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Reflexivities of Discomfort in Teacher Professional Development in Tanzania

Mon, April 15, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront D


Western schooling, broadly conceived, is undoubtedly one of the most enduring colonial legacies, and its impact on the curriculum, language of instruction, and testing regimes continues to be keenly felt around the world. During the past decade, the fields of education and critical development studies have begun to move beyond the study of colonialism’s vestigial effects on the content and organization of schooling to examine its ongoing influence on the production, codification, and dissemination of knowledge itself.

This paper contributes to this dialogue by analysing three pedagogical narratives as the means to explore questions generated by concomitant post-colonial inquiry: Who is authorized to determine meaningful categories of knowledge? Who does or does not have ready access to new knowledge about these categories? Who is positioned to convey this ‘modern’ information to others? What pedagogies should be utilised in teaching and learning new information and processes?

The paper utilises narrative inquiry to examine reflexively the roles of two scholars/teacher educators involved in education and international development initiatives. Both authors have extensive involvement in teacher professional development in Tanzania through multiple programs aimed at reforming pedagogical processes. Through narratives of lived experiences in the field, the authors consider critically their complicit roles in maintaining or perpetuating knowledge production and dissemination processes that are rooted in colonial systems. The paper engages with recent debates concerning efforts to decolonise educational processes, most particularly teaching and learning in postcolonial contexts.

Specifically, we aim to contribute to the advancement of postcolonial studies in education through foregrounding analysis of teachers’ ‘modes of knowing,’ meaning how knowledge for teachers is produced, and how and by whom it is disseminated (Quijano, 2007, p. 169). We also aim to de-imperialise our own practices as U.S.-educated and First World-based researchers and teacher educators who have played a central role in promoting a particular approach to teaching and learning—learner-centred pedagogy (LCP)—without sufficiently engaging with the ‘epistemological diversity’ evident among participants in the TPD process (de Sousa Santos et al 2007, xix). Although we remain firmly committed to the emancipatory potential of LCP to stimulate critical thought and action by students and teachers (see, for example, Schweisfurth, 2013), our goal is to examine our complicit promotion of a ‘universal’ pedagogical approach. Toward learning ‘not to repeat the mistake of an imperialist knowledge paradigm that maps an abstract and universal theoretical framework onto the earth’, we employ narrative inquiry and our own reflexive practice as a means to, ideally, ‘learn not to repeat’ it in our own work and practice (Chen, 2010, p. 64). Pillow terms this intellectual work ‘reflexivities of discomfort’ (2003, p. 188), which comprises employing reflexivity as more than just a method for increasing rigour or validity, but ‘pushes us to question and deconstruct what is most hegemonic in our lives’ (2010, p. 278). In sum, we aver that such discomfort and reflexivity is part of any serious critique of the politics of knowledge production and dissemination in which education scholars and practitioners, such as ourselves, are implicated.


Chen, K. H. (2010). Asia as method: Toward deimperialization. Duke University Press.
Pillow, W. (2003). Confession, catharsis, or cure? Rethinking the uses of reflexivity as methodological power in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 16(2), 175-196.
Pillow, W. (2010). Dangerous reflexivity: Rigour, responsibility and reflexivity in qualitative research. In P. Thomson & M. Walker (Eds.), The Routledge doctoral student’s companion (pp. 270-82). London: Routledge.
Quijano, A. (2007). Coloniality and modernity/rationality. Cultural studies, 21(2-3), 168-178.
Schweisfurth, M. (2013). Learner-centred education in international perspective: Whose pedagogy for whose development? London: Routledge.
Vavrus, F., Bartlett, L., & Salema, V. (2013). Introduction. In Teaching in Tension (pp. 1-22). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.


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