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Mothers’ knowledge and their experiences of its reception in schools: a conversation with sixteen mother/teachers Tyler, Janet Patricia


Hon., Trinity College Dublin, 1973 The problem addressed in the study is the low status afforded women’s knowledge in public institutions. Specifically, the purpose was to investigate the form and substance of knowledge acquired through motherhood, and mothers’ experiences of the reception of the knowledge in schools. The political aim was to promote mothers’ knowledge as deserving authoritative status. Post-modern feminist theory framed theses regarding a tension involving two areas of mothers’ knowledge -- named “authoritative knowledge” and “maternal knowledge” -- and informed the reflexive methodology employed. Participants were sixteen women teachers who were or had been mothers of schoolchildren. Each mother/teacher participated in two one and a half hour audiotaped interviews. Following the interviews, eleven of the mother/teachers met for audiotaped group discussions. The data indicated that mother/teachers take to schools a wealth of maternal knowledge acquired through both childraising and living a mother’s life. Participants claimed the knowledge is valuable to their work as teachers. They reported difficulty, however, with respect to both reception and proclamation of the knowledge in school decision-making forums. They attributed the difficulty to various causes. Participants’ talk contained key words such as “instinct” which can be diversely conceived and expressed. That the words may be readily interpreted in ways harmful to promotion of maternal knowledge was noted by the researcher through critical reflection upon her own thinking. The words, the multiplicity of concepts associated with them, and the importance of recognizing this impediment to promoting maternal knowledge, became the topic for group discussion. The findings imply that maternal knowledge could enhance the critical capabilities of frameworks which guide decision-making in educational administration; that maternal knowledge should be explained and promoted during administrator and teacher professional development; and that the notion of the tension within mother/teachers’ knowledge could be usefully applied in several areas of education research. A mismatch was revealed between many participants’ career standings and their experiences and knowledge of value to schools. This implies that when thinking about employment equity for school personnel we need to recognize that being equally qualified may not necessarily mean possessing the same qualifications.

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