Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

A Pedagogy Changer: Transdisciplinary Faculty Self-Study

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

A Pedagogy Changer: Transdisciplinary Faculty Self-Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 2006, Anne Freese and I wrote about the paradoxical nature of self-study research in our book, Self-study of teaching practices and framed that discussion within Vygotskian tenets of how we learn with, and through our interaction with others (Samaras & Freese, 2006). Our goal in writing the book was to demystify self-study research and make it practical and impactful for teacher and student learning. Towards that end, we decided to invite teachers to explore self-study research through a series of informal self-study methods but not until we first addressed the nature of selfstudy research as purposely paradoxical. We described self-study as both individual and collective and, as Loughran and Northfield (1998: 7) characterised, a "significant paradox" of the self-study terminology. Although self-study is a personal inquiry situated in one's professional practice, it is the audience and dialogue of critical friends that enables perspective-taking. We also noted that self-study research is both personal and interpersonal, as learning and thinking arise through collaboration and are socially mediated (Vygotsky, 1978). In these ways, we recognised the private and public paradox of self-study research and the essentialness of sharing the personal to improve education inside and outside of ourselves as teachers. What I did not realise then was that the paradoxical nature was uniquely transformative when participants worked in a holistic manner not bound by discipline, but by exploring and exchanging pedagogical inquiries which transcended their discipline boundaries. I learned that first-hand when I facilitated and participated in a transdisciplinary faculty self-study group that changed the way I thought about pedagogy, which is the focus of his article.

University cultures do not typically promote or support self-study groups so that faculty can collectively explore their pedagogy. Consequently, faculty often rely on their own resources and efforts to connect with colleagues inside and outside their discipline and college. Moreover, faculty members have generally been trained to research people, but not research with people (Heron & Reason, 2001: 179), and certainly not to research themselves, as they do in self-study research (Whitehead, 1989). Self-study research is a reflective investigative practice that springs from personally situated inquiry and generates new knowledge with the critical support of colleagues (Louie, Drevdahl, Purdy & Stachman, 2003; Samaras, 2011). Essentially, in self-study, faculty choose to critically examine their teaching in order to develop more consciously driven modes of pedagogical activity, as opposed to relying on habit, tradition, or impulse (Samaras, 2002). The goal of self-study is for faculty to be active agents in reframing their beliefs and practices at both the personal and professional level and for improvement-aimed purposes beyond themselves (Loughran & Northfield, 1998). In self-study research, scholars embrace teaching "not just as a pedagogical task, but also a social-pedagogical task" prompted with moral, ethical, and political aims (LaBoskey, 2004: 830).

Self-study teacher-educators have designed faculty self-study groups composed of other teacher-educators (Grierson, Tessaro, Cantalini-Williams, Grant & Denton, 2010; Hoban, 2007; Kitchen, Ciuffetelli Parker & Gallagher, 2008; Lunenberg, Zwart & Korthagen, 2010; Samaras, Kayler, Rigsby, Weller & Wilcox, 2006). These groups work with the goal of solving practical problems about teacher education, while generating knowledge that is negotiated and tested. My initiative to launch a transdisciplinary self-study group was inspired by my goal of introducing self-study research across my university and of extending it to faculty who were not all teacher-educators - thus moving self-study for teacher-educators into transdisciplinary self-study (Samaras, 2002). Although I had taught self-study research for classroom teachers and for doctoral students, who came from various specialisations for years, this was my first experience facilitating a transdisciplinary faculty self-study group (Samaras, Adams-Legge, Breslin, Mittapalli, Magaha O'Looney & Wilcox, 2007). …

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