Research As A Means Of Teacher Empowerment In The 21st Century _ Educaci³n y educadores Mayo 31...

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This article seeks to propose research, action research in particular, as a legitimate way to develop and empower teachers so that they, as active knowers and critical agents, can undertake innovating actions in order to transform their educational practices and realities, which will ultimately allows them to build up their own living educational theory, their own pedagogical know-how.

Transcript of Research As A Means Of Teacher Empowerment In The 21st Century _ Educaci³n y educadores Mayo 31...

Fandio, Y. (2010). Research as a means of empowering teachers in the 21st century. Educacin y educadores, 13(1), p. 109-124. Retrieved from (Revised

http://educacionyeducadores.unisabana.edu.co/index.php/eye/article/view/1624/2062 version May 31, 2010)

RESEARCH AS A MEANS OF EMPOWERING TEACHERS IN THE 21ST CENTURY Hoy se evidencia una diversidad sorprendente y, a la vez, estimulante de buscar y encontrar el conocimiento, darle validez y cientificidad. Procesos que reclaman docentes [...] interesados, no en repetir saberes, sino por el contrario, docentes cuya labor este ntimamente relacionada con la construccin del conocimiento; en suma, docentes dispuestos a aprender y desaprender para ser partcipes del desarrollo de la ciencia al servicio del ser humano. Hernndez (2009) Abstract This article seeks to propose research, action research in particular, as a legitimate way to develop and empower teachers so that they, as active knowers and critical agents, can undertake innovating actions in order to transform their educational practices and realities, which will ultimately allows them to build up their own living educational theory, their own pedagogical know-how. It begins with regarding teacher development and empowerment as intentional processes that allow teachers not only to question and resist mechanisms of regulation and control, but also to take control over their lives to develop their professional competences. It goes on to show how teachers can construct a personal and contextual educational theory or pedagogical know-how by systematically researching their teaching practices and classroom realities. It finally discusses what action research is, explains its types and stages, presents how AR has been used in Colombia and proposes possible research problems and types of empowerment that can emerge from them. This article concludes with the claim that teachers should resort to action research in order for them not only to gain

and exercise power but to open space for self-actualization and professional growth.

Key words Teaching profession, teaching practice, vocational training, educational

innovation, research (Source: Unesco Thesaurus).

Resumen Este artculo busca proponer la investigacin, la investigacin accin en concreto, como una forma legtima para desarrollar y empoderar a los profesores para que, como conocedores activos y agentes crticos, puedan iniciar acciones innovadoras para transformar sus prcticas y realidades educativas, lo que en ltimas les permitir construir su propia teora educativa viva, su propio saber pedaggico. El artculo empieza considerando el desarrollo y el empoderamiento docente como procesos intencionales que les permiten a los profesores no slo cuestionar y resistir mecanismos de regulacin y control sino tomar las riendas de sus vidas para desarrollar sus competencias profesionales. Luego, se muestra como los profesores pueden construir una teora educativa o saber pedaggico personal y contextual al investigar sistemticamente sus prcticas docentes y realidades de aula. Finalmente, se discute lo que es la investigacin accin, se explica sus tipos y etapas, se presenta como la investigacin accin se ha usado en Colombia y se propone posibles problemas de investigacin y los tipos de empoderamientos que de ellos pueden surgir. Este artculo concluye con la afirmacin de que los profesores deberan recurrir a la investigacin accin no slo para ganar y ejercer poder sino para abrir espacios para el autodesarrollo y el crecimiento profesional.

Palabras claves Docencia, prctica pedaggica, formacin profesional, innovacin educacional, investigacin (Fuente: Tesauro de la Unesco).

Introduction

The 21st century has brought about broad changes in education. On the one hand, the increasing globalization and the ever-changing dynamics of the modern world have demanded the formation of a new type of professional, an individual capable of dealing with the unexpected and the complex. On the other hand, the ongoing debate and the intellectual inquiry of the academic world have set out the reasons for developing better educational systems, frameworks designed to favor creativity and questioning. As a result, many countries have engaged in a series of educational reforms in terms of infrastructure, curriculum, method, and evaluation.

