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Linking the wellbeing of learners to educator practice - a process of inquiry: *learning to love the questions *what wants to emerge’? Leigh Burrows 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "Linking the wellbeing of learners to educator practice - a process of inquiry: *learning to love the questions *what wants to emerge’? Leigh Burrows 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 Linking the wellbeing of learners to educator practice - a process of inquiry: *learning to love the questions *what wants to emerge’? Leigh Burrows 2007

2 Forms of inquiry… Ranging from: larger research studies in universities eg FUSA on wellbeing- involving students, teachers, parents and providing information to school communities – ‘evidence based’- qualitative/quantitative to in-depth action research or other inquiries by teachers inquiring into their own practice Teachers are engaged in informal forms of inquiry a great deal of the time in the form of personal reflection and discussion with colleagues

3 Yet there can be a certain tension… Teachers are often engaged in a form of inquiry, or self- questioning and reflection, yet at the same time, they are often supposed somehow, to already to ‘know’ the answer’….or they think they are expected to. This is of course paradoxical.. But teachers needing to feel as if they ‘know’ could partly explain why they can sometimes find it difficult to leave space for inquiry, waiting to see ‘what wants to emerge.’ ‘Different ways of knowing’ can help to inform and enrich the inquiry process

4 Sometimes teachers seem to already know the answer to the questions they ask and the reason for asking is rhetorical or pedagogical, and not necessarily as a genuine inquiry.

5 ‘What colour are apples?’ the teacher asked her year one class ‘White, Miss’

6 But the youngster insisted. ‘Look inside’ he finally said. (Bennett - Goleman 2001) The teacher patiently EXPLAINED that apples were red, or green or sometimes yellow but never white.

7 But what is inquiry research? Concept of educators as inquirers into professional practice Consistent with Dewey’s (1929) notion that knowledge for teaching involves inquiry into problems of practice as the basis for professional judgement grounded in both theoretical and practical knowledge Dewey argued that if teachers investigate the effects of their teaching on students’ learning and if they study what others have learned, they come to understand teaching to be inherently non-routine behaviour They then become more sensitive to variation and aware of what works for what purposes in what situations

8 For Mason, (2002) in Researching your own practice, the process of inquiry is not a collection of assertions of uncertain generality, but rather a way of working which may enhance sensitivity to notice, or in other words, educate awareness.

9 ‘Hunting assumptions’ (Brookfield, 1995) The reflective habit – without it we run the risk of taking action on unexamined assumptions ‘ Of course we know what is going on in our classrooms.. We’ve been doing this for years.’ ‘ Oh yes, J – he’s not too happy, I know, and he’s isolated, but if he came to school more often, he’s his own worst enemy. He can do the work, he just doesn’t try’.

10 The value of inquiry on the small scale for teachers An inquiry approach can help to look deeply at our own context, and be guided by our own questions, our own reflections- helping for example to tailor instruction for a particular child, looking at what happens when we try a new intervention It can be empowering as it can help us to look more deeply, examine our assumptions and resist going for quick fix strategies Connecting us with our own resources And building a sense of ourselves as powerful agents

11 Through the DECS inquiry into spiritual wellbeing as part of the development of the Learner Wellbeing Framework we found teachers wanted to know more about what this working with this dimension might look like in practice. In two papers/presentations I explored this through a consideration of the literature and feedback to the inquiry – but I had yet not consciously begun to draw on myself and my own experience of working with this dimension as a resource in any more formal kind of inquiry.

12 Brookfield (1995) suggests in his work on the ‘reflective and skilful teacher’ that we challenge the idea that the answers to our questions are always out there waiting to be discovered outside our experience. Certainly, I came to the point where I felt that I needed to stop reading quite so many books and trying to gain knowledge from other people. I had a dream I was surrounded by piles of books that were blocking my way somehow !

