Power and identity in theory-practice relationships : an exploration of teachers' work through qualitative research.
This thesis provides two interwoven sets of detailed descriptions with narrative lines. The first relates to five case studies involving secondary school teachers in schools in and around Durban during 1993 and 1994. This account focuses on the relationships between the teachers' thinking about knowledge and learning and their classroom practice. The second account describes the processes and difficulties involved in qualitative research incorporating case study and participant observation methodologies - from gaining access to schools and developing a task to access teachers' thinking about knowledge to acquiring skills for observation, writing lesson descriptions, conducting interviews and completing different levels of analysis. In essence, this account traces the development of the researcher during the course of this project and also highlights both the strengths and the weaknesses of qualitative research as a mode of social inquiry. Analysis of theory/practice relationships in each of these descriptions is centred around issues of power and identity, the data collected during the course of the fieldwork being used to develop grounded theory. The work of George H. Mead, Michel Foucault and Thomas Popkewitz provide the basis for the concept of power identity. The relational and shifting nature of power and its role in identity and theory/practice relationships - both in the work of the five teachers work and in qualitative research - is explored. In the former, seven interrelated components of power are identified and the ways in which these strengthen and limit teachers' power identities are described. In the latter, the connections between epistemology and research methodology and the similarities between qualitative research and local criticism are highlighted together with the critical roles played by contradiction, language and reflexivity. Finally, the insights gained about theory/practice relationships and power identity are extended to provide possibilities for conceptualising rationality and teacher education. The thesis is structured so as to capture both the contradictory elements and the shifts and developments that occurred during the study - those in the work of the participating teachers during the period of collaboration and those related to my personal epistemology and my practice as a qualitative researcher.