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An analysis of teacher professionalism in the early 21st Century, through the emergence of personal learning networks and an online teacher habitus
An analysis of teacher professionalism in the early 21st Century, through the emergence of personal learning networks and an online teacher habitus

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Published by: dafc1885 on Dec 31, 2010
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07/31/2012

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An analysis of teacher professionalism in the early 21
st
Century, through theemergence of personal learning networks and an onlineteacher habitus
David Noble, EdD student at the University of Edinburgh (scot-ed@hotmail.co.uk)December 2010
Introduction
For teachers with anonline personal learning network(PLN), freedom exists to movebeyond the singular occupation, roleor identity, and yet remain identifiable as ateacher. PLNs consist of loose interactions (Wilson, 2008), and fluid and weakspaces, sources of data,and relationships (Hawthornthwaite, 2000). InterrogatingPLNs enableus to recognise the existence of multipleteacher habituses,whichI willlater revealis influencing discourseson professionalism. By teacher habitus,I meanthe structure of teachers’ minds;incorporating schema, dispositions, and modes of work(Bourdieu, 1985a). Habitusis learned or adopted and for teachers this hastraditionally been scaffoldedin and aroundthe classroom and school. In examiningthe online work of teachers, in particular the constructionof artifacts within each of their PLNs,I will argue that asingular teacher habitus, developed at traditional sitesof schooling, is insufficient. By developing an online teacher habitus, contemporarydiscourses on professionalism will better reflect the plurality of sites of teachers’work.Iseek to illustrate and explorethisemergingonline teacher habitus; relating it toexisting core concepts around teacher professionalism, these being,traits,autonomy, managerialism and service. I begin by settingout established notions of teacher professionalism,recognising the ongoing tensionbetweenmanagerialismand autonomy. After illustrating the historicalswingbetween freedom and control of teachers, and the present pervasiveness of school managerialism, I attempt toidentify the historical focus of teacher autonomy. I find that service for the benefit of students’ learning has been an establishedfocusof the autonomous actions of teachers. I go on to show that this relies ona teacher habitus, developed around
 
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sites of schooling,that can no longer be assumed to existin isolationin light of thestratification of the definition ofa teacher,and developments in information andcommunications technologies (ICT).I thenintroduce the emerging practices of teachers who work online around whathas been loosely defined as their individualpersonal learning networks. Herewesee contemporary teacher professionalism through a wider lensthan theestablished,singularschool-based teacher habitus. I show that the new ways of working areseductive, though haveimplications for the focus of teacher action.I begin my analysis of personal learning networks by arguingthat the literature onPLNs lacks criticality,and that there are problems in examining notions of onlinefreedom and autonomythroughusing the metaphor of the network and the recenttheory of connectivism. Afterconsideringhow artifacts and identities (and thereforea type of online teacher habitus) are created withinPLNs, Isuggest that clients of schooling (primarily pupils and parents/carers) will be restricted in their ability toaccess and participate inPLNs as online sites of educational discourse. Oneconsequence of this may be that knowledge in PLNs is constructed for the benefit of individuals within it(likely to be educationists) and that theportabilityof thisknowledge will belimited. I explore how this alters one notion of teacher professionalism;the transformative teacher.Returning to my earlier identification of the focus of traditional teacher autonomy, Ishow that the transformative teacher withanonlineteacherhabitus is foremost anexpert and pre-figurerof change. They arefocused onsystems, pedagogies andtechnologies, not classrooms and the lives of individual students. I develop this ideaby briefly considering another possible new teacher habitus around the concept andwork of the enhancedor extendedpractitioner.In extending the transformative trait of an online teacher habitus, I go on to explorethe implications of the concomitant marketising of individual teachers who worksuccessfully onlineand in their PLN. I suggest that there isan ongoing requirementfor performancewithin a PLN; making one aspect of managerialism, performativity,now present on-as well asoff-linein these teachers’ professional lives.
 
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I conclude by interrogatingthe use of the agora as an alternative to the networkmetaphor, as I consider whether an online teacher habitus canbe reconciled with aschool teacher habitus; thus retaining the core concepts of teacher professionalism.
1.Teacher professionalism within a schoolhabitusConceptions of teacher professionalism
Teacher professionalism is a contested area of educationaltheory,with conceptionsinfluenced by civic societies, stakeholders, economics, political ideologies andprofessional bodies. Early conceptions were influenced by, or aligned with, the earlyprofessions suchasmedicine and law. These professions retain distinctive traitsincluding a discrete body of specialist knowledge, restrictions on entry, and thefreedom to policethemselves. Within discourses on teacher professionalism, eachof these traits has beenchallenged by educational philosophers, teachers, politiciansand employers. Teacher professionalism has continued to be redefined byconceptions of public servicesuch as vocationalism, semi-professionalismanddeprofessionalism.The iterative nature of teacher professionalism is evident. Discourses have reflectedrelated tensions,such as:teacher autonomy versus government control (latterly,managerialism),self-servers versus policy implementers, freedom versusaccountability,and expansiveness versus restrictedness. Following a review of relevantliterature, Menter et al (2010) identified four influential paradigms of teacher professionalism: the transformative teacher, the enquiring teacher, the reflectiveteacher, and the effective teacher. Theychart how each paradigm underlies recentresearch and policy literatureon teacher professionalism. These paradigms appear to run in order from left to right along each of the continuamentioned earlier in thisparagraph.As curricula became more prescriptiveafter the 1960s, there appeared to be a shiftalong to the right of each continuum. However, Lipsky (1980) illustrated thetendency of public sector workers to, at the ‘street level’, reclaim or retain power over 

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