Moral work in teachers collaborative learning conversations

Year: 2013

Author: Harris, Jessica

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teachers and school leaders in the current Australian schooling context are required to negotiate a range of complex and competing discourses from the political and research spheres. There has been a push in Australia to recognise and improve the professionalism of teachers and school leaders (AITSL, 2010: AITSL, 2011) while they are working in a context of increasing data driven accountability. Continuing conversations about performance pay for teachers are coupled with the push from education researchers for teachers to engage in ongoing collaborative inquiry and professional learning conversations. Similarly, schools are required to navigate the increasingly competitive terrain that has been brought about by national testing and reporting processes, while trying to provide equitable access to high quality education for all students. The focus of this paper is on the ‘culture in action' (Baker, 2000) and moral work that is being produced by teachers in the current schooling context. Drawing on tools from Conversation Analysis and Membership Categorisation Analysis, this paper explores how moral versions of the work of teachers and school improvement practices are talked into being (Heritage, 1984: Jayyusi, 1984) within meetings involving school leaders and the QUT team from an ARC Linkage project on Ethical Leadership. A particular focus is on how teachers' talk can be used to create and offer insights into the moral work they engage in while trying to address the complex demands of schooling in the 21st Century. Through their talk, these teachers, school leaders and researchers are not only engaging in the design of equitable and inclusive school reform but also talking into being moral versions of what teachers and schools ‘should do' and ‘should be like'.