereotyped others. I stereotyped myself. I did not see anew; I wanted to fit in and to survive. By subconsciously embracing the notion that beginning teaching is about survival, I limited my ability to learn from my first year. Until I chose to revisit the experience, I had forgotten it. (Re)writing my story offered me, and others, hope.

This paper advocates the inclusion of beginning teachers as researchers in research projects on beginning teaching. Beginning teachers can and should become researchers of their own experiences. There are regular pleas for more voices of beginning teachers in the arena of research, as well as recognition that research projects are beneficial in teacher training and the sustenance of professionalism in beginning teachers. My doctoral research illustrates that beginning teachers can be at the centre of discussions about the experience of beginning teaching. I provide a model of how beginning teachers can be credible and innovative researchers of this stalwart topic of educational research.

Key Phrase: Doctoral Education Research