Using Metaphors to Uncover the Selves in my Practice

May. 20, 2009

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Volume 5, Issue 1 May 2009, pages 21-31
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study describes how one teacher educator used metaphor as a self-study tool over an eight-year period. This study considers critical use of a variety of metaphors that helped the author better understand her practice.


The author gathered information about her practice in teaching journal and in notes from discussions in her self-study group, work with individual colleagues, and ad hoc discussions with peers and students. Institutional Teaching Evaluations (ITE) provided additional student perspectives.

Several methods of eliciting metaphors are discussed and the effects of multiple metaphors on the educator's perspectives on practice are highlighted.
The interplay among the metaphors and their meaning is described and used to provide additional insights.


Cook-Sather (2003) explores how metaphors function systemically in education. Within these metaphorical frameworks, there is a space for idiosyncratic and personal metaphors that capture our individual contexts. Miller et al. (2002) suggest exploration of individual metaphors as a useful tool for educators wishing to examine their personal practice.
The literature contains many references to using such an approach with teacher education students, a few instances of using it with in-service teachers, and a very small number using it with teacher educators, but all report on the use of a single metaphor over a limited time.
This study adds to that research by considering how metaphors used intentionally over an extended period of time influenced the practice of one teacher educator.
The work demonstrates how long-term use of metaphors can be a way to step back from practice, take a new look at the meaning of the particulars of practice, and reframe events of practice. Potential avenues for improvement of practice emerged from these interpretations, and the effects of these changes and possible future efforts are discussed.

Cook-Sather, A. (2003) Movements of mind: The matrix, metaphors, and re-imagining education. Teachers College Record 105 , pp. 946-977.

Miller, C., East, K., Fitzgerald, L. M., Heston, M. L. and Veenstra, T. B. (2002) Visions of self in the act of teaching: Using personal metaphors in a collaborative study of teaching practices. Teaching and Learning 16 , pp. 81-94.


Updated: Aug. 25, 2009