Ryan, Michael F.
A Constructivist Exploration of the Teacher's Role: understanding the policy practice navigation between: Pedagogy, Professionalism & Vocationalism.
PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
This constructivist grounded theory study, explores the role of the second level
teacher in contemporary Ireland. It investigates how the officially espoused role of
the teacher translates into action in the negotiated environments of practice.
The study yielded three significant constructs that penetrate the reality of a
teaching life. The three constructs emerged organically from an analysis of
research-participant reflections regarding their practice as teachers. These three
interwoven constructs provide the scaffolding for the grounded theory findings:
i. pedagogy under pressure,
ii. teachers navigating a pathway between old and new professionalism
iii. vocationalism and pockets of wonderful things
While each of the three constructs has its own discourse and associated web of
meaning, there is also evidence of an over arching climate that weaves its influence
across the playing out of each. This climate is identified as one of intensification.
The intensification of teaching and learning significantly impacts on the teacher’s
role. The first of the three constructs; pedagogy under pressure emerges as a
particularly problematic one. The implicitly instrumentalist vision driving the
practice of education (emergent in the first construct) compromises not only
progressive pedagogy, but also compromises the enactment of new professionalism
as illuminated in the second construct. The intensification of education can also
endanger the vocational impetus for teachers and render into ‘pockets’ the
‘wonderful things’ that sustain and nurture the teacher’s ontological identity as
profiled in the final construct.
The qualitative findings suggest that the teacher’s role is therefore an increasingly
complex one that navigates within and across three interwoven domains of what it
means to be a teacher. Within this navigation, there is significant evidence of
policy practice dissonance, and localised negotiations of policy rhetoric, driven by
the imperative of terminal assessment. The study concludes that this climate of
intensification militates against the realization of the more nurturing aims of
education espoused in the Government White Paper Charting Our Education
The study provides educational policy makers, teacher educators and teachers with
an insightful road map with which to interrogate many assumptions regarding
second level teaching. The study interrogates policy, practice and theoretical
perspectives. It raises many challenging questions regarding the teacher’s role and
the current instrumentalist vision driving the practice of second level education in
Ireland. These questions, findings and associated recommendations now deserve
prompt study from teachers, teacher educators, policy makers and other educational
||Teacher's Role; policy practice; Pedagogy; Professionalism; Vocationalism;
||Faculty of Social Sciences > Education
||19 Nov 2010 11:45
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