The last two assignments of the year being VERY close together, this final one – for the Researching the Real World 2 unit – might end up going to the wire. But I will do my best with it. I got so carried away earlier in the unit reading everything David threw my way and not worrying about the actual assignment task, I got quite a shock when I realised that time was drawing in and perhaps everything I’d read didn’t have that much relevance. It’s been great for articulating my ideological underworld… not so good when it comes to identifying a methodology and design. But I got my head down today and think I’ve found a way forward with the required research proposal and critical commentary:
The question I am really interested in asking is…
What is ‘success’ in the context of teacher CPD, and what are its causal mechanisms?
Following Scott and Morrison’s (2005) advice that certain philosophical questions need to be answered prior to decisions about strategy and methods, I guess I need to start by doing some ontological work around the concept of ‘success’. Like any large organisation, our university practices and routines tend to promote a ‘flat ontology’ that is based on observable and easily reportable phenomena; the number of participants completing and progressing, their grade profiles, lists of individual project topics, and short case studies of work done by a few high-scoring students who also happened to produce the most commercially palatable video shorts about their work.
In carrying out this research I want to add structural depth to the notion of ‘success’ in the context of teacher CPD courses, and aim for an emergent stratification (Sayer 2000) that considers the observable, the actual and the real.
My eventual aim – coming at this from a critical realist perspective – would be to get closer to a fallible but ‘ideal’ conceptualisation of success, rather than simply gathering a diversity of opinions and declaring them to be of equal value (the dreaded relativist perspective denounced by Sayer (2000)). At the very least I would hope the work would challenge assumptions about the role of prediction, measurement and explanation in teacher CPD.
Part of the work would be to do my best to expose my own ‘personal ideological underworld’ (Hogan 1988), which has been very much influenced by recent reading for the RRW2 unit – mostly around Heidegger and technology/ the technological approach. Lewin, Wrathall, Dreyfus, Lambier, etc.. I am enthused by the idea of deproblematising teaching, moving away from the design of interventions to address ‘issues’, and towards the exploration of our mysterious profession and the appreciation of higher orders of competence that escape conscious consideration and defy articulation.
The questions I would want to ask (and answer) fit into the following two areas:
Phenomenology – What are people’s lived experience of teacher CPD? – the participants, their students, and their tutors? What should it be? Easy? Challenging? Disruptive? Affirming? What were the factors that influenced their experience?
Phenomenography (I think ?) What is the purpose of teacher CPD? (according to the participants, their students, their tutors, accrediting bodies (e.g. HEA, SEDA) and senior management) – What our our aims in teaching people to teach? In teaching them about educational theory? About reflective practice? Is our drive emancipatory or conservative?
I have some ideas for how these approaches might be taken forward. The question of lived experiences of teacher CPD might be addressed through visual methods – e.g. asking completing participants to draw themselves before and after the course and talk about what they have drawn (I’m very interested in visual methods given where I work). A longitudinal, 360 degree study of a small number of participants could also reveal interesting data – participant interviews before, during and after the course on their aims and intentions, and factors contributing to the outcomes; accompanied with interviews or surveys with their students, colleagues, tutors, line manager, etc.
With the second part of this question – on factors impacting on the lived experience of CPD – I immediately had some ideas for what themes might arise from asking such a question – not so much on how to go about asking it. I’m not sure how helpful it is for me to have preconceived ideas about this… but perhaps grounded theory is the way to go?!
- Life narrative
- Course design
- College support
- Perceived increase in confidence
- Observed impact on student learning
- Philosophical aim of programme
- Course ethos
- Staff agenda
The question of the purpose of CPD doesn’t seem like it would be as interesting a question to ask – possibly because I think I already know the answers – but perhaps this is a good reason to explore it.
There is a big HEA report on the impact of teacher development programmes in higher education which is utterly breathtaking in its inability to claim any sort of truth about the success (or otherwise) of such programmes. The discourse of human resource management clearly runs through it. I want to basically achieve the opposite:
My next steps as I see them are to…
- firm up my two areas of questioning (I think there is a little overlap between them that perhaps shouldn’t be there)
- do some more dipping into the Scott & Morrison book – which is absolutely awesome! Basically a big choose-your-own-adventure glossary that’s about a thousand times more readable than all the rest of David Scott’s stuff… haha
- remind myself of the typical format of research proposals 😉
- try to get hold of the Brad Shipway book David recommended (A Critical Realist perspective on Education). There are copies in IoE, including an eBook which I may be able to wangle access to through SCONUL.
- look up the refs for the HEA report linked to here and compare some of the methodological approaches used in the various studies cited.