What is it like to be a Chartered Teacher doing action research?
Williamson, Zoè Claire
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Action research has become a widely accepted and popular form of teacher professional development/learning, within the UK and internationally, and forms part of the professional actions of the Scottish Chartered Teacher. Whilst action research may be a valuable form of professional development supported through awardbearing courses (such as the Scottish Chartered Teacher programmes), funded projects or partnerships with university colleagues, it is questionable to what extent this is continued or even valued by teachers beyond the parameters of CPD courses. If Chartered Teachers are to engage meaningfully in action research then it is vital we understand how they perceive the nature and purpose of such activities and explore the opportunities and limitations they may face. This is not just an issue for Chartered Teachers in Scotland but one that may concern any teacher attempting to engage in action research as part of their practice. To explore teachers’ lived experience of engaging in post-award non-funded action research a case-study approach was adopted. The case study comprised six qualified Chartered Teachers with this thesis focusing on the stories from three of the teachers. In-depth loosely structured interviews were held with participants at three intervals over the course of a year to discuss their current and ongoing action research work. In addition visual data was created by participants to explore, share, (re)present and negotiate their understandings of action research. Documentary data was also collected. A broadly inductive approach to the analysis was taken, coding both within and across cases. A thematic narrative analysis of the individuals’ stories was also undertaken because I believe teachers’ individual stories are critically important and was keen not to reduce these to ‘codes’ and ‘categories’. Emerging from the data are three significant themes - the importance of understanding the nature and purpose of action research; the teachers’ evolving identities as Chartered Teachers/action researchers; and the need to develop and promote a Third Space – creating a conceptually different way of being a teacher. The data shows that traditional notions of research are influencing these teachers’ understanding of action research and this limits their action research work. How teachers understand the nature and purpose of action research is deeply interrelated with their identity as a teacher/Chartered Teacher/action researcher. Their identity(ies), I suggest, is/are a site of struggle, contestation and negotiation and Chartered Teachers are, arguably, in an in-between space: they are simultaneously teacher and researcher, yet they are neither one nor the other. It is possible, then, to understand Chartered Teacher as a hybrid identity and I draw upon Third Space theory as a heuristic to understand Chartered Teacher as a distinctly different way of being a teacher. I argue that a more complex view is needed that promotes the dynamic and fluid nature of action research. The insights drawn from this study offer some understandings that may help us to (re)consider and (re)frame the way in which we understand the teacher as researcher.