Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • McEwan, H. (1995). Narrative understanding in the study of teaching. In H. McEwan & K. Egan (Eds.), Narrative in teaching, learning, and research (pp. 166-183). New York: Teachers College Press.

McEwan tells a story about the philosophy of teaching and the empirical study of teaching. The story begins with these two fields being distanced from the practice of teaching and ends with the notion that, through a narrative approach, they can be reconciled with teaching practice. The two themes of his story are (1) the conflict between philosophers and those who study teaching and (2) the quest for a logical description of the essential nature of teachers' thinking. McEwan begins the story with the conflict between philosophers and the proponents of behavioral objectives, and then moves to the essentialist project in philosophy that aimed to understand teachers' thinking processes. McEwan says that the focus was too narrow, that by limiting the inquiry to what goes on in teachers' heads, the rich social contexts in which teaching takes place were minimized. He also notes that this research agenda suggested that we could improve teaching by getting teachers to think in the right way, as if there was one right way. As he continues his story, he describes new forms research on teaching, research that aims at interpretation instead of analysis. This movement represents a move from the search for a theory of teaching toward an exploration of the multitude of ways that teaching can be meaningfully understood. He concludes with an exploration of narrative as a link between research (theory) and practice. One consequence of this approach is the realization that stories have the power to change practice.

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