The nature of learning support as revealed through the practice of six exemplary Support teachers (learning difficulties) based in Queensland state primary schools

Michael Boyle (2010). The nature of learning support as revealed through the practice of six exemplary Support teachers (learning difficulties) based in Queensland state primary schools PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Michael Boyle
Thesis Title The nature of learning support as revealed through the practice of six exemplary Support teachers (learning difficulties) based in Queensland state primary schools
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Robyn Gillies
Dr. David Geelan
Total pages 307
Subjects 13 Education
Abstract/Summary Support teachers learning difficulties (STLD) have made a significant contribution to the provision of support for students experiencing learning difficulties and learning disabilities in Queensland state primary schools over almost forty years. During the 1990s with the implementation of an inclusive curriculum in schools, and in recent years, with changing systemic expectations of how academic performance might be improved, these teachers have increasingly participated in collaborative models with their classroom colleagues to provide for students experiencing various barriers to learning. This study focuses on the nature of exemplary practice as perceived through the eyes and voices of six exemplary STLD teachers. In keeping with this intent, a process of selecting the participants for in-depth study was instigated in a professional community of state primary STLD teachers located in a Brisbane education district to determine at the grass-roots what an exemplary STLD teacher might “look like”, and which six teachers in that community might contribute to the community‟s understanding of exemplary STLD teaching practice. These contributions are represented in six case studies, referred to as “portraits” and were co-constructed, that is through a dialogic process between the participant and me. Each portrait communicates an aspect of teaching practice and the experiential knowledge that underpins it. The term “exemplary” has been adopted consciously to denote “that serves as an example” (Harper, 2001) in contrast to the term “expert”, which frequently carries a technical connotation. A mixed methodology was adopted (Lincoln & Guba, 2003) in this qualitative study in anticipation of the need to draw upon various methods that in combination might assist in viewing, conceptualizing and harnessing the dynamic complexity expected to be evident in grassroots practice. First, various expressions of constructivism contributed, with the major influence being social constructivism to denote a “house” or a community of professionals in ongoing dialogue. 6 This provides the framework within which the study has been undertaken. Second, phenomenology, most particularly the work of Moustakas (1994) and van Manen (1990, 1994, 1995, 2007), is the primary source for the inspiration (van Manen) and the methods and tools (Moustakas) to explore the nature of their practice. Phenomenological approaches were adopted with the expectation they could assist in highlighting the essence of each individual‟s practice while allowing for the eliciting of experiential themes that are of importance to the professional community of STLD teachers. Finally, studies of practical teacher knowledge (Elbaz, 1983) in association with narrative inquiry (Connolly & Clandinin, 1988) have provided further insights into how the collective expression of these teachers might be displayed. The primary preoccupation of the portraits is the teachers‟ provision of support for individual students, and the nature and quality of the relationships enlisted in the service of making this provision. The teachers‟ transactions on behalf of these students are indicative of a raft of values, ideals, collaborative and communication skills which might be subsumed by the term relatedness, and the ability to see astutely the elements in various situations that need attentiveness. Their practice in action appears to be best encapsulated by Van Manen‟s (1995) term “pedagogical tact”, a term borrowed to capture the nature of the pedagogical relationships infused into their personal and professional selves. Three views of practice are provided to display and illuminate the nature of the six exemplary teachers‟ collective practice – View 1: “From the inside” which reveals the metaphors that inhabit their practice and the significance they have for their practice; View 2: “From the outside” which, through the vehicle of a narrative highlights a STLD teacher and a classroom teacher undertaking a collaborative process of providing for Dayne a student experiencing significant difficulties; View 3: “Thinking together” which provides an edited script elicited from a conversation of the participating exemplary STLD teachers. Collectively, the three views reveal what is at the heart of learning support for the six teachers. In addition, aspects of practical knowledge that are particularly pertinent to learning support practice are discussed. 7 Finally, the effectiveness of the methods adopted for the study is explored. First, the screening process successfully enabled the selection of participants who had developed their craft to a sophisticated degree enhanced by their own “personal signature” (Eisner, 1991). Second, the adoption of a combination of a social constructivist framework and phenomenological approaches provided appropriate vehicles to enable the construction of six portraits of practices that exemplified significant aspects of practice. Third, the difficulties of authenticating the portraits using a cohort of critical friends from the STLD community and forging links with the community are discussed. Finally, I raise the possibility of embedding the portraits in professional development contexts where early career STLD teachers may wish to reflect on their practice.
Keyword Learning support, exemplary, pedagogical relationships, practical knowledge, phenomenology, social constructivism

 
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Created: Mon, 17 May 2010, 11:04:11 EST by Mr Michael Boyle on behalf of Library - Information Access Service