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Archive for April, 2010

Hot off the Press!

The time has come. . . . I am pleased to announce that my new book, Self-Study Teacher Research: Improving Your Practice Through Collaborative Inquiry, Sage Publishers, has gone to press!

Jump Inside Your Teaching

I begin this blog by inviting you to join me in jumping inside your teaching and sharing your explorations and research about your teaching inquiries.

Are you frustrated with high-stakes standards that are impacting your teaching?! Let me say that that your teaching begins with you. The power of your personal narrative to define the parameters of your own classroom inquiry is at the forefront of your academic thinking and professional development.

This does not mean that there should be no outside accountability. It does, however, bring to mind that change that is demanded by others is less powerful, less meaningful, and less sustainable than change that is self-initiated and self-motivated.  You are a generator of knowledge who can learn about your teaching and about your students’ learning by studying your own classroom. Despite any frustrations you might have in trying to change the educational system, the one thing you know you can try to improve and change is yourself.

Ann Lieberman and Desiree Pointer Mace in their article, Making Practice Public: Teaching Learning in the 21st Century, [2010, Journal of Teacher Education, 61 (1-2), 77-88], call for a “local teaching” movement where  “Growing your own professional development” means giving value to your efforts to shape teaching and learning in your classroom; “Just as a local-foods gardener is invested in the daily care to grow food that will grace the tables of his or her community, teachers can assess a greater investment in their own knowledge and expertise by sharing their fruits of their labors with each other” (p. 86). The key is to belong to a learning community in practice. And so the support of critical friends is essential to our professional practice as teachers.

Many years ago I taught preschoolers and observed how much they learned by getting their hands dirty by jumping into new projects and sharing their work. My advanced studies involved learning about early childhood education, human development, curriculum and instruction, and teacher education. You can read a bit about me on my personal webpage.

I find myself smiling when I reminisce on teaching young children. I watched 3-year olds energetically and enthusiastically dig their hands into finger paint, shaving cream, clay, and mud as they played with and shared their ideas with classmates. With busy hands, they traced and painted, designed and cut, and placed and glued fabric, yarn, and buttons on their self-portraits, which were posted in hallways and on home refrigerators where they were made public. “Look at what I made at school” they shouted.

As we get older, we often forget how much we learned by playing and sharing our ideas with colleagues–by muddying up our hands, making mistakes, and sharing our ongoing understandings of practice. We sometimes lose faith and our sense of agency as teaching professionals. For the last decade, I have been learning and practicing what is called self-study teacher research.

Self-study is a methodology to critically examine one’s own teaching as a way of developing a more consciously driven mode of professional activity (Samaras, 2002); that is you are examining your own teaching from the inside and sharing it with others outside of your classroom so as to add to the knowledge base of teaching and learning. Self-study research involves a self-reflective stance in concert with self-responsibility as well as a responsibility to others. As teachers conduct self-study research projects, they are reminded about the important role they play, and can play, in addressing performance measures and improving the educational system.