My own expression of teacher research consists of a blending of the highly personal with the academic, clearly, a "blurred genre," to use the term of anthropologist Clifford Geertz, a place where I have found my "voice." Much of my struggle with the NCSALL Practitioner Research Staff Development project, particularly after my initial topic dissolved (discussed in the next two sections) revolved around the conflict between my understanding of teacher research and what I perceived as the facilitator's expectations, based on a more "data" driven conception grounded in a social science model. The facilitator hoped that I could move outside the zone of my comfort level, as she was defining that, and "muck around with real data." Without problemetizing the matter of what counts as "data," to what I would include the data of inner consciousness, that was a direction I had no particular inclination to move into as a useful end in itself. It was not that I was unconcerned with "data," but that I was more interested in identifying a problem or issue to probe that I would find intrinsically worth investigating, which would then lead me to draw on whatever methodologies, modes of analysis, and critical reflection that would shed light on the topic at hand.
I have previously written much about my experience as a practitioner through a strong theoretical lens. My published essays, several of them based on my own teaching or program management experience, have emerged after a certain passage of time that has enabled me to obtain a more holistic grasp of my subject matter through a combination of critical analysis and theoretical framing of the relevant data under investigation. I muck around with data daily as a practitioner and subject much of it to critical scrutiny within the logic of practice in the effort to work out specific problems or programmatic directions as seemingly viable within the contexts out of which I operate. However, little of what I do on a daily basis in my workplace rises for me to the level of what I would refer to as research, practitioner-focused or otherwise. In this role I operate out of a different motivational and rhetorical dynamic than when engaged in what I view as disciplined-based scholarship, which contains a strong theoretical focus grounded in formal academic discourse even if the topic matter is the analysis of my own practice and experiential probing. No doubt, this is a limitation of my own self-perception. Nonetheless, it is an inevitable starting point out of which I am required to operate if I am to make sense of my own experience, even as I achieve a degree of transcendence through the autobiographical genre, which nonetheless remains problematic on a number of counts.
For my own practice of teacher research, I have drawn extensively on the pragmatic philosophy of John Dewey to interpret the phenomenon of adult literacy, initially at the Bob Steele Reading Center, a site-based, LVA small group tutoring program, in Hartford, CT where I served as its program manager for eight years. In coming to terms with the experience of the Reading Center, I had always drawn in part on academic knowledge, particularly social philosophy and educational theory to think through what I observed and attempted to establish on site. There was nothing new in this approach for me as I had always attempted to interpret my life-experience either through academic or theological reflections, as indicated in some of the essays in my Passages Through the Stream of Time (Demetrion, 1995) which can be accessed at (http://www.ctconfucc.org/resources/theology/).
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