Towards reflective practice and practical research: narrative groundwork and theorisation in teaching practice Ana Zavala C.L.A.E.H. (Centro Latinoamericano de Economía Humana), I.P.A. (Instituto de Profesores 'Artigas'), Montevideo, Uruguay. Email: [email protected]
Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Hamburg, 17-20 September 2003 Abstract This paper deals with narrative as a main tool for understanding and researching teaching practice in a practical research mode. It is assumed that 'understanding practice' refers to teacher development as a real and broader background for teaching practice and therefore for teaching practical research. However, it is also assumed that 'reflective practice' is closely and uniquely linked to practical research (and so to practical problem awareness), being reflection the very principal methodological tool for teacherresearchers . Narrative is then introduced in this paper as a privileged way for a deep understanding of teaching practice because it turns teaching action intelligible. If we accept that teaching practice has a double-epistemological framework, the theoretical/mimetical saying (i.e. narratives) about anything related to teaching practice refers both to the practice epistemology and to the epistemology of the subject knowledge. Furthermore, the three-timed nature of teaching practice is approached as supporting different narrative deployments, meaning themselves better understanding for doing and for thinking in teaching practice and improvement. 1. Understanding, reflecting about and researching into teaching practice. Because educational circles had assumed for a long time that teachers do not think, and that the realm of thinking and understanding practice was only for experts and not teacher's business, then when someone dared to say that teachers think, educational sciences were shocked (most policymakers are still trying to be convinced about). The challenge is then, not to argue about teachers' own thinking, but to turn this fact into the improvement of teaching practice and not into a domain for outside experts. We are aware that this is a real risk. Just now, and for the last ten or fifteen years, ambiguity has characterised many educative speeches, where broadly employed polysemic terms impede better understandings of teaching practice. This paper intends to be a strictly semantic viewpoint concerned with principal key concepts in this matter.
The enthusiasm produced by this good news about teachers thinking encouraged academic studies and a lot of publications have been produced in the recent times in Europe and in America. In a certain way, in this research ('about' educational issues1) learners and learning have lost the principal place that they used to enjoy. Time for teachers and teaching has arrived. I think that if only a term could be kept from these papers, without any doubt, 'reflective teachers' and their 'reflective practice' would be the winner. However, we the teachers have learned that reflection implies a high degree of understanding our practice. We are aware that it is possible and indeed necessary to distinguish understanding from reflecting, being 'understanding' a larger concept and 'reflecting' a more specific one. Then, reflecting supposes understanding, but reversibility is not possible here. As confusions and misunderstandings in this point are quite extended, I should state here that reflection -as a conversational and moving accomplishment- is itself closely linked to the arising of a teaching practical problem, and therefore to teaching research practice (or teaching practical research, or educative action-research...). We must accept that teaching practice is not always necessarily under research, if we mean practical research (academic ways are not considered here). Practical research is promoted by the arising of a practical problem, and practical problems are themselves personal feelings about wrong-happenings in teaching practice. Hence, practical research always looks for improvement, which in the end means the improvement of teaching practice as well as the teacher personal and professional improvement (i.e. the very sense of 'development'). It is precisely this involvement of the subject of the action in the action itself which claims for reflection, which is a methodological tool, the main one perhaps, for practical research into teaching practice. If reflection is needed, it means that the practical problem was already known (felt and made conscientious) by the teacher. Deep understanding of his/her own practice supports the arising of this event that he/she calls 'problem'. Only a deep understanding of ones' own practice is able to capture the distortion between theory (the world of words and thinking) and practice (the world of action) that problem represents. Then, understanding practice runs earlier than just reflecting, timely and logically speaking. It does not imply the problem-reflection-practical research triad, that always comes later. Too often, outsiders think that the understanding of teaching practice (meaning sometimes 'reflection') is something natural and spontaneous for teachers, assuming that practice speaks by itself. (Ricœur, 1986. See also Kemmis' prologue to Carr, 1990) Teacher development requires solid self-understanding. This is much more than being well read or having studied a variety of disciplines required in teacher education programs. Hence, taking into account that the teacher (meaning the individual) is involved in teaching practice, understanding practice has to do with both understanding the teacher as an individual and understanding teaching as a practical action (involving teacher and practical context, e.g., learners, society, institution, the knowledge that is taught, economy, politics, etc.). Becoming an 'understanding-teacher' (I support this teacher is not yet a 'reflective' one, because the problem is not yet visible, that is, selfperceived) is hard work. Formative mediation is indeed possible, by teaching teachers or student teachers, but at last, understanding does satisfy some teacher personal need. As consequence of this, only teachers do look for it, in spite of syllabuses, Didactics teachers, mentor teachers, those in the academy, policymakers or administrators' good will and effort. I am supporting here that the understanding of teacher practice can be grounded in narrative about practice. It is because of this, that this paper is concerned specially