13 As one teacher put it… ‘ Through searching for my own questions and listening to my own responses, I had struggled, not for the approval of an external voice of authority, but for that of the inner voice, the one to which I could listen not just for a few months, but for a lifetime.’ (Brookfield, 1995) ‘ We listen for guidance everywhere except from within.’ Parker Palmer (2000)

14 ‘ In every learner, in every person, there are creative sources of energy and meaning that are often tacit, hidden or denied.’ Moustakas (2001) Educare -to draw out

15 Learning to love the questions ….. I decided to learn to love the questions as Rilke suggested and begin to use myself as a resource: my own background, experience, reading, learning, intuition, dreams, creativity to look into the question of what a spiritual approach to wellbeing could look like for myself and other teachers who might like to participate in my inquiry.

16 One method of inquiry Heuristic inquiry: I chose this method because it seemed to offer the opportunity for me to engage in disciplined self searching and self reflection, and to surrender to that process, consciously and creatively. My question: How can I bring the spiritual dimension of wellbeing and learning more into my work in education and what could this look like?

17 The heuristic process (Moustakas,1990) 1.Choose a text or practice for engagement- with no expectation of what will emerge, only the basic belief that something will. 2.Engage with the text/practice, participating as deeply as possible in the experience 3.Indwell over an extended period, by exploration and discernment, follow leads to material outside that chosen, but always returning to the main focus of the study 4.Sift through and gather together the materials and experiences, allowing tacit knowing in a range of insights, meanings and themes to emerge 5.Reflect on the authenticity of these insights, meanings and themes, perhaps working back through earlier phases 6. Formulate a creative synthesis of the inquiry that reflects both participation and inquiry

18 A period of confusion…

19 I was not at all sure quite where all this would lead me: I didn’t know if it would centre around my work with teachers, or student teachers, or my course writing, university teaching, resource writing - or case work for children who challenge the system.. This decision was made for me in a sense when I was asked to take ‘a fresh look’ at a particularly challenging case, as I had been before….. but this time was a little different, as my dreams and a number of synchronicities began to let me know. The heuristic process began to unfold –and I was almost a witness to it as well as an active participant….

20 I decided that I could use the experience of connectedness and meaning making already in myself and others as a resource and a starting place – to inquire into I might be able to facilitate an improvement in wellbeing for this child and his family - with the aim of drawing out the most significant elements to support other ‘cases’.

21 So, the situation… A child who had not been attending school for more than 2 hours a day for 5 years Worked with an SSO on his own Wanted to be with other children Intelligence, artistic and dramatic ability – a child in need of special care Very sensitive Autism, language disorder, epilepsy, trauma Extreme behavioural issues - violence Extreme avoidance in relation to learning Lots of professional input previously Many agencies involved High levels of frustration Communication breakdown- ‘trench wars’ ‘Difficult’ parents – diagnosed with depression Seemingly insurmountable obstacles A situation of crisis proportions- very problem focused The system severely challenged Parents at the end of their tether

22 What is ‘ a fresh look’ for me? Trying to empty the mind of assumptions, opinions Being open to new information from within and without Meeting with the key people involved and the child – in different places Finding out their interests and strengths Thinking of ways to use these as resources Using my own strengths as resources Listening, being empathic Not judging, being respectful Pay attention to gut instincts, intuitions, dreams, hunches Not looking for a quick fix Being prepared to ‘sit in the fire’ Connecting people and information Bringing an holistic view Boundary crossing Being authentic Thinking with a solution-focused oriented rather than a problem-focused one

23 A professional will be most useful to the child and his or her family when she uses her own imagination to help make sense of why this child presents with this pattern of behaviour at this time. (Jureidini,2007)

24 Strengths and resources already in the family Art, painting, drawing Story telling Poetry Writing Communication/writing skills via email Intelligence Knowledge of the child Willingness to work with me/trust me Commitment Valuing of education & awareness of its importance

