University of Tasmania
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When teachers face themselves : enduring outcomes of teachers' secret stories‚ÄövÑvp lived and shared

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posted on 2023-05-26, 07:02 authored by Jones, TA
This study sought to identify and understand the enduring outcomes, both personal and professional, for seven Tasmanian teachers who participated in an emotionally demanding, highly experiential 3-day professional development workshop. MESH Support Group Facilitator Training (MESH) is part of a Student Assistance Program. MESH seeks to develop teacher participants' understandings about the issues impacting upon individual lives, in and out of school settings, and to develop in them the skills necessary to facilitate support groups in schools. In the process, teachers share their stories of challenging life experiences in a series of support group sessions, some of which they co-facilitate. This sharing of their own and colleagues' stories in a support group context draws on teachers' reserves of emotion, cognition, and personal and professional experience. Despite early acknowledgement that teachers' personal and professional lives are inextricably linked, and that teachers' self-understanding is crucial to any effort they expend to help students to understand themselves, the personal-professional connection is one which is often neglected in teacher education programs and inservice professional development. Consequently, the importance of this study lies in its exploration of teachers' engagement with a professional development program that sought specifically to bring together the personal and the professional in participants' lives. Through this investigation, I sought to understand why teachers engage with the MESH program, and how their engagement impacts on their personal lives and professional practice. Working within the field of narrative inquiry, I lived and worked alongside the workshop facilitator and each participant, 3-days-at-a-time, observing and fieldnoting participants' experiences in order to develop an in-depth understanding of their perceptions of the program, its impact, and outcomes. A series of three interviews was conducted with each participant: one prior to their experience to establish contexts and expectations, one following their experience to capture immediate responses, and one a year later to probe participants' memories and recollections, and to discover the ways in which they have drawn on that experience in both their personal and professional lives. Individual one-off interviews were also conducted with the workshop's Australian facilitator and the program's US founder in order to provide contextualising data. Preliminary work that informed my methodology and understandings included a survey by questionnaire of 56 past participants, 9 of whom participated in focus group interviews. Additionally, I have drawn on my own experiences of participation in, and co-facilitation of, numerous MESH workshops during a 5-year period. These supporting data informed my analysis and interpretation of key participants' data. From these rich data sources, I constructed seven biographical narrative accounts which contextualise the individual teachers' participation, experiences and enduring outcomes. These accounts trouble some of the taken-for-granted assumptions about the person who is the teacher, re-presenting individual teachers' unique biographies and experiences, and revealing a diverse range of enduring outcomes ‚Äö- both personal and professional. Teacher participants described their affective, emotional engagement with their own and colleagues' stories as cathartic and transformative. For these teachers the enduring outcomes of their MESH experience included a transformation of their understandings about themselves and others; their relationships with family, colleagues and students; and their teaching practices. Teachers' experiences became a resource used by them to inform their self-understanding; their personal and professional lives and relationships; and improve their understanding of, interactions with, and support for, their students. Findings of this study suggest that support groups provide teachers with a safe place in which they can share their secret stories,‚ÄövÑvp and that this sharing is beneficial to their self-understanding, self-care and well-being. Findings also reinforce the need for teacher education and professional development programs to assist pre-service and in-service teachers in exploring their biographies, and, through this exploration, to make explicit the impact of biography on teaching practice.


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Copyright Copyright 2008 the author

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