with teachers' narrative groundwork. As a History and Didactics of History teacherresearcher (i.e. practical researcher), I have learned that building narrative is a privileged way to unveil living theories and embodied values guiding teaching action, being at the same time, real opportunities for teachers' teaching theorisation becoming explicit. Then, now we shall explore narrative throughout its dialectic relationships between teaching action, time, subject, feelings, public/private words and thinking. Individual, social and professional identity (identities?) are finally the mother and father of action and thought about it, by means of 'sense construction' (Barbier's sens construit) and 'significance offer' (his offre de signification) (Barbier, 2000), concerning both with the individual and his/her teaching action. 2. Building some narrative groundwork about teaching practice . a. About narrative Narrative turns action intelligible. When someone gives some sense to an action then he turns it intelligible, i.e. understandable for human thinking. However, action itself has undeniably some narrative pattern, because actors conceive, perceive and act following narrative schemes in their minds. Then, narrative and human action may be considered mutually mimetical. This is because action may be thought, and thinking may be thought as being acted. Didactics is largely indebted to this conceptualisation (taken and unfolded by Paul Ricœur from Aristotle's Poetics), which provides it with some theoretical worthy tools for thinking/doing teaching. The very roots of narrative are in practical comprehension. Paul Ricœur calls semantics of action the conceptual net that subjects master in order to understand and to tell action. This conceptual net includes, e.g., purposes, motives, circumstances, interactions, consequences -wanted or not-, etc. Though if may seem too obvious, this conceptual net plays as symbolic mediation when some meaning for facts and events (whatever nature they could be) is required. Certainly, meaning is always something new, something never said before, but components of meaning were part of familiar language practices (pratiques langagières) of individuals and societies. In this way, meaning is a composition (com-position, i.e., some particular and perhaps original arrangement of concepts and ideas).
Furthermore, temporal issues are always involved in action (in our concerns, teaching action). Teaching action and thinking must always be thought as something rather complex. In this field, are, were or will be are superimposed on each other. Saint Augustine's idea of triple present (taken and unfolded by Ricœur from Saint Augustine's Confessions), seems to have been tailor made for Didactics. Teaching always happens in a quite simultaneous three-timed living/thinking action. When narrative mimetises action, facts and events have been arranged, because narrative is not a copy but a creative re-presentation of action. Then, intelligibility requirements of narrative (and of understandings) claim for an order, which is not necessarily a chronological one. Intelligibility of narrative means that the narrative may be followed (followability) because the linking of facts and events allows and assures comprehension. Action becomes then storied in a plot. The world of action provides facts and events, as well as motives, intentions, consequences, interactions, etc. simultaneously. A semantic conceptual net assures early and perhaps naïve comprehension of it (Ricœur's practical comprehension), but narrative is the one who organises the emplotment, by telling the whole action, word
after word, idea after idea. In this way, narrative is different from semantics. It has syntactic rules for com-position, which arranges facts and events of action world. So, synchronic things in the action world become diachronic words and ideas in terms of narrative.
When teaching action becomes narrative, some special circumstances must be taken into account. Most of the times Ricœur's Time and Narrative framework supposes someone giving narrative form to an action world that is not his own, but a comprehensible one because of human cultures large similarity. However, given the fact that teachers' narrative has to do precisely with a world of action where the subject of the action is both an actor and a narrative producer, some special considerations are needed then. Ricœur's Oneself as another and The practical reason2 offer some appropriate tools about action theory, which are indeed helpful in order to understand and theorise teaching action. Teachers actually plot their teaching action (following some previous narrative emplotment for it), and after this they re-plot it in some narrative form, perhaps a written one, but quite surely a spoken or a thought one. Didactics does ground its whole work in this dialectic relationship between teaching action and its discourses, which precisely turns it intelligible. Certainly, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology or History may give some intelligibility to teaching practices, whether they consider or not teachers' narrative, but they are not Didactics, so they are differently related to teaching practice and its improvement. b. About self-narrative Self-narrative, i.e. the actor's one, may be analysed from Ricœur's framework referring both to the text and to the action. Even though fictional and historiographical narratives are mainly focused and theorised by Ricœur at 'Time and Narrative', much more than autobiographical or self-telling narratives, the tools provided about text are indeed invaluable. Perhaps one's practice narrative could be considered as concerning with microhistorical genre, specially from some methodological issues. On the other hand, Ricœur's 'From text to action' includes many specific concepts in order to understand the close relationships between the text (meaning even self-telling) and the human action (as teaching action actually is). First, I should consider the idea that narrative is a natural component of improved (and improvable) teaching practice, but not an ornamental, bureaucratic or administrative requirement, as some people do believe. Long-time prestigious and powerful academic backgrounds of teaching practice understanding have got the effect that practice would be seen indeed as an outcome of suggestions