Who I Am in How I Teach Is The Message: Self-Understanding, Vulnerability and Reflection

Apr. 30, 2009

Source: Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, Volume 15, Issue 2, April 2009, pages 257 - 272.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The person of the teacher is an essential element in what constitutes professional teaching and therefore needs careful conceptualization. In this paper the author argues for this central thesis, presenting a wrap up of his theoretical and empirical work on the issue over the past decade. These studies have been inspired - both conceptually and methodologically - by teacher thinking-research as well as the narrative-biographical approach to teaching and teacher development. The result is an empirically grounded conceptual framework on teacher development and teacher professionalism. Central concepts are 'professional self-understanding' and 'subjective educational theory'.

The Professional Self-Understanding

The term refers to both the understanding one has of one’s ‘self’ at a certain moment in time (product), as well as to the fact that this product results from an ongoing process of making sense of one’s experiences and their impact on the ‘self’.

The author's analysis of teachers’ career stories resulted in the identification of five components that together make up teachers’ self-understanding: self-image, self-esteem, job motivation, task perception and future perspective.

The Subjective Educational Theory

By the subjective educational theory the author means the personal system of knowledge and beliefs about education that teachers use when performing their job. It thus encompasses their professional know-how, the basis on which teachers ground their decisions for actions.

These concepts are components of the personal interpretative framework every individual teacher develops throughout his/her career.
This personal framework results from the reflective and meaningful interactions between the individual teacher and the social, cultural and structural working conditions constituting his/her job context(s). As such the framework is the dynamic outcome of an ongoing process of professional learning (development). Furthermore, it is argued, that the particular professionalism or scholarship of teachers is fundamentally characterized by personal commitment and vulnerability, which eventually have consequences for the kind of reflective attitudes and skills professional teachers should master

Updated: Jul. 20, 2009