Identifying an area of professional concern

When practitioners undertake research into their own practice and seek to improve aspects of that practice or to improve their understanding of it as they seek to generate new theory (McNiff and Whitehead, 2009a), one step they take is to identify an area of professional concern or interest.

This area of professional concern may be something that is causing anxiety for the practitioner or it may be an area that the teacher feels needs some investigation or indeed it can be an area that the teacher feels should be celebrated. A closely related phase of the research process seeks to identify why this issue is of concern to the practitioner (see Whitehead and McNiff 2006).

Whitehead (1989) talks about experiencing oneself as a ‘living contradiction’, a term he uses to describe occasions when we might not be acting out our values in our practice as we could or should. Sometimes, when we experience ourselves as a living contradiction in a certain aspect of our practice, we  can tell that this might an area of professional concern.

Establishing why an issue is of concern or is attracting your attention usually involves some deep reflection on the chosen area of interest. It also calls for critical thinking on the part of the practitioner and sometimes requires ‘digging deep’ into their own beliefs and everyday practices. Moon (2004: 100) explains that in-depth reflection is characterised by an ‘increasing ability to frame and reframe internal and external experience with openness and flexibility’.

This idea of seeing our work through a new lens, is kernal to the action research process.

(adapted from: McDonagh, C., Sullivan, B., Roche, M. and Glenn, M. (2012) Enhancing Practice through Professional Development: A teachers’ guide to classroom research. London: Routledge).

Moon, J. (2004) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning,London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Whitehead, J. (1989) ‘Creating a Living Educational Theory from Questions of the Kind, “How do I improve my Practice?”’ Cambridge Journal of Education 19 (1), 137-153, Online. Whitehead, J. and McNiff, J. (2006) Action Research Living Theory, London: Sage Publications.

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