Capturing the Complexity of Practice: A Self-study in the Context of Engineering Education

Aug. 15, 2010

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Volume 6, Issue 2, August 2010, pages 187–200.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The present paper is based on a project in which the author, as a critical friend, worked with six engineering teachers in a Masters program in Machine Engineering in order to stimulate their reflection on their own teaching and learning as a way of developing their scholarship of teaching.

The purpose of the study is to investigate the author's values, beliefs and professional practices and how these might have been challenged or changed as a result of being a critical friend to the engineering teachers.

The research question that frames this self-study is focused on the author's professional learning as an educator and can be stated as “What did I learn from working and collaborating with teachers of engineering as I attempted to support their inquiries into their teaching?”

Methodological Frame and Data Collection
The research reported here focuses primarily on the author's own development as a (teacher) educator, in both a personal and a professional way. The author used a self-study methodology.

Gathering data from various sources is a principal characteristic that typifies self-study methodology. In order to unpack the engineering teachers' practices and, consequently, the author's own practice, multiple data sources were used. These included:
- Transcripts from collegial conversations during meetings in which the participants discussed problems of practice, students' learning and their own teaching experiences.
- Regular email correspondence between the engineering teacher participants and the author.
- Engineering teachers' reflective portfolios.
- Personal reflective journals.

The article draws particular attention to ways of expressing the learning from self-study in order to illuminate the complexities of teaching and to begin to encourage the articulation of the scholarship of teaching as a consequence of a collaborative experience.


The author concludes that making teaching visible through the use of self-study offered a new way to capture the complexity of practice, which the author sees as an important aspect of developing the scholarship of teaching.

Through this self-study, the author has come to see several factors crucial to learning about teaching and to developing my scholarship:

1. Be familiar not just with the content but also the context. Knowing the content and the context in which teachers operate is crucial to being able to function appropriately in that context.

2. Pedagogy requires appropriate and meaningful communication. The focus must always be on facilitating the teaching and learning of others, not imposing ownership on someone else's practice.

3. Be sensitive to the beliefs, tensions, needs and concerns of learners. Understanding the context of learners' work and how they might be engaged is central to supporting their learning about teaching.

4. Support and develop networking and collegiality.

5. Critical reflection needs to be stimulated. To develop teachers' ability to frame and reframe problem situations, to reason through possible solutions and to formulate them for future action are crucial to developing a scholarship of teaching.

Updated: Feb. 01, 2011