Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Naming Inquiry: PDS Teachers' Perceptions of Teacher Research and Living an Inquiry Stance toward Teaching

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Naming Inquiry: PDS Teachers' Perceptions of Teacher Research and Living an Inquiry Stance toward Teaching

Article excerpt

Introduction

There is an abundance of literature focusing on teacher inquiry or educational action research (Dana & Yendol-Silva, 2003; Cochran-Smith, 2002; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2001, 1999, 1993, 1992, 1990; Burnaford et al, 2001; Noffke & Stevensen, 1995; Gore & Zeichner, 1991; Kincheloe, 1991). This literature discusses the process of teacher research, the conceptual framework(s) for teacher research, the projects conducted as teacher research, and the potential for an inquiry stance toward teaching to be "critical and transformative, a stance linked not only to high standards for the learning of all students but also to social change and social justice and to the individual and collective professional growth of teachers" (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2001, p. 46). In descriptions and analyses of teacher research, inquiry is identified as a process or professional positioning on the generation of knowledge and on one's own practice (Dana & Yendol-Silva, 2003). This research study aimed to describe the experiences of Professional Development School teachers who were living an inquiry stance toward teaching. Throughout this study, "living an inquiry stance toward teaching" was used in an attempt to describe teacher inquiry as a way of being and knowing for these PDS teachers more than methods for a technical process.

For the purpose of this study, teacher inquiry was defined as the "systematic, intentional inquiry by teachers" (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993). Dana & Yendol-Silva (2003) also discuss an inquiry stance toward teaching where "this stance becomes a professional positioning, owned by the teacher, where questioning one's own practice becomes part of the teacher's work and eventually a part of the teaching culture" (p. 9). As a researcher, I came to this project with the understanding that professional development centered on inquiry holds the potential for teachers to come to know and understand their individual agency as a means for educational change and their own professional development (Lieberman & Miller, 2001). For the PDS teachers in this study, living an inquiry stance toward teaching is a framework where teachers own "knowledge-of-practice" (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2001). Teachers have transformed notions of "knowledge-for-practice" from external educational researchers and "knowledge-in-practice" from inside classrooms to a "knowledge-of-practice," where the generation of teaching knowledge combines research conducted outside of classrooms as well as that within them.

Teachers working in a PDS partnership context identified themselves as living an inquiry stance toward teaching by responding to a letter of invitation with specific characteristics of reflective teaching listed in it. They then participated in this study to discuss "what is inquiry?" In our conversations, teachers named inquiry in several different forms, primarily at my insistence. Ultimately we identified these different forms in a visual aid demonstrating the interaction and dynamic complexity of the various forms of inquiry identified. However, upon reflecting on this process, I was confounded by my own insistence to name inquiry. One of the teachers, Heather, continually emphasized her "inquiry stance" as a part of who she is as a teacher, learner, professional, and person. When pushed to talk about inquiry specifically, she said with a laugh, "I realize that I had already gone through the process, but I don't think I necessarily understood that as inquiry. I've never been one for jargon and labels. I'm not good with it! I think I go more on a feeling. I think this looks like a good idea so I'll do it" (interview, 2/2002, p. 9).

With the identification of varied forms of inquiry, the teachers in this study were comfortable identifying their positions on inquiry, but a tension arose in the necessity or purpose of naming inquiry at all. Therefore, this article will describe the interactive forms of inquiry identified by these teachers as well as the tensions inherent within the different forms and within the very act of naming the process. …

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