This chapter explores the role of teacher inquiry in the process of school improvement and considers the extent to which teachers have a part to play in contributing to, as well as applying educational research. We go on to illustrate with a case study the way in which the reflective action planning process increases the individual teacher’s capacity to contribute to school development.
OFSTED’s chief inspector, Chris Woodhead, is scathing in his dismissal of ‘the cult of the reflective practitioner’, where teachers seek to extend their professional learning through links with HEIs and their involvement in research and academic discourse. He believes that while a small number of outstanding teachers will ‘simply get on with things in their own inimitable way’,
progress will be made if we focus our efforts, first, on giving the young teacher the practical knowledge and understanding he/she needs to survive in the classroom, and, second, on raising the game of the average teacher who, in mid-career, very possibly through no fault of their own, is not achieving the results they can and must.
In the current political climate, then, a mechanistic, technicist view of educational processes is often assumed. There is an unrelenting emphasis upon standards, narrowly defined and therefore conveniently quantifiable, and a move towards assessing and rewarding teacher performance based on indicators of student achievement. Within a competitive climate, as opposed to a collaborative culture characterized by shared understanding and mutual development, there is a tendency for the profession to be judged and undermined more than supported (Hargreaves, 1994).