Improvisation and teacher expertise: reconceptualising teacher professionalism.

Sorensen, N (2015) Improvisation and teacher expertise: reconceptualising teacher professionalism. In: BERA Annual Conference, 15 - 17 September 2015, Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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This paper is in three parts. The first part engages in a discussion of the nature of professionalism, rejecting a normative view in favour of seeing professionalism as a shifting phenomenon; a profession is whatever people think it is at any particular time (Hanlon, 1998 cited in Whitty, 2008). “Potentially, it also liberates us to conceptualise and work towards alternative conceptions of professionalism Thus, it allows us to consider what might be appropriate ‘prospective identities’ for teachers in the current conjuncture (Bernstein, 1996)” (Whitty, 2008: 32). The second part of the paper reports on the findings of a PhD research project into the improvisatory nature of teacher expertise. The data is taken from a series of comparative case studies (Thomas, 2011) of seven experienced teachers working in secondary schools in the South West of England and who have been identified as being expert within their school setting. Constant comparative methods of analysis have been used to draw out themes from the data. This has contributed to a grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006) that identifies the nature of teacher expertise. The findings that arise from the data are that teacher’s expertise is best expressed as continually evolving practice, a process as opposed to an end state that reflects a prototype model (Sternberg and Horvath, 1995). Advanced professional practice is best described as a ‘teacher with expertises’ and this is preferable to the term ‘expert teacher’. The data shows that teacher expertise is fundamentally improvisatory through being socially constructed (Burr, 2003; Shotter, 2008; Gergen, 2009) and that this has a positive impact on the quality of teaching. The improvisational nature of teacher expertise is derived from four processes: the expression of tacit knowledge, relational and interactional practice, personalisation of the learning environment and self-reflection leading to the continual adaptation of pedagogy. The third part of the paper discusses these findings within the context of a growing field of research on expert teaching (Goodwyn, 2011 ) and creative teaching (Sawyer, 2011) that views improvisation not as an incidental or accidental activity but as fundamental part of a teachers professional sense of identity. In a conclusion, the knowledge claims from this research are applied to frame a new model of teacher professionalism, a possible ‘prospective identity’ for teachers that is drawn from contemporary practice and newly emerging discourses concerning teacher expertise.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: improvisation, teacher expertise, professionalism
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
Divisions: School of Education
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2016 15:34
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:41
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