A Constructivist Exploration of the Teacher's Role: understanding the policy practice navigation between: Pedagogy, Professionalism & Vocationalism
Ryan, Michael F. (2010) A Constructivist Exploration of the Teacher's Role: understanding the policy practice navigation between: Pedagogy, Professionalism & Vocationalism. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
This constructivist grounded theory study, explores the role of the second level teacher in contemporary Ireland. It investigates how the officially espoused role of the teacher translates into action in the negotiated environments of practice. The study yielded three significant constructs that penetrate the reality of a teaching life. The three constructs emerged organically from an analysis of research-participant reflections regarding their practice as teachers. These three interwoven constructs provide the scaffolding for the grounded theory findings: i. pedagogy under pressure, ii. teachers navigating a pathway between old and new professionalism iii. vocationalism and pockets of wonderful things While each of the three constructs has its own discourse and associated web of meaning, there is also evidence of an over arching climate that weaves its influence across the playing out of each. This climate is identified as one of intensification. The intensification of teaching and learning significantly impacts on the teacher’s role. The first of the three constructs; pedagogy under pressure emerges as a particularly problematic one. The implicitly instrumentalist vision driving the practice of education (emergent in the first construct) compromises not only progressive pedagogy, but also compromises the enactment of new professionalism as illuminated in the second construct. The intensification of education can also endanger the vocational impetus for teachers and render into ‘pockets’ the ‘wonderful things’ that sustain and nurture the teacher’s ontological identity as profiled in the final construct. The qualitative findings suggest that the teacher’s role is therefore an increasingly complex one that navigates within and across three interwoven domains of what it means to be a teacher. Within this navigation, there is significant evidence of policy practice dissonance, and localised negotiations of policy rhetoric, driven by the imperative of terminal assessment. The study concludes that this climate of intensification militates against the realization of the more nurturing aims of education espoused in the Government White Paper Charting Our Education Future (1995). The study provides educational policy makers, teacher educators and teachers with an insightful road map with which to interrogate many assumptions regarding second level teaching. The study interrogates policy, practice and theoretical perspectives. It raises many challenging questions regarding the teacher’s role and the current instrumentalist vision driving the practice of second level education in Ireland. These questions, findings and associated recommendations now deserve prompt study from teachers, teacher educators, policy makers and other educational stakeholers.
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