Friday, March 18, 2011

Professional knowledge landscapes

Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (1998). Stories to live by: Narrative understandings of school reform. Curriculum Inquiry, 28(2), 149-194.

There was a notion in this paper that captured my interest. Clandinin and Connelly talk about professional knowledge landscapes, and state these landscapes are narratively constructed. This fits with my idea that knowledge is socially constructed.

“To enter a professional knowledge landscape is to enter a place of story” (p151).
The authors state that this landscape is made up of two 'places'. The first place is an out-of-classroom place which is filled with things that are imposed on teachers such as policies and plans. They call the stories that are created in this place 'sacred'.

The second place is an in-classroom place. This is the safe place of secret stories where teachers are 'free to live stories of practice' (p151).

When teachers move out of their classrooms onto the out-of-classroom place on the landscape, they often live and tell cover stories, stories in which they portray themselves as expert, certain characters whose teacher stories fit within the acceptable range of the story of school being lived in the school. Cover stories enable teachers whose teacher stories are marginalized by whatever the current story of school is to continue to practice and to sustain their teacher stories. (Clandinin and Connelly 1996, p. 25)”
I wonder if the stories we tell when we visit schools to make digital stories cross the boundaries of these two places? We definitely fit in the out-of-classroom place as we represent government policy - The New Zealand Curriculum. However, rather than coming with a sacred story about curriculum we are asking the schools to tell us their stories. This moves the ownership of the story.

Also the story is told by many voices. We hear the 'current story of the school' as explained by leadership, however we also hear the in-classroom stories as we capture teacher practice on film. We also capture student voice and the students reveal those secret classroom stories.

I see this as the value of digital stories for sharing practice across schools. The story is no longer the 'sacred' story imposed on schools. It is a dynamic, living, changing story as lived by teachers and leaders. And in the process of telling and sharing the story the doors of classrooms are opened, the voices of teachers, students, and leaders are heard, and they hear each other. This process adds another plot line, or scene to the story.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Focusing stories

One of my favourite parts of my job is to visit schools around New Zealand and help them tell their curriculum story through video.

I have been interested in the process that schools go through when they let us into their place to help them tell their curriculum story. I find the whole process of 'storying' intriguing. By sitting down and taking the time to explore their own school story individually, and then telling the story to each other as they tell it to us, you can see new possibilities opening up.

Principals have told me that after we leave they can see even more possibilities for change and growth in their schools. It is as if our visit is a step in the process of curriculum change.

People construct identities through their talk in interaction with others

I read Narrative inquiry and school leadership identities (2009) by Greer Cavallaro Johnson and it raised a few ideas for me. She mentions that 'people construct identities through their talk in interaction with others' (p270). This is evident when you place a video camera in front of someone. They are not only telling you the story of their curriculum change but also their place within that change. It is interesting to see them explore this narrative through a different lens. They have been active in the process, but the process of storying allows them to see what their place was in that process and to reflect on the experience.

Telling stories is an interactional process

Greer also discussed the 'interactional process of how people tell and respond to stories' (p275) which got me thinking about the part that we actually play in the storying process. By inviting the school to tell their curriculum story we are providing a lens through which to look at what is happening in the school. We have a specific focus - that of curriculum development. We then funnel what we see and what people tell us through this lens to see in detail the parts that make up the change and the perceived outcomes. Prior to this the school may not have taken the time to see how all the parts of the change process connect together. There are always many different initiatives occurring in schools and sometimes those within the school do not see the interconnections between the initiatives and how they influence each other.

Story tellers are in charge of how they want to be heard

The last point I picked up from this paper was that 'storytellers are in charge of how they want to be heard' (p281). I think a lot of the time, in the process of telling us their stories, teachers and leaders see how they want things to be rather than how they might currently be. And this is the story they tell. It is a 'looking forward' story. And hopefully with telling us their story, reflecting on where they have been and where they are heading, schools find the process of telling their story an actual step in the process of making their story a reality.

Here is the latest curriculum story from NZC Online