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Title: Moving in a narrative space : dental practitioners developing professionally in and out of ICT
Author: McDonald, Julie Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 2723 1052
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2012
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This narrative inquiry grew from my concerns that the voices of dental practitioners were going unheard in movements to reform professional development, in particular through information and communication technology (ICT). Recently, professional development policy has been driven by calls for a greater use of ICT for education, healthcare and professional development. However, from casual conversations in my own practice and with colleagues, I noted tensions that raised questions on the rationale underpinning many of the changes taking place. I began to ask what we might understand by professional development, and how we might seek it through ICT. In turning to literature on professional development, dentistry was a relatively unexplored area. In addition, little was known about the actual experiences of those seeking professional development. My concerns and questions, combined with this lack of research in the field of dental professional development and the use of ICT, suggested the need to explore the experiences of dental practitioners undertaking professional development and to consider their views on ICT. My assumption is that experiences are embedded in everyday conversations and exchanges as the stories we tell each other. To be able to understand those experiences, I felt a need to access those conversations and exchanges. This meant going further than collecting data from tick boxes at the end of course evaluation sheets. Taking a narrative approach and using qualitative interviews, I collected the stories of nine dental professionals. In the conversations that took place, the participants and I explored and reflected on our own practice, professional development and ICT. Using a performative analysis (Riessman 2008), I reconstructed the stories through Davies and Harré’s (1999) metaphor of an ‘unfolding narrative’ (p.42), taking stories as an emergent process through interaction with different social and cultural representations. While the focus at the start of this study was on ICT, it rapidly became clear that the participants did not regard ICT as a central part of being a practitioner and indeed a professional. Accordingly, the study became one of exploring being a practitioner and a professional, and the influences of recent organisational and institutional changes and ICT moved from a central to a peripheral focus. From the resultant stories, I found three performances dominated in which practitioners developed ways of “being”, “instincts”, as I named them which emerged in response to a negotiation with policy, practice and paths of development. I identified those instincts emerging from a “professional self” constructed from policy through fixed predetermined paths. This contrasted with a “practitioner self” which drew from intuition, craft-like practices, and paths of development which were largely undetermined. I identified shifting positions and subjectivities as practitioners reflected on their values for practice and professional development. From those reflections, there was a questioning of the professional role, the way the dental professional might be represented, the way the practitioner self might develop and the way they might position themselves, in particular in expanded spaces for professional development through ICT. In order to interpret the resultant performances within both global and micro-contexts, I viewed them through a critical lens, interrogating the sociocultural and political environment. I found that representations of the professional role suggested a challenge for education, self-determination and development. As a result, I saw those participants sitting in a “liminal space”; a junction of sociocultural influences framed by policy, professional life, practice and ICT. This liminal space yielded a multitude of challenges, negotiations and possibilities as the ‘inevitable consequences of certain economic, social and political processes’ (Brookfield 1995, p.36). In conclusion, in the face of those framings and education, I propose a need for a “professional literacy” and a new professional narrative that considers the capabilities and possibilities for dialogue and, in the light of our practice and advancing technology, would take account of expanded and undetermined paths of professional development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: L Education (General)