and ideas of the academic world. The place of academic thought in practice thinking and doing is quite relevant, and it will probably never be moved out. However, despite its aims, the Academy itself is not the one who decides its role in teaching practice. Most of the times, teachers' narratives do not have academic weight and they are not the result of any search of information about the teaching practice or the practitioner. Even though, I think that the naturalness of narrative in teaching practice must be argued in an academic way, but from the perspective of the teaching practice itself. Why am I referring to telling about practice if practice is something to be done? In some way, teaching practice is always told about (for ears, for eyes or for minds), because senseless and meaningless actions are rather unacceptable ones for rational people. Even under alienation, practices are not senseless or meaningless for the subject of the action, because of sense and meaning, whatever they could be, do not consist in
form fulfilling. Everybody is clear that teachers do not produce any meta-knowledged statement entitled, for instance: 'I am speaking about the sense or the meanings of my teaching practice'. Much more, when this arrives in this way, it is not meta-knowledge but -rather frequently- a ritual expression looking for and asking for the acknowledgement of community and authorities. Low reliability and high hermeneutics work are claimed for before considering these statements as teachers' thinking truth. Words and effects revealing teachers' sense and meanings of teaching practice appear everywhere. No special times, or places or circumstances are required, but only proper theoretical tools to seize teachers' thinking. Ricœur's action semantic conceptual net and the symbolic mediation of language are the very background of this personal practical comprehension of teaching practice. However, given the fact that the teacher is the one who teaches (i.e. he/she is the actor of the action), teaching action does not only involve him/her as an actor but as an individual, as the person he/she truly is. Then, I should state here that, being teaching practice both a practice of teaching and also a practice of the person who teaches , when teaching practice is understood, meant, provided with some sense, told, etc., the teacher is also understood, meant, provided with some sense, told, etc. This main acknowledgement claims for special theoretical backgrounds beyond Ricœur's framework.
J-M Barbier (Barbier & Glatanu, 2000; Barbier, 2000) suggests that the key is to look for a theory that joins a theory of action and a theory of identity/subjectivity (Barbier himself has deep Ricœurian roots). The singular nature of action claims for some theoretical tools, which are not conceivable from outside the actor of the action (the practitioner, the teacher...). If action implies its own representation, then action and narrative are inseparable; and if action representation implies the representation of itself, besides actor and context representation at the same time, then subject and action are shaped together3. A whole approach to this theoretical background requires one more component. Affect is indeed the very linking substance that enlightens cognition, sense, meaning, subject, action and narrative (from action semantics to real words, making sentences, logical linking and, in the end, the emplotment of lived action)4. However, things are not so simple. Narrative practices and skills of teachers are different from the writings of the historians, philosophers, or any other professional writer. Most of the times, teaching practice implies reading books, etc. about teaching contents, and speaking about them to the pupils. Sometimes some written reports are also required, quite surely about pupils and learning... The teachers' voice speaking about themselves because, either they need or they want to do it, is something really unusual. Two main reasons back up this fact: first, when something about teaching has been claimed to be said, 'experts' had always had a legitimated voice to be taken into account, but not teachers; second, teachers have long been aware by many different ways both about their conceptual and ideological powerlessness and about their convenient discourse to be accepted in order to get/keep some professional acknowledgement. Thus, teachers' voices have become more and more worthless. Because of this, to dare some didactical purposes growing out of teachers' narrative is a rather complex and hard venture. Indeed, tough act to follow. We certainly all agree that many teachers and their teaching practice can perhaps be changed (i.e. improved). However, as teachers are the very subjects of the teaching action, nobody but themselves may accomplish significant changes into the matter. Forgetting and rejecting ritual, servile and nonsense language about teaching practice is only half of the work to be done. Another narrative -perhaps more authentic and honest-
does exist in teachers' minds, as well as Ricœur's action semantics, but social and institutional contexts do not usually introduce it as any positive representation (représentation finalistante). Personal perspectives are hardly welcome there, meaning that affective questions often impede teachers' public narrative to be authentic. Everybody is clear that some encouragement and some institutional support are required to reverse this situation. This is because professional (and so personal) development involves a lot of formative mediations throughout the whole life of the teacher persona. These mediations are connected to the fact that throughout their teaching careers teachers' trust and self-confidence are usually undermined and need to be recovered. Real lived life is precisely what provides each subject with experiences, interactions, values, feelings, identity and alterity sense, knowledge and wisdom, besides some projects for future... all along each subject 'formative stage' (Ferry's trajet de formation). The practicum expresses personal and professional 'form', despite it does not matter if teachers are able or not to think or to put it in words. Didactics teachers have a role that has to do with improving teaching practices (even though, they shall never be awarded as main actors, but perhaps as simple support roles). Teaching interaction with those who will be teachers or those who want to