Honoring the Tension of Researcher & Teacher

I provide professional development to teachers. This is my passion and my vocation. As a doctoral student, I have grappled with the challenge of being deeply immersed in my subject as a facilitator and dispassionately observing in my role as researcher. And yet, it doesn’t make sense for me to entirely disregard my 15 years in the education field. My experience as a junior high and high school English Language Arts teacher and as a facilitator of professional development for teachers has provided both a substantial foundation of knowledge and a valuable context for the events and practices that I encounter as researcher. And while there is validity in acknowledging the researcher’s bias, there is a long history of acknowledging the valuable role that harnessing the expertise, insights, and “gut checks” of the researcher in question (Mills, 1959; Glense & Peshkin, 1992; Straus, 1987; Reason, 1988) provides. It is this acknowledgement of tensions – the awareness of real, perceived, and potential bias as well as the “virtuous” perspectives and insights of my experience – that girds my research journey.

What do I do? Upon reflection, it seems that I must acknowledge the tension. And so, on this journey of research and dissertation planning, I vow to consciously honor the years of apprenticed and masterful junior high and high school teaching, the years spent honing the art and science of facilitating professional development for adult learners, and the depth and breadth of my own perspective, knowledge, and experience in these roles. I also consciously bound this journey within a flexible netting of researcher awareness. While choosing not to eliminate the influences of my educator identity or background in facilitating professional development, it is also essential that I choose not to impose my assumptions and values upon the research. In this, I am adopting the lens of “critical subjectivity” (Reason, 1988, 1994), that “quality of awareness in which we do not suppress our primary experience; nor do we allow ourselves to be swept away and overwhelmed by it; rather we raise it to consciousness and use it as part of the inquiry process” (1933, p. 12). Instead of allowing myself to be distracted by the binary thinking of either/or, I am embracing the both/and attitude. I am both a researcher and a teacher — and my writing, thinking, and research will only benefit from this union.

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