Wenger (1998: 149) identifies five dimensions of identity, which are useful when thinking about professional identity. These are: identity as negotiated experiences where we define who we are by the ways we experience our selves through participation; identity as community membership where we define who we are by the familiar and the unfamiliar; identity as learning trajectory where we define who we are by where we have been and where are going; identity as nexus of multi membership where we define who we are by the ways we reconcile our various forms of identity into one identity; and identity as a relation between the local and the global where we define who we are by negotiating local ways of belonging to broader constellations and manifesting broader styles and discourses.
Sachs (2001) discusses two discourses that she argues have dominated educational policy and practice in recent times, giving rise two quite distinct forms of teacher identity: (i) the managerialist discourse giving rise to an entrepreneurial professional identity in which the market and issues of accountability, economy, efficiency, and effectiveness shape how teachers individually and collectively construct their professional identities; (ii) democratic discourses giving rise to an activist professional identity in which collaborative cultures are an integral part of teachers’ work practices. These democratic discourses provide the conditions for the development of communities of practices, which are collegial, negotiated, and which form and reform around specific issues.
22.214.171.124 The Role of Conversation
Clark (2001, p.173) in his review of teacher talk projects identifies several aspects of authentic conversation, with the fellow teachers:
- Articulation of implicit theories and beliefs
- Perspective taking – seeing the world through the eyes of others
- Developing a sense of personal and professional growth
- Reviving hope and relational connections: an antidote to isolation
- Reaffirmation of ideals and commitments
- Learning how to engage with students in a learning conversations
In terms of the forms of talk, these can be distinguished and demonstrated to have differing functions:
Talk: the anecdotal stories and snippets shared by teachers in informal contexts for the purpose of sharing frustration, joy and information
Narrative: that story a teacher tells that integrates intuition, practical experience, reading, and knowledge acquired through conversations with colleagues, parents and students
Conversation: a highly active and engaged form of talk where participants learn through and from the talk by sharing opinions, ideas and references
Dialogue: a conversation directed towards discovery and new understanding, where the participants question, analyse, and critique the topic or experience. Dialogues tend to focus on curricular issues based on classroom experiences.
This is seen as requiring an inner circle of care, concern and connection (Cavazos, 2001) where stories of experience have the narrator as main character, have a narrative structure and are implicitly true (i.e. are non-fictional) (Swidler, 2001). They may also require resistance as a catalyst (Zellemayer, 2001), and involve teachers in translating their identities themselves (Cook-Sather, 2001).
126.96.36.199 Community of Learners
Taking a social theory perspective we can consider five common features that identify a community: shared beliefs, interaction and participation, interdependence, concern for individual and minority views and meaningful relationships (Westheimer, 1992). Lave and Wenger (1991) offer a model of situated learning to propose that learning involves a process of engagement in a community of practice where relationships are formed around practice and emerge through interaction around expertise. Where a supportive community does develop there arises the potential for cumulative talk (Mercer, 2000) based on the weblogs and peer comments. Tutors play a part in this, not as authority figures but as another voice and opinion equal to other learners. However, it is in exploratory talk (ibid.) that aspects of creativity and problem-based learning are promoted, with the prospect of an innovation community being developed that fosters unexpected ideas and innovations.
See Case Study 9, Case Study 10
188.8.131.52 Teaching with Technology
The history of technology enhanced learning over the last 5 decades provides an interesting perspective with regard to how the relationship between pedagogy and technology has changed (Paulsson, 2008); from instructional design and the teaching machine of the 1950s to Web 2.0 with its emphasis on the global infrastructure for information and services (O’Reilly, 2006) and the way social and collaborative software is becoming essential for education (Anderson, 2007). This is a challenge that ‘complicates the everyday life of teachers, but at the same time it is an unequalled pedagogical opportunity and a reality that needs to be dealt with in various ways’ (Paulsson, 2008, p.97). In the social–constructivist contexts that many teachers profess to favour, there is a strong chance that the learning process is unpredictable in terms of the learning content; the tools and type of virtual learning environment (VLE) available; and the learning paths that students might choose or prefer to take (Herrington and Oliver, 2000). Pedagogical methods chosen by teachers often reflect their view of learning and learning theories they believe in and this affects how pedagogical ‘processes are expressed and represented in VLEs’ (Pountney and Aspden, 2005).
