Teachers’ Funds of Knowledge: A Challenge to Evidence-Based Practice

From Section:
Theories & Approaches
New Zealand
Feb. 01, 2012
February, 2012

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 18, No. 1, February 2012, 7–24
(Reviewed  by the Portal Team)

In this study, the author examined the professional knowledge that teachers use in order to assess and respond meaningfully to children’s interests.

The author conducted the study in two kindergartens in Auckland, New Zealand.
One setting was a sessional (half-day) kindergarten for three- and four-year-old children, and the other was a full-day education and care setting for children aged six months to five years.
The participants were ten teachers and 35 children across both settings.

The author collected data through various techniques, such as participant observation in natural teaching and learning settings, and field-notes and photographs of children’s interests and inquiries. The author also conducted individual teacher and teaching team interviews. She also gained data from six one-hour, evidence-informed group inquiry discussions among the teachers.

The findings revealed that personal and idiosyncratic nature of teachers’ knowledge gained in family, center and community contexts. The author also argues that as a result of teachers’ age, maturity and experience, they had been exposed to formal and practice-based knowledge through participation in various learning communities.
The author argues that the personal, informal knowledge became infused with professional knowledge that influenced teacher curriculum decision-making and pedagogical practices. This informal knowledge can be described as an analytical framework of funds of knowledge. The teachers use the funds of knowledge in their interactions with children in complex and connected ways.

The author also found that children’s interests and inquiries were noticed and responded to when they coincided with the teachers’ interests and/or teachers had the knowledge and interest to support them.
However, the author claims that the relationship between formal knowledge, practice-based knowledge and personal knowledge is multifaceted and unlikely to be explained by a limited definition of evidence-based practice.
Despite this limitation, the author argues that formal, research-based knowledge was filtered through funds of knowledge as a well-established form of personal knowledge in teacher decision-making.

The author suggests that accessing teachers’ funds of knowledge and using these to develop professional knowledge that is complemented by research and theory may be fruitful to explore in the processes of teacher education and professional learning. Furthermore, the author notes that teachers writing autobiographical narratives may enable teacher educators to build a professional knowledge community.

The author concludes that funds of knowledge as a concept positions the knowledge teachers and learners have developed in their families as intuitive sources of cultural and cognitive resources. She has argued that funds of knowledge act as a framework to describe a range of informal knowledge based on life experience that early childhood teachers may draw on unconsciously in their daily decision-making and curricular and pedagogical interactions. 

Updated: Jun. 21, 2018
Early childhood education | Kindergarten | Teacher knowledge