become teacher-researchers, introduces narrative practice into the syllabus, as formal work. Then, an opportunity is given to accompany the singular -and so the personalprocess through which the individual (the student in my classroom) translates a part of is/her life into words. I have learned that people face this challenge differently. Some of them look as if they had waited for this moment for a long time. Words and plottingdoing are quite pleasant and peaceful for them. They enjoy being shown, to themselves and to the others. Otherwise, some teachers or student teachers feel well because they have achieved order and sense into their teaching practice. Whereas some people do not like narrative. Sometimes they make great effort to evade it. They feel they are invaded in their privacy and in their intimacy, because they cannot find any reason to say some things to others, and perhaps even to him/herself. Some people prefer to speak, because writing on paper terrifies them; others, prefer writing (as Cicero said, 'Epistola enim non erubescit'). Since I began working this way -i.e. searching for a way of professional and personal development from teachers' narrative deployments- I have learned the difficulties it implies. First, it is assumed that the required essential interpersonal relationship linking Didactics teacher and each student teacher, is possible, when we know that in interpersonal fields nothing is simple, nothing is to be pushed, nothing is to be imposed concerning certain expected outcomes. Second, it is assumed that this special interpersonal relationship is able to be developed along prescribed institutional times. Third, this quite special relationship involves two individuals, so besides student teacher, the Didactics teacher must also be taken into account. My own history with self-narrative and professional development, and my own difficulties with trying to make sense by imposing, listening, reading, analysing and finally marking other's teaching self-narratives, are the essential counterpart in this issue, because 'interpersonal' implies at least two. This means, therefore, that every consideration about narrative as a teaching content for Didactics teachers lies into an interpersonal relationship, historically, ideologically and autobiographically situated for everybody in it. Consequently, the more this kind of situations is understood, the clearest it is that predictive assumptions are always razed by the human factor. I think that teaching Didactics of... (i.e. Didactics of Didactics of...) is still a littleresearched field. Once again, learners and learning (in this case, student teachers and
professional growth) have long forestalled the whole attention of Didactics and educative sciences, and only later teachers and teaching (in this case, Didactics ones and teaching Didactics of... History) became visible as actors in learning/professional growth environments and relationships. Research about teacher education and development is still indebted to Didactics teacher actions as formative mediation in teacher development. (Classical approaches to teacher development are not considered here because of their epistemological weakness and ethical difficulties). As narrative is indeed a privileged way to better understand teaching practice, and understanding is required for later eventual practical research, narrative may be considered itself as a teachers' professional development groundwork. We will then intend some deconstruction of narrative throughout both practical theorisation about teaching practice (epistemology of practice) and practical theorisation about the subject knowledge (e.g. epistemology of History, or Chemistry...). I support this is a main question, too frequently neglected by means of focusing either only-teaching practice questions, or only-subject knowledge questions. Insistence in this point will never be enough, because of the very double-epistemological roots of whatever teaching practice we may consider.
c. Self-narrative and practice theorisation Finally, what can be found in teachers' narratives? Despite theoretical/mimetical nature, i.e. to say real world in order to turn it intelligible, you can be sure that no psychological or sociological theories -nor any other academic one- will be found here, unless in their book-styled appearance. Instead of this, indeed, teachers' narrative tells teaching practice theoretically, from their very teaching practice theory. We need to call this theorisation by its proper name, so I mean that it should not be forgotten that Didactics means the teaching theory (but not any academic outcomes about teaching) and it is done by teachers themselves. We have just seen that practical comprehension is the first step into a larger work looking for sense and significance for teaching practice, as well as for plotting it in search of some intelligibility. However, the three-timed nature of teaching actions must be taken into account in order to reach some deeper and broader understanding about it. Even the most unprofessional teacher does not come into the classroom without any idea about what can be done there, because teacher action is always prefigured as if it were happening in the teachers' mind. Perhaps Augustine's idea of 'the present of the future' (taken by/from Ricœur) would be theoretically more than profitable for Didactics.
Anyway, the action which is prefigured in 'future' teaching practice ontologically involves both teacher and teaching. Therefore, fictional narratives about tomorrow's lesson include simultaneously a representation of the actor and a representation of the action, this including the actor as well. We may be induced to consider this time before the lesson as time '0', and the lesson as time '1', but -we will soon be aware- things are neither so simple nor lineal. Actually, each time is both a '0' and a '1'. The time wherein a teacher is projecting future action (time '0') is also 'the present of some past' (time '1'), which 'time 0' is his yesterday's lesson... This means that any action could be accurately considered as a time-rootless one. In the same way, the future is always concerned and considered, either being an action or being some words for or about an action. We have just learned that this be-in-time and be-in-the-world are major sources for individuals' practical theories5. There are also fantasy sources to be considered afterwards.
