When Teachers Speak of Teaching, What Do They Say? a Portrait of Teaching From the Voices of the StoryCorps National Teachers Initiative
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CitationLiefshitz, Irene Anastasia. 2015. When Teachers Speak of Teaching, What Do They Say? a Portrait of Teaching From the Voices of the StoryCorps National Teachers Initiative. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractThere is a significant lack of educational research in which teachers’ talk about teaching is not mediated by researchers. In the public sphere, teachers’ voices rarely reach us unfiltered by the media, union and school district representatives, education reformers, and policymakers. What if we could listen to teachers talk about teaching unconstrained by any topic or agenda, in a conversation initiated by them? The StoryCorps National Teachers Initiative (SCNTI) provides an unparalleled opportunity to answer this question. In 2011-2012, hundreds of teachers talked about teaching with someone significant to them. Listening to these conversations enables understanding of teaching from the perspective of those doing the work, in their own voice.
This study addresses the meanings and conceptualizations of teaching articulated by teachers. Three basic assumptions guide this research. First, because teaching is an uncertain craft (McDonald, 1992), I suggest poetics of teaching (Hansen, 2004) as a listening lens. Second, because the experiences of teaching are expressed in conversation, I suggest a prosaic approach to language (Morson & Emerson, 1990) which considers form and function. Third, I conceptualize teacher voice as a source of knowledge about teaching and the phenomenon by which we can comprehend its humanity, uncertainty, and unfinalizability (Bakhtin, 1981). Building on this conceptual framework, I propose a unique empirical approach to studying teacher voice: a synthesis of hermeneutics, metaphor analysis, and portraiture.
The answer to the question When teachers speak of teaching, what do they say? is in the form of a portrait, a portrait of teaching composed of teachers’ voices. I find that teachers talk about four essential human phenomena: love, learning, power, and purpose. Within these constructs, I provide a critical interpretation of teacher talk about teaching that illuminates the complex and varied nature of teaching work.
This study privileges teacher voice—literally and epistemologically—and presents research as an act of listening. It transmits and amplifies teacher voice to constitute a refreshed and reexamined cultural record (Lamothe & Horowitz, 2006) of teaching. And as critical interpretation of human experience, this research invites participation: a response to teacher voice.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:16461032