Teachers’ Vocabulary Develops Educational Awareness by Constructing Practical Arguments

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From a perspective of teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD) this paper considers the importance of the influence of teachers’ vocabulary in relation to their understanding and development of teaching practices. As the teacher spends most of her/his career teaching inside the classroom so it may be argued that much their CPD takes place there. However little attention has been given to how teachers develop understanding of their everyday practices, of what works and what doesn’t inside the classroom and how these experiences are reflected upon and articulated. How when teaching practices are initiated, tested, adjusted and articulated do teachers reflect on this experience? What spaces do teachers have for dialogical reflection – with themselves and with other colleagues? Teachers are often charged with being agents of change and, in times where curriculum reform is a norm in many educational systems, teacher agency is an important issue. If teacher agencyis understood as the teachers’ active contribution to shaping their work and its conditions – for the overall quality of education (Biesta et al. 2015) then there may be a case for focusing on the development of teacher’s vocabulary. The data in this paper relate to the procedures of constructing a ‘practical argument’ (Fenstermacher & Richardson 1993). As teachers’ agency is always informed by past experiences and beliefs the procedures for working with teachers’ reasoning is explored in this paper.MethodThis paper draws on empirical data from a Danish qualitative study over a period of eight months that includes class observations, teacher’s written reflection journals and semi-structured interviews that are grounded in the reflection journal. A total of ten teachers of adults were informants in this study (Lund 2015; Lund 2016a; Lund 2016b;Lund 2016c). Initially the focus was on the way in which beliefs and values about education influenced the extent to which the teacher was able to articulate particular discourses. This approach involved structured discussions between researcher and teacher (following Brinkmann’s epistemic interview techniqu, 2007) to examine the teachers’ ‘practical reasoning’, to develop (elicitation and reconstruction) a ‘practical argument’ (following: Fenstermacher & Richardson 1993), which points to a process of five premises. In the data collecting and in the analysis of the teachers’ vocabulary and reflections elements of Toulmin’s model of argumentation were used (described in: Horner 1988) as a framework for the five premises for a reasonable, warranted practical argument.Expected OutcomesThe study reveals that over time – when working with teachers’ beliefs during the process of writing and discussing – teachers’ educational awareness strengthens and teachers develop clearer and more precise methods/tools for shaping and taking advantage of the opportunities offered in their everyday teaching. This paper demonstrates how teachers’ vocabulary forms and shapes dialogical procedures and the extent to which attention to teachers’ ability to articulate themselves is potentially foundational for teacher agency. The findings and procedures will be discussed and combined with the theoretical construct of teacher agency.This paper makes an important contribution to CPD by demonstrating how everyday practices can be brought under scrutiny and described, examined and analysed. For teachers to develop skills to articulate their everyday practices (and improve these practices) both reflective spaces and tools need to be provided for the individual teacher. At the organizational level scaffolding of dialogical structures together with collegial sparring has to be supported by the management. For CPD these results are important when considering how to foster teachers’ pedagogical and educational awareness about their everyday lives in the classroom.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year21 Aug 2017
Number of pages20
Publication statusUnpublished - 21 Aug 2017
EventECER 2017: Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and educational research - UCC, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 21 Aug 201725 Aug 2017


ConferenceECER 2017

    Research areas

  • teachers' beliefs, Teacher reflections, Teacher's vocabular, Practical arguments, practical reasoning

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