Oral or written pieces concerning tomorrow's narrative are themselves rather complex temporal compositions, not only because the future is assumed as being present, but also because the present is assumed as being future. That means that the lesson that I am thinking for tomorrow is felt as happening now, as well as I am now living as if it were tomorrow already... Didactics often does wake up the temporal complexity conscience, by turning obvious what it seemed not so obvious. Amazing past-times traces can be found in this narrative. In this point, identity theories such as Bourdieu's habitus idea (1997) comes in Didactics help in order to provide a proper theoretical framework for these temporal and not lineal interactions. Present times have for everyone a constructed sense of past times, half-remembering made and halfforgetting made. When tomorrow's lesson is thought -and put down into words- past times (sense constructed, remembering and forgetting) turned into theoretical corpus guiding the possible (desirable) and the impossible (undesirable) in a binary code of 'yes' (I would...) and 'no' (I would do not like...). Lundgren's idea of 'hope' to mean text of action (1992), strictly metaphoric I think, could be extended to fantastic (dreaming) roots of fictional views of action and individual setting in narrative projects for future lessons. Augustine's triple present idea surrounds over and over again...
Claudine Blanchard Laville (1996) claims that we indeed consider our pupils as some projection of ourselves when we were pupils. Then, temporality and identity/alterity are also deeply linked in teaching action, and so in teaching emplotment (being this plot either for the narrative guidance of future action or for the narrative rescue/sense giving of the past action). In this perspective, who teaches and who is taught mean much more than different bodies in different places in the classroom. Early non-technological Didactics theorisation, e.g. Lawrence Stenhouse (1991) or Ulf Lundgren (1992), focused distance between narrative guidance of 'text', i.e. 'curriculum' (being either teacher-made or authorities-made) and its happening, as a main issue for educative research. But even if we allow ourselves to consider 'curriculum' (in the sense of official syllabus) something that can be plotted by individual teachers, 'happening' or 'context' slips through one's fingers if no narrative does turn it the present of the past. The Didactics classroom has a lot to do in this teachers' narrative-based perspective. Sometimes it can be felt as a Socratic maieutic, especially when the Didactics teacher helps to state explicitly different living theories supporting simple sentences and statements. Besides, living theories include some arrangement of learned formal theories, e.g. curriculum theories, or psychological, sociological, political ones. The individual values and ideological backgrounds are very difficult to be separated from living theories. They are not exactly coextensive ideas but they are quite interactive ones. They both play as a set of rules for action and for action understanding guidance. A few sentences from a student teacher about his/her tomorrow's lesson (project + script6) are perhaps the best raw material for Didactics teaching and learning about the author's beliefs, feelings, hopes, fears, fantasies, learned knowledge, trust, personal and professional wisdom, interpersonal perspectives, theoretical assumptions (living theories or alienated discourse)... and of course, epistemological perspectives about the knowledge that is taught. Indeed, until epistemology of 'taught knowledge' is not included, sources of teaching theorisation will not be totally complete. The what in the emplotment is not only teaching, but also History, or Chemistry, or some other subject. Teaching is not made of 'being in front of learners talking and talking', meaning this 'talk' irrelevant aspects of the matter. Therefore, subject knowledge is a component of teaching practice
not only concerning teaching contents but concerning the teacher itself as a person and as a professional. Reasons for teaching History (for example) may be searched both from social, political, ideological aims, and from personal perspectives of teachers (individuals, citizens, subjects, intellectuals...). As every History teacher, I am a History teacher because I love teaching and also because I love History. If I did not love History but Biology, I would be a Biology teacher. If I did not love teaching, but History, perhaps I would be a historian. Most of the times the epistemology of the subject matter (e.g. History) is approached as the consequence of a 'didactic transposition'. This term is quite ambiguous, and sometimes it means that knowledge turns different in order to become 'easy' for pupils. I know that epistemological considerations may be offered about how historians, teachers and pupils approach knowledge from different interests and perspectives, but those are not behind common beliefs about 'didactic transposition'. I think that to become understandable for children or young pupils does not imply to become a different knowledge, even if some teachers believe so and act accordingly. When taught History is approached only from the perspective of historians things are not so different taking into account how easy or not it is to learn it for pupils. In addition, educative studies are too often biased by supposing History as a lot of given, definitive and invariable names, dates, facts and events about past times in the world. It is a common belief that if things were like this, teaching History (and so Didactics of History) would be indeed easier. But historians do not tell us about what happened in the past, they make it intelligible (De Certeau, 1993; Ricœur, 1986). Facts, dates and events are not still History: the historian's work turns them History. History, the same as any other taught knowledge, is a thought. Hence, teaching History is teaching part of what historians thought and wrote about the human past.
