Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Effecting Epiphanous Change in Teacher Practice: A Teacher's Autoethnography

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Effecting Epiphanous Change in Teacher Practice: A Teacher's Autoethnography

Article excerpt

The Researchers

The first author is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education and a Sessional Teacher in Inclusive Education at Monash University. Karen completed an undergraduate Diploma in Primary Teaching in 1989 and spent a number of years teaching in mainstream classrooms across Victoria. She later completed a Graduate Diploma of Education (Professional Studies) and then a Masters of Education (Special and Inclusive Education). Due to a number of experiences teaching in Special Schools Karen realised that she wanted to work with students who had diverse needs. Karen began writing Professional Development (PD) about Autism for teachers and has provided PD Face-to-Face (F2F) and online in Australia and the USA. She has developed her own Consultancy, where she works one-on-one with families and students. She is currently employed as a Sessional Teacher at Monash University, which has added another layer to her work as an inclusive educator. The second author, Jane is an experienced researcher and writer of autoethnographies. Karen and Jane worked together to shape and interpret Karen's vignettes that form the data for this article. When we use the plural pronoun, we mean both of us. When Karen uses "I" she is writing about herself.

Rationale

Before embarking on research for my doctorate, my online PD courses were exploding. Many teachers had written to me suggesting that the six-hour PD I provided caused profound changes to their thinking about Autism and inclusive practices, and they felt compelled to reflect upon their own teaching practices. This sparked my curiosity and compelled me to ask the question: "What beliefs and attitudes do teachers hold about children who have autism?" The question that then immediately arose in my mind was, "What causes profound change to one's beliefs and attitudes that in turn triggers a change in practice?" This second question is the one that drives this study. Of course, I then had to ask another question, what event, or series of events deeply influenced my own practice and pedagogical beliefs? Whilst the topic of Autism drives me professionally and pedagogically; it is not the only issue that motivates me. For as long as I can remember my personal incentive to do anything has been wrapped in the concepts of justice, fairness and equality. Via this autoethnography, I will investigate and share my interest in equal and inclusive opportunities that stemmed from the challenges of my childhood and education. Borne out of empathy and compassion for others was an interest in educational minorities; ultimately a quest to find or invent innovative practices that addressed these problems. The story of my life reflected in the following vignettes expands across fifty years. Beginning with, negotiating childhood experiences attending school in a multicultural environment and simultaneously confronting the bigotry and racism within my own family. In other vignettes, I explore the difficulties of my childhood and the serendipitous occasions that led me to my future teaching career. This eventually drew me to Autism, and teaching children who have Autism and how these experiences transformed me both personally and professionally. I began to consider what is fair and equitable education for ALL! Moreover, what causes and compels an educator to confront her own beliefs, attitudes, which in turn revolutionises one's individual practice?

This study also examines the juncture in my life when I had become a complacent teacher. My subsequent development as an educator has been a transformative process where I had to challenge and proselytize my own belief systems and narrow attitudes towards students of diversity. The question asked above, regarding "attitudes and beliefs" led to a dawning realization that I had to step outside of a box of my own making, then out of the next box, then out of another box ad infinitum and essentially get out of my own way. I believe I am a much improved, more creative and inspired teacher as a result. …

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