Thursday, September 29, 2011

What It Means to Be a Teacher-Researcher

One may ask what benefits there are for teachers to become teacher-researchers. It is a fair question since, after all, teaching alone is a full-time affair requiring tremendous energy and sacrifice both mentally and physically. However, as teacher-researcher, one may actually be able to see where one is going, and furthermore be able to experience reflective moments that are crucial to improving one’s educational practices. In other words, there are numerous ways the teacher-as-researcher can improve upon the everyday practices of teaching. The areas that can benefit the most when teaching and researching happens concurrently are curriculum improvement, professional/structural critique, societal reform, and teacher empowerment.
First of all, it is easy to see how research can contribute to the overall betterment of curricular practices. A qualitative analysis of a classroom for instance can yield numerous information on the social dynamics of all those who are a part. It can furthermore lead to our understanding of how students learn at various levels and phases. Restructuring curriculum or adjusting it to provide better results in teaching and learning can be done constantly if the teacher sees what’s actually going on by way of keeping the mind and perspective of the researcher.
Secondly, the critical stance of teachers as researchers, focusing on desired and possible changes in the educational structures, facilitates positive and healthy reforms to take place. For the teacher, the school is a workplace. A better working environment, both physical and organizational, influences the motivation and determination of the teachers. Therefore structural reforms that enhance the potential of the teacher are always called for. However, reforms happen rarely as result of goodwill from the higher authorities/administration, but rather through direct and indirect critiques of those whose experiences in everyday situation finds the need to change in order to secure improvement. As researchers, teachers can become critical professionals who challenge and change the workplace conditions. The marriage of the practice-oriented views of the teacher and the analytic views of the critical researcher
culminating in the form of the teacher-researcher therefore can produce tangible results in structural reforms.
Thirdly, since schools are embedded within the society at large, schools constantly influence and are influenced by both macro and micro processes that construct the social and cultural landscape. Societal reform is part of the evolving nature of the society toward a common
collective goal seeking the betterment of existing conditions. In this context, the teacher researcher perspective engages how schools and teaching in general are shaped in society and what social focus the members of the society indeed privilege. The societal reform can both be generated and perpetuated by education. The teacher-researcher is able to point out and search for answers regarding, for instance, the failing democratic principles in schools, disparity in education opportunities, prevalent gender and/or ethnic problems, and the disempowerment of educators.
Finally, in more ways than one becoming a good teacher-researcher enables the teacher to become empowered. Doing research in effect means being in control of what one is doing; looking for answers to questions, searching for new and improved ways of doing things, discovering new connections and understanding given situations better. In other words, teachers with researching in mind become active and passionate educators in search of actual improvement of practice, rather than passive conduits of knowledge.

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