If by History we mean some kind of knowledge, then epistemological issues ought to be concerned when it is taught. No teaching History project will be accepted saying only: 'Tomorrow I will teach the French Revolution'. Anyway, 'what is French Revolution?' Certainly, it happened, but it has not been only remembered but plotted by so many different historians. We must then accept that -for us- the French Revolution only happened throughout historians' work, thought and writings. Concerning subject knowledge, this is the very starting point of teaching History, even if it remains either explicit or implicit in the teacher's mind or in the lesson. Historians offer us a lot of historical information, whose arrangement turns it into concepts and causal relations. Their narrative composition in a historical emplotment helps us to follow and to understand the 'story' in the 'History'. But the narrative compositions of the historians are sometimes very different from each other. Certainly Columbus arrived in America on October the 12th, 1492, and that is not the matter, but what it means... for historian A or B. Teachers are taught by historians about their conclusions concerning the historical human past. Then, pupils will be taught by teachers about historians' thought. But, as nobody is able to copy a thought, teachers offer a personal and faithful re-creation of the thought of historians, in the same way that historians' emplotment of past times is not a copy but a creative imitation of the researched action7. Naturally, if teachers were also historians, they would teach about their own work, but most of them are only teachers. When teachers are also researchers, they research teaching History, but they do not research History. These questions are so often confused that it is necessary to insist on them. Furthermore, even though it is possible to consider separately the double epistemological roots of teaching practice in a
theoretical way, they are always dialectically linked when real teaching practice is analysed.
Consequently, the narrative about teaching practice (as well as the teaching action itself) cannot avoid becoming engaged with epistemological features of subject knowledge. Distance and differences between 'researched' and 'taught' knowledge are currently focused by Didactics not only in practical ways but also in metatheoretical approaches. Once again, then, the teaching action subject is called to speak by him/herself, now about teaching contents. First question: 'why do I want to teach History?' Second question: 'what History (meaning historiographical and epistemological issues) do I want to teach?' Third question: 'How do I think I could teach it honestly?' Fourth question: 'who is concerned with this accomplishment and its possible afterwards? Note that no impersonal answers are admitted. Coherence among every answer is also specially required. The real answers to these questions are under the same living-theoretical conditions that we have already seen. Everyone's story with History speaks about books, teachers, historical subjects and characters, academic success/failure, as well as many other affective highlights along the whole life of the individual8. In spite of styles and appearances, teachers are passionate, not only concerning teaching but concerning this dear knowledge they teach everyday (sometimes under the most awful conditions that anyone could imagine).
Too often, teacher narratives hide remarkable contradictions between statements about epistemological issues (related to teaching, and also to the knowledge that he/she teaches) lying on the lesson project and its script for the real lesson. This apparent sophisticated distinction between project and script (unthinkable from classical Didactics framework) widely extends former didactical perspectives about the thought lesson (even about curriculum as a whole, or planning...). In fact, project supplies a broad background for teaching thinking and understanding, and script translates it into a step-by-step thought action. Even though deep coherence is required between project and script (and inside each of them, of course), persistent inheritance of ritual and senseless discourses about teaching and about teaching History usually introduces some distance between teachers' words (ruling concepts and ideas into the project) and teachers' thinking (confessed in the script). Perhaps its worst effect would be the tendency to evade individuals and subjective issues into practice narrative. For many people 'I' writing is a huge challenge, as well as putting down in words affective roots of decisions and choices that have to do with teaching planning and doing. Long experience in this way has taught Didactics teachers that most 'distances' that can be found in teaching practice (project-script, project-practice, script-practice or largely said, theory-practice) are born from 'I' difficulties. The need to unveil the personal and the epistemological nature of teaching is -nowadays- the very nitty-gritty work in Didactics classrooms. Finally, it must be said that Didactics works with different-momented narrative. We have a first narrative deployment concerning specially the present of the future, e.g., tomorrow's lesson. We have just seen that this narrative is itself a past-present-future one, because thought -more than facts and events- rules times in human mind. Then, we can consider the action itself as a narrative emplotment, because it may be understood and followed as a story. Even sometimes an action itself is told while it happens ('now I am introducing this concept that will be needed and asked for along this lesson and perhaps also in next ones'). Also, for Didactics purposes (teacher development) lessons are often analysed throughout oral or written narrative. This final emplotment gathers
past teaching action, such as former narratives including project and script for future lessons9. Rather than successes and failures, this narrative looks for sense and possible significance to be offered to others concerned with a social or teaching context. As any narrative, this one implies some teaching facts and events arrangement by the narrator who is at the same time, the actor. Growing out of this narrative groundwork, Didactics has made some Copernican turn, moving from reading, learning and speaking about generalities or ideal situations, academically conceived, thought and spoken, to thinking, speaking and reading about our own practical roots (i.e. personal ones), involving what has been learned and what has been felt, wanted and fantasised as well. However, I must add that this way -in spite of its undeniable goodness and its ability for teaching improvement-, it is indeed harder (not necessarily unpleasant) than any other former one. It requires not only time and broad knowledge, but also deep personal commitment. The teachers' world provides them, surely. 3. Narrative and teaching practical research. If narrative were not useful except for teacher development, it would be enough. But in certain current perspectives about Didactics, teacher development means also teacher researching teaching practice. From this point of view, teacher development naturally flows into practical research. Even though this paper is not exactly concerned with the relationship between narrative and practical research, some ideas will be stated about how narrative sets teacher development 'towards' practical research.
