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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Questions of value : an inquiry into the nature of research on teacher thinking Court, Deborah


Early in this dissertation a defensible conception of teaching is laid out. This conception specifies that there are learning conditions for teaching, whereby teachers do their best to bring about learning in students, and that there is a moral condition for teaching, whereby teachers accord students dignity and respect. With this conception laid out, analyses are undertaken of literature on teacher thinking. The main purposes of these analyses are to see what conception of teaching is Implicit in studies of teacher thinking, and to compare this conception with the conception presented early in the dissertation. As a framework for analysis of literature on teacher thinking, Lakatos' idea of a research program is used. Literature on teacher thinking is viewed as a research program, the "hard core" of which is the implicit conception of teaching. Lakatos' idea of "problemshifts" is used to examine the moves from the study of teacher decision making, to teachers' practical knowledge, to teacher reflection. Studies of decision making and practical knowledge are found to be based on a conception of teaching which meets the learning conditions of teaching but not the moral condition, because these studies investigate teachers' knowledge but not their values and beliefs. Several reasons for the lack' of Investigation into values are postulated and explored, among these the possibility that values are seen by researchers as tacitly held and therefore inarticulable. Investigation of Polanyi's idea of tacit knowing leads to the argument that material which is tacitly held can indeed be articulated. The concept of values is then explored and it is argued that teachers' values should be investigated. The main reason why this investigation is important is that teachers' classroom actions and decisions are to a large extent motivated by their values. To understand teacher thinking, it is argued, researchers must understand how teachers' values affect their practice. It is also argued that to change and improve their teaching practice, and to meet the moral condition of teaching, teachers must gain insight into their own values. From the study of practical knowledge, research on teacher thinking is shown to be moving to the study of teachers' reflection on their practice. Work on reflection is in its infancy, but examination of writing on teacher reflection indicates that this research focus may offer potential access to teachers' values in a way that previous research has not. It is suggested that if research into teacher thinking includes teachers reflecting on their values, improvement of practice could result, and the "hard core" of the teacher thinking research program could change to include the moral condition of teaching.

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