Teaching as Lived Experience: The Value of Exploring the Hidden and Emotional Side of Teaching through Reflective Narratives

Mar. 15, 2013

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 9, No. 1, 62–73, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author presents an approach to gaining awareness and deeper understanding of the practice of teaching through focusing on the lived classroom experience.

The process is self-inquiry through engagement with Johns’ (2010) six dialogical movements, which results in gaining valuable insights into practice.
The process included reflective practice deepened by focusing on the lived experience of being a teacher, and as the process unfolded the author sought to discover more about classroom events as lived experiences for teacher and students. The methodology involved dialogue with self in constructing narratives around the insights gained from written reflections, as well as dialogue with others within an established community of inquiry for guided reflection.


The Emotional Aspect of Teaching
The study highlighted some of the emotional aspects of the experiences of teaching and learning, and considered the importance of a teacher focusing on subjective response in order to gain awareness of self in practice.
As the author identified in his study, the outcome of a classroom event cannot be predetermined no matter how thorough the planning.
He would argue that “modeling” has different meanings for teacher educators. There is modeling that involves demonstrating aspects of classroom practice for students, which they will then use in their own classrooms.
However, there are aspects of modeling that involve demonstrating what it means to be a teacher, which involves emotion and revealing a teacher’s vulnerability.

Deepening Reflection
Exploring practice through the narratives of experience involves emotions and deepening reflective practice.
So far, the author has considered the value of deepening reflection through focusing on the narrative of experience. This involves a willingness to engage on an emotional level. Reflection and narrative are highly subjective. Teachers’ desire to be “objective” and “professional” results in focusing for reflection on aspects of practice that do not attend to their own or their students’ emotions in any depth. Yet learning and teaching are highly emotional experiences. It can be argued that it is impossible to be objective, since we cannot distance ourselves from the classroom environment that we are inquiring into. Reflection on the lived experience of teaching requires engagement on an emotional level.
The author would argue that acknowledging one’s subjectivity results in one becoming aware of the emotional response, and enables the choice of action that is more appropriately objective.

Uncomfortable Issues and Insights
The process also revealed some uncomfortable hidden aspects of experience, an awareness of which was considered important in developing more effective and ethical practice. If we live life narratively and use narratives of experience in order to gain meaning, then there is the risk of uncovering uncomfortable issues as well as valuable insights. However, there is value in acknowledging these uncomfortable issues. Through reflection, the author became aware of his prejudices as a teacher. As a result of this narrative and guided reflection process, he considered how he might work more effectively with undergraduate students. He became more aware of the range of life experiences and abilities of the students, and he sought to arrange future sessions that were more encouraging and that attended to different needs more effectively. This demonstrates aspects of how engagement with the six dialogical movements can promote reflexivity and transformation in practice, by becoming aware of and then framing and reframing ideas about one’s practice.


Although many teachers may consider themselves to be effective reflective practitioners, the reality of everyday practice means that it can be challenging to make the space to focus on reflection in depth. The author's self-inquiry experiences lead him to agree with Clandinin and Connelly (2004) that by opening reflective spaces, one can become aware of how emotions have a powerful impact on the rational aspects of being a teacher. By creating these reflective spaces, the methodology of Johns’ six dialogical movements can be of value to those engaged in the self-study of teaching practices. The author's experiences of dialogue through guided reflection within the community of inquiry and of shared reflection on a common event with a colleague have supported his process of transformation. This dialogue has supported him in challenging some of his beliefs, opinions, and assumptions about teaching, and this process of challenge is required for reflective action. As a result of engaging in this process of self-study, the author has become more mindful of what is taking place in his practice as a teacher and more aware of his emotions and his responses to them.


Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2004). Knowledge, narrative and self-study. In J. J. Loughran, M. L. Hamilton, V. K. LaBoskey, & T. Russell (Eds.), International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices (pp. 575 – 600). Dordrecht: Springer.
Johns, C. (2010). Guided reflection: A narrative approach to advancing professional practice. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Updated: Dec. 27, 2016