As it has been seen, narrative groundwork supports practice understandings. When a teaching practice problem is reckoned by a teacher, it means that actual understanding has failed. Failure awareness is indeed some kind of understanding, but anyway, things are wrong (wrong doing? wrong thinking? wrong understanding?...). The arising of a practical problem into the teacher's conscience means that no emplotment of facts and events arrangement can be accomplished. Causal relations and logical support disappeared, and the past-present-future harmonic structure cannot be recovered. A problematic situation cannot be captured out of its own problematic nature (i.e. nonsense, wrongness). For tragic and fictional writers those situations are the raw material for literature, but teachers belong to real life. There, problems are not a kind of tragedy or poetry, but something that they need to try to solve. The methodological steps into teaching practical research are grounded in different narrative tools and skills. Conscience and thinking need words, ideas, concepts that narrative organises into an intelligible plot. When problem turns it impossible, reflection comes handling a singular kind of narrative. It has perhaps a low followability and plotness, because reflection is a tool for searching that is not yet found (aware and/or done). Anyway, reflection manages the full three-timed nature of teaching action, searching into old narratives and putting them under suspicion, at the same time that it makes up (fantasises) problemless situations to be considered as solving ways. The conversational nature of reflection calls for many simultaneous narratives. They come from the most different origins: lived life, ideological/beliefs background, real voice of 'others' as friends, teachers, peers, formal knowledge, social or educative commitment/involvement, non-said questions, fantasmatic characters and fears or enemies, etc... I think that in conversational narrative plotting plays under some special subjective conditions and disposes of a quite larger amount of elements to deal with.
Otherwise, argumentative doing (from logics) and persuasive doing (from affects) have perhaps some different significance into reflecting narrative than into understanding one. The cycle teaching-understanding-reflecting (researching) naturally accompanies teachers throughout their development. Practical involvement and educative commitment supply home conditions for the development of teaching research, at the same time that teaching research by teachers themselves turns possible teaching real improvement. A virtuous circle, indeed. I would not like to come to an end without warning you about some unpleasant issues about narrative. In the real world where we all live, power effects are everywhere, even though we are not specially looking for them. Currently, anyone can open a book or an educative review and read about teachers narrative. Some writers might argue that teachers do not hang to them seriously either. I think that firstly, the mighty academic world once praised this remarkable practice, that it was able to improve teaching. Then, educational policymakers thought that it was right, and turned it into an administrative and bureaucratic requirement (forced fulfilment of some forms). And so, the very sense of teachers’ narrative as an improvement tool was degenerated and became worthless. Finally, anyone who would read these narratives will tend to mention their ritualness, their predictability, their uselessness, and their banality.10
However, narrative is too basic a tool (for teaching practice understanding and research) to be wasted. For many teachers another narrative is possible, and this is also the real world. Didactics must fight for it everywhere. Therefore, as everything concerning Didactics, classrooms and educative/formative interactions are natural settings, much more than books, reviews, etc. because Didactics has to do with teaching action. Teacher development is also action, mastered by subjects of action who accept or refuse mediation offered by the others in their lives. In this way, at last, narrative can be introduced to teachers, and even it can be imposed to them, but the very sense that narrative has for teachers, is only to do with teachers themselves. Contact the author: [email protected]
Bibliography Barbier, J.M. & Galatanu, O. (ed) (1997): Action, affects et transformation du soi, Paris: P.U.F. Barbier, J.M. (2000): "Rapport établi, sens construit, signification donnée", in: Barbier, J.M. et Galatanu, O. (ed): Signification, sens et formation, Paris: P.U.F. Barbier, J.M. & Galatanu, O. (2000): "La singularité de l'action: quelques outils d'analyse", in: Barbier, J.M. et Galatanu, O. (ed) : L'analyse de la singularité de l'action, Séminaire du Centre de Recherche sur la Formation du CNAM, Paris: P.U.F. Bourdieu, P. (1997): Razones prácticas. Barcelona: Anagrama Blanchard-Laville, C. (1996): Saber y relación pedagógica. In : Serie Los documentos, Nº 5, Ediciones Novedades Educativas, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Buenos Aires. Camilloni, A. W. de (1995): "Epistemologí de la didáctica de las Ciencias sociales", en: Alderoqui, A. & Aisemberg, B. "Didáctica de las ciencias sociales". Buenos Aires: Paidós
Carr, W. (1990): Hacia una ciencia crítica de la educación. (Introduction by S. Kemmis), Barcelona: Laertes Certeau, M. de (1993): La escritura de la historia. México: Universidad Iberoamericana Edelstein, G. (1996): "Un capítulo pendiente: el método en el debate didáctico contemporáneo", in: Camilloni et al.: Corrientes didácticas contemporáneas. Buenos Aires: Paidós Elliott, J. (1991): El cambio educativo desde la investigación-acción. Madrid: Morata Ferry, G. (1983): Le trajet de formation. Les enseignants entre la théorie et la pratique. Paris : Dunod Galatanu, O. (1996): Savoirs théoriques et savoirs d'action dans la communication didactique, in: Barbier, J.M. (ed), Savoirs théoriques et savoirs d'action. Paris: P.U.F. Lundgren, U. (1992): Teoría del curriculum y escolarización, Madrid: Morata Ricoeur, P. (1983): Temps et récit, I. L'intrigue et le récit historique, Paris: Éditions du Seuil Ricœur, P. (1986): Du texte à l'action, Paris: Éditions du Seuil Ricœur, P. (1990) : Soi-même comme un autre, Paris, Éditions du Seuil Schön, D. (1996): "À la recherche d'une nouvelle épistémologie de la pratique et de ce qu'elle implique pour l'éducation des adultes", in: Barbier, J.M. (ed), Savoirs théoriques et savoirs d'action. Paris: P.U.F. Stenhouse, L. (1991): Investigación y desarrollo del currículum. Morata, Madrid. Notes: 1. 2. 3.
