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Descriptive Inquiry as Contemplative Practice


by Kathleen Kesson, Cecelia Traugh & Felix Perez III — 2006

This article draws upon and integrates a number of distinct but overlapping areas of inquiry in the literature on teaching: teacher inquiry, reflective practice, spirituality and education, and contemplative practice. In it, we examine the implementation of a particular phenomenological form of teacher inquiry, the Descriptive Review, in an urban teacher preparation program. The authors participated in a longitudinal study of graduates of the program and are engaged in the continual examination of student work to assess the efficacy of the inquiry process in helping students overcome bias and habitual thinking, become more mindful of the basis of their professional judgments, and develop a moral framework that might help them resist dehumanizing and ineffective policies and imposed practices. The article includes the authors' autobiographical reflections about what brought them to this form of practice, a description of the theory and practice of the Descriptive Review as it is carried out in their teacher preparation graduate programs, a description of the urban context in which the work takes place, and a student narrative of practice, which is analyzed in relation to the theory of phenomenological inquiry. The conclusions are tentative; although the efficacy of the method is clearly demonstrated in the narratives that students produce about their inquiries into practice, the complex and challenging environments that new urban teachers are facing are problematic in terms of the capacity to develop contemplative practice.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 9, 2006, p. 1862-1880
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12685, Date Accessed: 12/17/2017 2:44:37 PM

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About the Author
  • Kathleen Kesson
    Long Island University
    E-mail Author
    KATHLEEN KESSON is professor of Urban Childhood Education, Long Island University, Brooklyn, where she works with preservice and in-service urban teachers to develop their inquiry capacities through classroom-based research, and teaches the foundations of education. Her interests are in the areas of democratic education, spirituality, and the arts, and the relationships between and among these discourses and practices. She is the coauthor of Defending Public Schools: Teaching for a Democratic Society (with E. Wayne Ross) and Curriculum Wisdom: Educational Decisions in Democratic Societies (with Jim Henderson).
  • Cecelia Traugh
    Long Island University
    CECELIA TRAUGH is the dean of the School of Education, Long Island University, Brooklyn, and director of the Center for Urban Educators. Throughout her career, she has combined her roles as a teacher, administrator, and researcher in pursuit of the kind of education that grows out of a valuing of the capacities of children, parents, and teachers. She has worked collaboratively with parents, teachers, and administrators to make classrooms and schools more supportive of children’s and teachers’ growth, thinking, and learning. Some of her areas of concentration are descriptive school-based inquiry, curriculum development and evaluation, and the preparation of teachers for urban schools.
  • Felix Perez III
    Blessed Sacrament Church

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