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Book Review:

The Art of Classroom Enquiry (2003)
Hubbard, S. and Power, B.M.
USA, Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Press

Right from the contents page this book sings out an invitation to engage creatively in teacher research: here is a hint of the passion that has resulted in this superb handbook that offers such a rich read:

Chapter 1: Try to love the questions themselves: Finding and Framing a Research Question

Chapter 3: The Artist's Toolbox: Strategies for Data Collection

Chapter 5:The Legacy of Distant Teachers:Creative Review of Literature

There is an excitement in the way that good solid advice is communicated by the authors. You have the impression that both, professors well published in their filed, really enjoyed writing this text. This is a re-edition of the first version published in 1993 and to quote the text 'the previous one grew out of work early in our careers with novice teacher-researchers..' and you glimpse the maturing and matured commitment to enable the voices of classroom practitioners to be heard in the Academy alongside high quality research by faculty-based academics. It is the humour that runs through the book that makes it such compulsive reading. Consider this excerpt:

'We find ourselves dismayed with some new editions of books we've treasured over the years that are expanded or so greatly changed as to become wholly new texts. These books bring to mind gracefully aging actresses who go into a panic over a few wrinkles. Plastic surgery renders them unrecognizable ... we didn't want to make the same mistake with our book. The newest references aren't always the best references, an we knew that many aspects of the original text resonate with readers and needed to be preserved.' Page ix

Confidence arises from profound experience in supporting teacher researchers ad there is a celebration of co-enquiry that shines throughout the work.

'Here is the revised edition, filled with the stories of up-all-night teacher researchers - warts and all. We are thankful to the hundreds of teachers over the past decade who have chosen to invest time, wisdom and passion into their research. They have been our teachers as well as our research informants. Any improvement from the first edition belong to them ...' Page xi

I feel empathy towards the values that underpin the writing of this handbook - values that promote and extend 'the growing worldwide network of teacher researchers' much as my own website intends to do. There are accessible and eminently readable justifications for teacher research and simple and comprehensive guidance for practitioners engaging in researching their own work. The authors are careful not to make false claims about the scope and potential impact of classroom enquiries - and share their insights with evident joy.

' recognize you have much to learn from your students and their communities
approach your teaching always with a sense of enquiry, framing questions about your students and their needs to guide your teaching
have a willingness to share your story. Other teachers need to know what you have learned and how you have gained your wisdom.' Page xvi

Realistic insights frame the text and set the context for what can be a bumpy reception when teachers voice their knowledge especially when it conflicts with accepted wisdom from universities ...

'Teachers and many researchers who work in university settings will probably never fully agree on the value of different types of research -
an important note for would be researchers who have difficulty comprehending the paradigm wars that rage in higher education institutions!

'Like Picasso, teacher-researchers are heading a revolution in art - the modern art of teaching. We are looking at research possibilities from new angles. We are redefining our roles, rejecting the small and impoverished models of research that attempt to 'turn classroom inquiry into a pseudo-scientific horse race, (Atwell, 1991) Page xvii

Though I feel we are entering a new surge of interest and support for teacher research in the UK we still struggle to understand
the demise of the Best Practice Research Scholarships Scheme that enabled so much knowledge creation by practising teachers.

This is not intended to be a linear text to follow through slavishly as a study guide. you simply dip into it as and where you need to whether it is to improve and inform your skills in data analysis (Chapter 4) writing up research (Chapter 6) and accessing resources for teacher researchers (Appendix E). In my experience, identifying suitable questions for a teacher enquiry that are both of immediate relevance and appropriate scope can be a daunting experience for many teachers. Here the models of possible questions on Page 2 demystify the process of narrowing down the focus. From tips to forming school enquiry groups (page 179) and using video (page 96) if I could have only one book to support teacher research from the current panoply on offer -
this would probably be it!

 

 

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