6. 7. 8.
According to Lawrence Stenhouse' distinction between 'educative' research and 'about education' research. See: Stenhouse, L. (1991) " Practical reason" belongs to "Du texte à l'action" (1986) "Nous conviendrons d'appeler fonctions de mise en représentation des actions ou accompagnant les actions l'ensemble de phénomènes de production et de transformation de représentations survenant chez les acteurs que s'y engagent et ayant trait à l'organisation singulière d'activités qui les composantes, à eux-mêmes comme sujet(s) agissant, et à leurs rapports à l'environnement". Barbier & Galatanu (2000), p. 32 "Le point de vue adopté dans la présente contribution est sensiblement différent, notamment sur le plan des modèles de causalité en oeuvre : hypothèse sera faite d'une intrication, c'est-à-dire d'une relation de solidarité de présence et de développement, et même d'une relation de consubstantialité entre phénomènes affectifs, représentationnels et "opératoires". Cette approche permettra éalement d'aborder de façon sensiblement différente les problèmes de la transformation de soi dans l'action qui constitue notre objet principal et dont nous aborderons plus loin différentes figures." Barbier & Galatanu (1998), p. 47 "S'il est vrai que la pente majeure de la théorie moderne du récit -tant en historiographie qu'en narratologie- est de déchronologiser le récit, la lutte contre la représentation linéaire du temps n'a pas nécessairement pour seule issue de logiciser le récit, mais bien d'en approfondir la temporalité. La chronologie -ou la chronographie- n'a pas un unique contraire, l'achronie des lois ou des modèles. Son vrai contraire c'est la temporalité elle-même. Sans doute fallait-il confesser l'autre du temps pour être en état de rendre pleine justice à la temporalité humaine, et pour se proposer non de l'abolir mais de l'approfondir, de la hiérarchiser, de la déployer selon des niveaux de temporalisation toujours mois distendus et toujours plus tendus". Ricœur, (1986), p.65 A teacher learner wrote: 'I feel as Woody Allen. I must do the project, the script, and I also must be the actor. I think the later analysis is not included in his contract, but in mine it is.' Aristotle's terms of 'muthos' and 'mimesis', especially that Ricœur calls 'mimesis II and III' support this point of view. Cf. Ricœur's 'Temps et Récit', chap. 1-3. 'History has never been my greatest passion. At school, it was not the subject that I loved specially. I have had good and bad teachers, and no one of them has been a motivation for my career. Also I do not study History because I do not like anything else. It is not a hobby for my life. I must admit that I believe that teaching History is something capital in order to understand our lives. I realize that I
have an existentialist point of view of History. How can we understand our place in the world if we do not know our past? It would be like someone who has forgotten everything, specially the motives of his existence. Remembering is the basis of human consciousness. I am interested in the past, more than in History. I am not able to understand present situations if I do not understand my own past. [...] I always thought that the events of the past were present in our lives and that, wanted or not, we are the children of our past. Every Sunday, my grandfather talked me about relatives that I had never met. Even today, I feel that I knew them. [...] Growing out of these experiences I can explain, perhaps understand, my relationship with History through the necessity of understanding the past, and I believe that for me, it is actually linked to the "fight against death", giving some voice to the dead, as Michel de Certeau claims. For me, this personal feeling was extended to a collective need: nobody would able to understand himself without knowing History. Later, time softened this too radical idea, because people think that what they do is quite capital. Besides, to be that I call "historical unconsciousness" often turns people less worried and perhaps provides them with some more hopeful future image, especially in these times.' Luciana Fuques, History teacher learner at IPA, Montevideo, 2002. 'Ce qu'importe, c'est la manière dont la praxis quotidienne ordonne l'un par rapport à l'autre le présent du futur, le présent du passé, le présent du présent. Car c'est cette articulation pratique qui constitue le plus élémentaire inducteur du récit'. Ricœur, ibid., p. 119 See, e.g.: Fendler, L. (2001) : "Réflexion des enseignants dans un palais des miroirs", in: Recherche et formation, Nº 38, pp. 31-45
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