A New Democracy for Professional Development and Research: Learning to Find the Future

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Davies, Anne Carolyn (2005) A New Democracy for Professional Development and Research: Learning to Find the Future. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Known as the Western Melbourne Roundtable, a group of school and university educators worked together for three years during the mid 1990s. The group was established under the umbrella of the Innovative Links Project, a nationally funded project which aimed to develop school-university partnerships focused on innovative practice. In the spirit of professional development and action research they worked collaboratively to improve student learning. Adopting case writing as a strategy for focusing their thinking members of the Roundtable documented their work both in and beyond the classroom. The nature of this work seemed then, as it does now, to be unique in its conception, intention and application. The aim of this study has been to gain a deeper understanding about the work of the Roundtable to see if a model might be developed which would enable the experience to be replicated and developed in diverse learning situations. Following a qualitative analysis of the documentary records, individual and group interviews were conducted to confirm and further explore the emergence of three significant aspects of Roundtable work-dialogue, collaboration and inquiry. A theoretical foundation for the study emerged from the work of three theorists: Jurgen Habermas's theory of communicative action; Anthony Giddens's theory of structuration; and Hannah Arendt's theory of action. Each of these authors has stimulated significant exchange around their ideas and this study seeks to include this dialogue by drawing on the work of Stephen Kemmis; feminist theorists including Jane Braaten and Joan B Landes; Andy Hargreaves; and geographers including Linda McDowell, Neil Smith and Doreen Massey. Seeking connections and distinctions between the qualitative material and the theoretical framework, the research process has revealed an attitude to learning which was inclusive, expressive, interactive and cognitive. As a result of adopting this attitude and creating four democratic spaces for action-contextual, dialogic, collaborative and inquiring-participants in the Roundtable engaged in learning which was connected, intimate, cooperative and creative. By combining these layers of understanding, it has been possible to suggest a new theory for professional development and research which meets the challenge of learning to find the future.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/530
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 330000 Education
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Education
Keywords democracy; professional development; innovative practice
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