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An evaluation of the transferability of the interpretive approach to teachers’ continuing professional development

By Joyce Miller


This is a practitioner research project set in the humanities faculty\ud of a school in a northern town where riots took place in 2001. The\ud aim was to evaluate the transferability of the interpretive approach\ud to teachers’ continuing professional development and to see how\ud far it increased their understanding of and relationship with their\ud local communities.\ud Qualitative data were gathered using a range of methods including\ud participant observation, semi-structured interviews and\ud questionnaires. The teachers engaged in ethnographic-type\ud activities in their participant observation of groups and interviews\ud with representatives and their students. The principles of the\ud interpretive approach – representation, interpretation and\ud reflexivity – underpinned the design of the programme and the data\ud analysis.\ud The research found that teachers’ understanding of the diversity of\ud communities was increased. There was little evidence of increased\ud understanding of ‘the group’ in relation to individuals and the\ud tradition. There was little formal evidence of a deeper understanding\ud of concepts, of ‘oscillation’ or of personal edification. There were\ud significant professional benefits in increased confidence, dealing\ud with controversial issues and in developing community education.\ud The teachers demonstrated open-mindedness and a positive attitude to\ud pluralism.\ud Further questions about the inter-connectedness of religion and\ud culture and the interpretation of religious texts were raised and\ud there was critical engagement with aspects of community life, including\ud the place of women. The research identifies the need for a more\ud informed critique of and engagement with the presuppositions that\ud underpin discourse on minority communities. The teachers recognised\ud the need for the whole school staff to undergo the same process and\ud understood that this would be a long-term enterprise.\ud The conclusion is drawn that the interpretive approach can be applied to\ud teachers’ CPD and that it increases their understanding of and\ud relationship with their communities, though some anticipated outcomes\ud were not realised

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