Critical spirit manifestations in TAFE teachers and their work

Tyler, Mark A. (2009) Critical spirit manifestations in TAFE teachers and their work. [Thesis (PhD/Research)]

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This thesis reports on research conducted with Technical and Further Education (TAFE) teachers from Queensland and Western Australia. The research is located at
the intersection where teachers’ identities met the discourse of new vocationalism. Scholars have highlighted the tensions that this discourse has produced in the
relationships between TAFE and its teachers, and noted that TAFE teachers are pressured to change their subjectivities to reflect themselves more effectively as
workers in an educational market focused on economic imperatives. This is often in contrast to these teachers’ personal notions of themselves as liberal educators, with a
focus on lifelong learning, personal transformation, collaborative relationships and social responsibility. This research was driven by the possibility that the concept of ‘critical spirit’ might provide a means for TAFE teachers to stand their ground in relation to the continued reshaping of the TAFE teacher terrain produced by the adoption of the new vocational discourse.

This interpretative research was conceptualised by synthesising sociocultural perspectives of discourse as a reality building tool (Gee, 2005) with notions of critical
thinker dispositions referred to as critical spirit (Siegel, 1988; Oxman-Michelli, 1992). The elements of critical spirit: openmindedness, independence of mind,
wholeheartedness, intellectual responsibility and respect for others (Oxman-Michelli,1992) were used as central components to the development of a coding framework for
the explication of critical spirit from TAFE teacher artefacts and in positioning critical spirit as a discourse. An examination of 12 TAFE teacher case narrative artefacts revealed that elements of critical spirit were evident. Subsequent participant
credibility checks and semi-structured interviews provided diverse data related to teacher embodiment of a critical spirit in relation to the building of certain teacher identities. In some cases participants expressed that their identities were bolstered by engaging in a critical spirit discourse, others cautioned its public embodiment, suggesting that deploying critical spirit made them more visible to surveillance and control. The major finding of this research was that an explicit engagement with a
critical spirit discourse was of value to these TAFE teachers. Furthermore, this critical spirit discourse was seen to perform the work of a borderland discourse (Gee, 2005; Alsup, 2006). It afforded a means to traverse the terrain “between disparate personal and professional subjectivities” (Alsup, 2006, p. 5).

The research also uncovered other discourses pertinent to participant artefacts. These were identified as a test of fortitude discourse and a community of support discourse.
It was postulated that these would extend the critical spirit discourse by adding to Oxman-Michelli’s (1992) five elements of critical spirit. The findings suggested little
evidence to support this position.

The significance of this research was in: (a) the production of a methodological construct for explicating particular notions of critical spirit; (b) its contribution to furthering understandings of the professional lives of TAFE teachers and their work
world; and (c) the value that a critical spirit discourse had in strengthening these TAFE teachers’ notions of themselves and their effectiveness. Its contribution to
substantial knowledge was in its expansion of our understanding of teacher identities within the Vocational Education and Training sector in Australia.

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Item Type: Thesis (PhD/Research)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Education (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Education (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Supervisors: Danaher, Patrick
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2009 03:27
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2016 03:04
Uncontrolled Keywords: TAFE; teachers; TAFE teachers; Technical and Further Education; Technical and Further Education teachers; Queensland; Western Australia; vocationalism
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators
13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130213 Vocational Education and Training Curriculum and Pedagogy
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130108 Technical, Further and Workplace Education
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390307 Teacher education and professional development of educators
39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390114 Vocational education and training curriculum and pedagogy
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390308 Technical, further and workplace education

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