Personal and professional self-discovery through collaborative autobiography

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Enns, Edith
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Education, 1998
The purpose of this research is to evaluate the process of collaborative autobiography as a means of facilitating teacher development. The model of collaborative autobiography studied was the course Teachers' Stories and Teacher Development (Ed. 5210) taught by Dr. Richard Butt. The research is couched in a qualitative context. Conversations were held with eight practising educators, as well as with Dr. Richard Butt. These conversations were taped, transcribed and interpreted for themes. The research revealed the following thematic structure. The ground of collaborative autobiography saw the participants lives as the texts. Significant contextual factors were trust, confidentiality, and levels of disclosure. Whether a teacher was required to take the course, or opted to take the course, was also a vital factor. My research revealed the importance of the oral aspect of collaborative autobiography: that is, speaking, listening, and responding. Further, the role of the facilitator (in this case Dr. Richard Butt) as a sensitive and nurturing participant was essential to a pedagogy which viewed horizontal and collegial relationships as key. Meaningful changes in teaching practise occurred as a result of participation In the process of collaborative autobiography. Teachers took greater risks and were more open to change in their teaching, both in terms of teaching styles and curriculum. On the other hand, three out of eight participants did not see a significant change in their teaching practise as a result of walking through the collaborative process. The research further showed that sharing of teachers' stories in a collaborative setting helped teachers to examine, redefine, and finally articulate more clearly their teaching philosophies. Teachers gained self-confidence, took greater risks, had increased empathy for students, and were empowered to find their individual teacher voice. Only one out of the eight participants did not see a positive correlation between his participation in Teachers' Stories and the shaping of teacher beliefs. Finally, the research illustrated that typically what, how, and why teachers teach parallels their personal lives-present, past and future. Exceptions to this were two out of eight participants who separated their private life from their professional life. In terms of evaluation, teachers generally saw their participation in Ed. 5210 as having a tremendous impact in terms of teacher development. Highlights were the development of collegiality in a collaborative context; and the realization that teachers themselves are our greatest possible resource in teacher development. A conclusive recommendation stemming from the research was that class size should be no more that ten people, and that some use should be made of small groups. Several participants felt that Teachers' Stories should be followed up by a Practicum which would give follow through for effective teacher development. Some problematic issues surfaced from a participant who had taken Teachers' Stories in the larger, more complicated class of 16 students. This person was concerned over the issue of safety, and a seeming lack of adequate support for participants undergoing severe emotional trauma in their personal and/or professional lives. In conclusion, the research clearly illustrated that the prime objective of collaborative autobiography is liberation and emancipation of teachers through individual and collective action. My research is written in a conversational/dialogical format. My prologue and epilogue, as well as sketches of research participants lives in poetry segments, lend the paper a unique autobiographical and biographical flavor.
viii, 144 leaves ; 28 cm. --
Autobiography , Teachers -- Biography , Teachers -- In-service training