One of the key elements in most educational reforms is the teacher. Societies are finally understanding, as stated Villegas-Reimers (2003, p. 7), that the teacher is not only one of the variables that needs to be changed in order to improve their educational systems. Societies are realizing that the teacher is also one of the most significant change agents in these reforms. To Villegas-Reimers, this double role being both the subject and the object of change makes the field of teacher development a challenging area; one that has received major attention in the past years. Societies and educational institutions have great expectations of their teachers1. They are expected to respond adequately to the pressing demands of the modern world and to the growing concerns of the educational community. Teachers are also expected to possess high levels of professionalism and expertise that guarantee qualified and successful educational processes and practices. As a consequence, more and more teachers are opting to participate in on-the-job training, training courses and postgraduate education to grow professionally, to develop as teachers. But, what exactly is teacher development? The following section deals with it.

In Qu espera la sociedad colombiana de los profesores de lenguas extranjeras?, Corts, Hernndez and Arteaga (2008) stated that EFL teachers are expected to extend their conceptual horizon, qualify their pedagogical practice and command over their knowledge base as well as foster in students a conscience of a plural world made up of diverse cultures and world views.

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Teacher development

In broad terms, teacher development is the professional growth a teacher achieves from gaining increased experience and examining his or her teaching methodically. It is a long-term process that comprises routine opportunities and systematic experiences planned to foster growth and development in the teaching profession. It is broader than career development, which is the growth that results from moving through the professional career cycle, and broader than staff development, which consists of the provision of organized in-service programmes (Glatthorn, 1995, p. 41, cited in Villegas-Reimers, 2003, p. 11).

In regard to professional development, Ingvarson (1998) contrasted a traditional system, identifying it as in-service training with goals established by the governments and the employers, with a standard-base system where the professional bodies decide on goals and models. Cochran-Smith and Lytle (2001, p. 47) described three systems of professional development that coexist in the educational world and are used to explain and justify different approaches to improving teaching and learning. They are: knowledge-for-practice (formal theory generated by university-based researchers that teachers use to improve their practice), knowledge-in-practice (practical knowledge that is embedded in practice), and knowledge-of-practice (reflective knowledge that emerges when teachers ponder on their practice).

Acosta (2006) is of the opinion that teacher development must reflect on pedagogical, epistemological, historical, and social elements to enable teachers to interpret the changes that mankind has undergone. In order to do this, explained Acosta Roa, teachers need to develop their capacities for proposing innovating strategies and strengthen their skills in intervening in the transformation of education. Teacher development, then, should center on conceiving

methodologies that gather together disciplinary and investigative relations conducive to the formation of upright and all-around teachers. To Acosta, teacher

development aims to help teachers attain a critical comprehension of what, how, and why to teach.

Nevertheless, the premise that permeates this article is the belief that teachers are not supposed to develop professionally to meet the demands of todays society and to address the concerns of the educational system, but more importantly to take control over their own life and to develop their professional competence. Here, I concur with Whitehead (1989) on understanding professional development not as the development of a technical/propositional experience of teaching (encyclopedic knowledge applied in the pedagogical practice in order to achieve predetermined outcomes), or only as the development of a reflective/critical philosophy of teaching (reflection used in educational practice in order to bring into play critique and transformation of sociocultural contexts)2, but as the construction of a living educational theory (a living form of question and answer to think about your own life and work; a living enquiry conducted by the self into the self to ask yourself why you are the way that you are and why you do the things that you do3). See diagram below.

Diagram 1. Teacher development.

See Contrerass (2001) discussion on teacher autonomy through three models of teachers: the expert technician, the reflexive professional, and the intellectual critic. 3 Based on Whitehead, McNiff (2002) explained teachers professional development as selfreflective practice carried out through practitioner-based action research.

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Whitehead (1989) explained that teachers can, and should, develop themselves professionally by entering into a critical and systematic dialogue with themselves aimed at understanding their own practices and realities. Teacher development, then, needs to shift from propositional forms of theory t