Embodiment in teacher education: widening the field

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Murphy, Paula
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University College Cork
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In recent years, there has been an increased interest in and acknowledgement of the embodied nature of teaching and learning within the field of education. While such understandings have also become more evident within the literature on teacher education, the dialogue between research and practice in this domain is still in its infancy. Furthermore, in light of traditional dualistic influences within this field, there is evidence that the role of more embodied modes of engagement in the education of teachers is becoming a theoretical point of concern. This is particularly evident within a number of probing texts on the role and nature of aesthetic education and identity formation in the teacher education process. In view of such considerations, this doctoral study explores the ways in which principles and practices from the field of somatic education may support the professional development of student teachers in the context of an arts education module at Dublin City University (DCU). As such, it contributes to a relatively new dialogue between three complementary fields of enquiry – somatic education, arts education, and teacher education. The methodological approach to the study is qualitative in nature and reflects an ontological and epistemological orientation that is grounded in embodied and situated principles of enquiry. More particularly, it entails a phenomenological case study approach to three iterations of a new and evolving module on embodiment, which I facilitated with student teachers over a two-year period. It also includes a complementary engagement with the principles of autoethnography, aesthetic-based research and somatic education itself. While the data for analysis included engagement with content from a range of sources to include reflective journals and post-module questionnaires, one of the most significant features of the data collection process was a series of in-depth interviews which drew on aesthetic and embodied modalities informed by the somatic education tradition. This research thereby seeks to contribute to and extend modalities of engagement within the phenomenological and aesthetic-based research traditions from an embodiment perspective. A thematic analysis approach was used to review the data and generate the findings for the study. These indicate that the dedicated somatic emphasis of the module was linked with a newfound somatic awareness and responsivity in participants, which seemed to generate perceptual and dispositional shifts in the areas of artistry, reflection, identity, and relational attunement. From a teacher education perspective these represent significant features of an effective teacher’s tacit engagement within the professional space, and are complex to teach due to their interaction with issues of personhood and disposition. In light of such ambitions, this study affirms the significance of the arts in the teacher education process, and more particularly it supports the inclusion of an enhanced somatic emphasis within this domain.
Embodiment , Teacher education , Somatic education , Arts education
Murphy, P. 2024. Embodiment in teacher education: widening the field. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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