Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 20, No. 6, 764–782, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of policy-oriented teacher inquiry that is collaborative, theoretically driven, and methodologically well-grounded. The author proposes a methodological framework for policy-oriented teacher inquiry that highlights multilayered research approaches and collaborative inquiry. She situates her arguments and the proposed framework in the context of qualitative research and Marx’s dialectic method.
The author introduces four study phases that can enable deeper and more detailed understandings of relations between individual experiences, political structures, and material environments. Each phase of the framework supports and builds on one shared research agenda, but each stage could include its own studies.
Discovery of teachers’ voices
During the first phase of the proposed methodological framework, researchers study teachers’ experiences, beliefs, and values. The purpose of this phase is not only to document existing perceptions, experiences, and ‘realities’ but also to examine other teachers’ and collaborators’ investments into a particular line of inquiry, as well as their commitment to specific changes in practice and policy.
Engagement and dialog
The second phase of the framework builds on the findings from the first. At this time teachers are encouraged to form working groups, establish informal discussion groups, and participate in formal focus-group interviews to discuss issues raised in the previous study phase. In these groups, teachers interact with other teachers, stakeholders, and community members outside their immediate school context. The goal is to create collective meaning and knowledge, plan, identify action steps, and begin dialog among interested parties.
Interruptions and transformations
The third phase of the proposed framework attempts to facilitate transformation and alleviate assumptions based on findings from previous phases. It is guided by participants’ vision for a better future and their transformation of social expectations.
This connection to historical situatedness is a fruitful beginning for the analysis of preconditions that have shaped the development of the concrete as described by Marx. The construction of knowledge and engagement in research practices includes the search for equity as well as the promotion of action to help communities address opposing views.
Activism, advocacy, and evaluation
The last phase of the proposed framework documents various efforts that promote activism and advocacy to mobilize communities, organizations, and individuals. At this point, researchers would reflect on the previous phases and accomplishments and evaluate the progress of their advocacy and policy work. In this phase researchers order and prioritize circumstances and practices. They engage in methodological ordering, prioritize certain needs and actions, and establish particular interconnections of categories.
The proposed framework was developed to increase methodological attention and potential of collaborative inquiry that builds on individual stories, life experiences, and the intersection of theory and practice.
In addition, the proposed methodological framework can open up possibilities for systematic action and policy-based inquiry to facilitate sustainable change that builds on stakeholders’ involvement and community partners’ commitment.
This framework is also only one example of putting a theory to work in advocacy and policy contexts. Much of this discussion exemplifies learning by doing. Teachers and collaborators are learning by doing when they expand their personal and subjective voices to reach others. In this process, one becomes many – socially, methodologically, and argumentatively.
The author uses Marx’s dialectic to build conceptual connections to existing critical scholarship. A framework that utilizes aspects of Marx’s dialectic method can enable scholars to build trustworthy and long-term relationships with participating communities while at the same time taking into account historical contexts, concrete circumstances, lived experiences, and distribution of social goods and funds of knowledge. The proposed research model challenges the epistemological limits of teachers, researchers, policy-makers, and other collaborators’ knowledge and facilitates culturally situated communication, self-interrogation, and multiplicity of meanings, as well as in-depth understandings that can serve as preconditions for future dialog and action.
The author argues that projects like these can enhance and increase teacher empowerment, sense of belonging, productive criticality and reflection, genuine and sustainable change and effectiveness. Hopefully teachers’ capacity building and increased sense of accomplishment in the policy arena will stimulate other research teams, various forms of collaboration, ongoing dialog with policy-makers, and the emergence of new research and policy agendas, making individual teachers’ voices loud and clear.