What sustains a life in education?

Barnes, J. (2012) What sustains a life in education? Ph.D. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.

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Abstract

Being a teacher is key to my identity. That I remain committed to a system characterised by low morale, poor conditions, compromised values and disparaged beliefs, surprises me. This thesis asks why and how I sustain a life in public education and what relevance my story may have for others. It poses the following questions:
• What values, beliefs & educational approaches are important to me in education & why?
• What experiences have contributed to the resilience of my approach to education?
• How does my account relate to those of particular others?
• What implications does the exploration of the values & beliefs of myself & others have for my present action in education?
Such questions are important because of increasing evidence of teacher unhappiness in the UK. This thesis claims that systematic attention to fundamental beliefs promotes change and can build capacity. It traces a journey from introspective analysis towards public and collegiate action in education - a journey I think may be useful for others. Using the systematic study of autobiographies, diaries, letters, key influences and conversations, I seek answers to my questions by examining deeply held beliefs that prompt each major or minor decision. Values subsequently run through this thesis. The resulting enhanced self-understanding and professional activity is used to generate a theoretical basis and practical guidance for staff development in education.

An original feature of this ethnographic research is that close friends were research participants. Friends form and fix each other’s’ stories and support the actions that sustain us. They are central to our resilience and other aspects of well-being. Values-conversations with these friends confirmed that values can form young, and remain relatively unchanged over long periods. Our conversations deepened relationships and our joint resolve to act in-line with our values. A common commitment to creativity, though based on different definitions, defined our identities, directed our values and sustained friendship itself.

This thesis is also distinctive in its interdisciplinarity. My art works form a deliberately silent narrative argued to be as true, fluid and vulnerable as my words. I also use a musical structure called sonata form systematically to interrogate my conclusions. A blend of methodologies, dominated by auto-ethnography calls upon other interpretative approaches including: art and music criticism, grounded theory and action-based study. This mix of methodologies expressed my cross-curricular thinking and provided the engine that powered the staff development action recorded in the penultimate chapter. The term ‘interdisciplinary praxis-focussed autoethnography’, is introduced to emphasise the intention of action through autobiography which characterises this work. My approach shows that living/working in accordance with core values, developing/nurturing friendships and identifying/extending our distinctive creative strengths have been central to me and my friends’ resilience. This realisation changed my practice in teacher education. It strengthened my belief that teacher well-being is key to improving school experience for children.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Education
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2013 16:08
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 15:15
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/11386

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00