Exploring teacher learning through memory work in a teacher development studies postgraduate programme : a narrative inquiry.
The South African education system prior to democracy in 1994 was influenced by the apartheid ideology. Since 1994, various educational reforms were introduced by the new democratic Government. In order to democratise education and eliminate the inequalities of the past, teachers are negotiating their learning and unlearning through a variety of self-driven initiatives. South African teachers’ lives are a rich storehouse of information and tapping into this treasure trove of teachers’ memories through memory work has rewarding effects for teaching and learning. This study explores teacher learning through memory work in a Teacher Development Studies (TDS) postgraduate programme at a university in South Africa. The main purpose was to gain a deeper understanding of what and how memory work has enabled teacher learning on a personal, professional and social level and whether this elicited change in the teachers’ lives - how they feel, what they think and how they act in the position they inhabit in South African schools. This qualitative research study was located within an interpretivist paradigm using narrative inquiry as a methodology. Four postgraduate teacher participants teaching in various schools were purposively selected for this study. All participants had completed the Bachelor of Education Honours programme at a university in KwaZulu-Natal. Drawing on multiple methods and strategies that included open-ended, unstructured interviews, portfolio inquiry and collage inquiry, data was generated to reconstruct four storied narratives of teachers’ lived lives and their learning. The analysis revealed that in the postgraduate programme that the participants completed, the module employed memory work as a pedagogical tool, and this afforded them certain opportunities that engaged them in the active process of remembering and revising their memories in the process of creating a new image of themselves as South African teachers. In getting to understand their personal and professional self through memory work, learning became more meaningful and the participants responded to change. Teacher learning through story-telling, we conclude is an important pedagogical tool to link the past to the present for the future. The module enabled the participants to tell their stories and learn about themselves, and healing became part of their learning. In healing, they learnt to recreate themselves as people and as teachers. Teachers’ personal, professional and social learning worked in entangled, non-linear ways because of the processes and conditions that were set up and that evolved spontaneously through the process of memory work. It is these conditions in which teacher learning through memory work happens, that makes the potential for reinvention possible. The relationships that were built between the teacher learners extended to different spaces. Teacher learning happens collectively and individually in physical and virtual ways. Teacher learning for development and change is a non-linear, complex and mediated process.