Tools for inquiry

The role of thinking skills approaches in developing pedagogy as theory

Authored by: Vivienne Baumfield

The Routledge International Handbook of Research on Teaching Thinking

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415747493
eBook ISBN: 9781315797021
Adobe ISBN: 9781317752301

10.4324/9781315797021.ch6

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Abstract

Understanding pedagogy requires sustained engagement with practice in order to create the ‘thick description’ (Geertz, 1973) necessary for the capture of complex interactions between teachers and their students. It is difficult for an external researcher to do this without compromising the authenticity of the context and even if it were possible, without access to the thinking of the participants ‘in the moment’ that the activity is taking place, understanding will be incomplete. It was reasoning along such lines that led John Dewey to propose the development of pedagogy as theory in which teachers are recognised as the creators of pedagogical knowledge and the dichotomy between researcher and researched, theory and practice is denied. In the UK, Lawrence Stenhouse took up this idea and advocated a model of curriculum development in which the teachers created knowledge by testing academic proposals in action in their classrooms. Both Dewey and Stenhouse understood teaching to be an uncertain process in which largely tacit knowledge is gained through experience and the tendency towards conserving order stifles creativity by closing down options. However, positioning teachers as researchers helps their practice to become visible, open to critique and susceptible to change, thus enabling them to make a significant contribution to the improvement of education:

it is not enough that teachers’ work should be studied: they need to study it for themselves. What we need is a different view of research which begins with our own work and which is founded in curiosity and a desire to understand; which is stable, not fleeting, systematic in the sense of being sustained by a strategy.

(Stenhouse, 1995, p. 1)

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