184.108.40.206 Teaching and OERs
In the ongoing debate about the future of UK Higher Education (HE) Sir Ron Cooke’s (2008) response to the call to build world leadership in the field of e-learning, and the use of e-learning tools and improved pedagogies focuses on the development of open educational resources (OER) and information strategies. This has been critiqued by many in the e-learning community: typical of this is the charge that it is likely to ‘skim over the profound cultural and organisational change that will be needed in HE if use of OER is to become really widespread, with the proposal for the setting up of a number of “distributed centres of excellence” in OER being insufficient to bring about the kinds of changes that are envisaged’ (Schmoeller, 2008). The emphasis on digital content in Cooke’s paper contrasts to the line taken in Ramsden’s response to the evolving student expectation of the educational experience: he talks of remodelling curricula, and the special quality in the UK HE system of the ‘intimacy of the pedagogical relationship’ (Ramsden, 2008, p.7). The confusion that relates to these terms, evident in these competing voices, might be considered to be dichotomous, and contributing to the blurring of the boundaries between the terms content, learning and pedagogy.
220.127.116.11 Technology and Reflection
The meta narrative of reflection and reflective practice centres around Dewey (1933) and his distinction between routine and reflective action and Schon’s (1983) confirmation of this in his distinction between reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. However while the terms reflection and reflective practice are widely cited they remain ill-defined and elusive. Furthermore the discourse around reflection in education has formed discursive objects, such as reflective thought, and constituted subjectives, such as reflective practitioners, as private thoughts in a public sphere (Cotton, 2001). Ball (1990, p.2) suggests that discourses: ‘constrain the possibilities of thought’ and therefore ‘the possibilities for meaning and for definition are pre-empted through the social and institutional position held by those who use them’. Drawing on Foucault, Swan (2008) examines the relationship between reflection and confession, and the tension between the public and the personal as part of the power and knowledge coupling.
On a practical level the emerging findings of research carried out as part of the National Coalition of E-portfolio Research (NCEPR, 2006-9) question whether students and tutors know the place of reflection in learning and whether they can describe it to learners? Learners find it hard to reflect on experience, and struggle with finding the words (and possibly the voice) to express this effectively. In terms of professional learning, students report that developing techniques for reflection are useful but that this is best addressed systematically and seen as a skill to be developed.
It is not clear whether in a regulatory pedagogical discourse that reflection and reflective practice are valued in the curriculum. Assuring assessment when tutors are not clear how to recognise good reflection is problematic: how do we avoid confessional, self-promotion, while encouraging students to express themselves? Writing and blogging are skills requiring an understanding of the genre, expression and the sense of audience and readership.
‘Mastery, in other words, substitutes for morality; to be able to control one’s life circumstances, colonise the future with some degree of success and live within the parameters of internally referential systems can, in many circumstances, allow the social and natural framework of things to seem a secure grounding for life activities. Even therapy, as the exemplary form of the reflexive project of the self, can become a phenomenon of control – an internally referential system in itself.’
The micro technologies that offer affordances for the production, capture and reproduction of reflection also have potential to dominate, to bind and to blind; by overemphasising form over content or by leashing the learner to institutional tools technology can restrict rather than liberate. The emphasis is on the medium rather than the message: the proposition that this might facilitate collaboration might only be rhetoric or become no more than a sense of possibility. Surveillance is built in; silence is not allowed.
‘Technology increases the power of conscious purpose to intervene in the world – but each improvement upsets a delicate balance. Any attempt to ‘solve’ this would be ill-informed and unadvisable (owing to the epistemological approach). The only solution is a radical rethink of the way of thinking or even our way of knowing, a new (or ancient?) mindset in which conscious purpose would be viewed as only minor and rather suspect way of life’