25 ‘Deep democracy’ (Mindell, 2000) a psycho-social-political paradigm and methodology-’sitting in the fire’ suggests that all voices, states of awareness, and frameworks of reality are important. a process of flow in which all actors on the stage are needed to create the play that we are watching. striving to foster a deeper level of dialogue and inclusivity that is open to allowing space for various and competing views, tensions, feelings, and styles of communication supports awareness of relative rank, power, and privilege and the ways in which these tend to marginalize various views, individuals, and groups. (valuable understanding that what you are feeling probably matches what they are feeling)

26 At the heart of the heuristic lies an emphasis on disclosing the self as a way of facilitating disclosure from others – a response to the tacit dimension within oneself sparks a similar call from others. (Douglass & Moustakas, 1985)

27 An inquiry into: ‘Accessing the inaccessible’ Through an in-depth inquiry into her experience of working intensively with a child and his family, teachers, health and welfare professionals, the researcher aims to develop a holistic, multi-dimensional, flexible, creative and innovative approach that that can be used by schools and educational and health systems to assist in developing holistic interventions that address wellbeing issues for children and young people at risk.

28 Initial inquiry findings through reflection & feedback from parents & professionals Initial research findings so far are suggesting strongly that this approach has the potential to allow people to open up due to its playful, connected, traditional, story telling, creative and light approach Not a bandaid approach, sustainable- not a quick fix but seems to be staying fixed- with ongoing support Tying spiritual and emotional wellbeing into therapeutic ways of working Not power over – working with, partnerships, relationships Dialoguing approach with family establishes trust and relationships Co-constructed – attachment issues are minimised through working with parent – eg Max and the Knight

29 Initial inquiry findings continued Strengths based/solution/future oriented approach allows for a new optimistic story about child and parents, to emerge, and to break with the past Using existing strengths builds family capacity – eg illustrations for the book Support for the school from the system builds capacity Sharing understandings through working closely with medical/social work/disability agencies builds relationships, networks and partnerships Using metaphor (of course you can do it!) and the arts helps to build inner resources leading to more self efficacy and greater resilience Arts in the community approach draws different groups and agencies working with the family together eg book launch Listening to parents’ hopes and dreams cuts through the past and any negativity Greater confidence in myself to follow intuition, listen to dreams, value ‘chance encounters’, chance readings, links with others – allow myself to be led, to be open

30 Increased levels of wellbeing Now happily going to school- is having first ever birthday party with friends from school. He is saying ‘my class’, ‘my friends’ for the first time ever (different school, fresh start) Participating in swimming classes with his class Teachers finding him a joy to work with- and are building capacity to work through any challenges Singing again – not since kindergarten Sleeping better Nowhere near as anxious Building resiliency – ‘if I fall down I get up again!’ Greater independence, riding to school, leaving mother at the end of the street. Coping well with the ups and downs of school life Beginning to let things go, move on No behaviour issues

31 Wellbeing improvements Language improving – words returning Seizures decreasing in incidence, duration and severity (medicos have no scientific reason for improvement Memory improving Much less stressed Learning to read Learning how to take turns, play with others- being with children not carers/SSOs Sharing artistic ability – designs Parents beginning to get on with their own lives Higher levels of wellbeing and less stress all round!

32 Essentially in the heuristic process I am creating a story that portrays the qualities, meanings and essences of universally unique experiences. (Moustakas 1990)

33 References Brookfield, S (1995) Becoming a critically reflective teacher Jossey Bass San Francisco Douglass, B & Moustakas, C (1985) Heuristic Inquiry: the internal search to know, J Humanistic Psychology, 25, pp39-55 Mason, J (2002) in Researching your own practice: he Discipline of Noticing Routledge Falmer London Mindell, A (2000) Deep Democracy Moustakas,C (1990 ) Heuristic Research: Design, methodology and applications. Sage. Roh, K What wants to emerge? in (Mitchell, D., 2005) Evaluation, Homework and Teacher Support Waldorf Journal Project AWSNA Wilber, K., (2001) Integral Psychology Shambalha Boston Contact details: Leigh Burrows burrows.leigh@saugov.sa.gov.au leigh.burrows@flinders.edu.au


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