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Teachers and Teaching

Theory and Practice

ISSN: 1354-0602 (Print) 1470-1278 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ctat20

[RE]Visioning the academic–teacher divide: power

and knowledge in the educational community

Jennifer M. Gore & Andrew D. Gitlin

To cite this article: Jennifer M. Gore & Andrew D. Gitlin (2004) [RE]Visioning the
academic–teacher divide: power and knowledge in the educational community, Teachers and
Teaching, 10:1, 35-58, DOI: 10.1080/13540600320000170918

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13540600320000170918

Published online: 24 Jan 2007.

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Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice,
Vol. 10, No. 1, February 2004

[Re]Visioning the academic–teacher

divide: power and knowledge in the
educational community
Jennifer M. Gore*1 & Andrew D. Gitlin2
Jennifer M.GoreFaculty of Education and ArtsThe University of NewcastleAustraliavejung@alinga.newcastle.edu

The University of Newcastle, Australia; 2University of Utah, USA

In this paper, we explore the divide between academics and teachers over the production and use
of knowledge. Teachers’ views (pre-service and inservice teachers from both Australia and the
United States) on educational research are utilized to better understand and [re]vision this divide.
These teachers overwhelmingly dismissed academic research on the grounds that it is not
practical, contextual, credible, or accessible. Using these challenges as a starting point, we
examine the way relations of power, particularly in terms of discursive and material conditions,
bind the views and practices of both teachers and academics. This analysis suggests that the
education of teachers is a crucial site for restructuring the relationship between teachers and

As we head into the new millennium, the educational community appears to be
fractured by historic tensions over the production and use of knowledge. On the one
hand, education academics produce research knowledge that they hope others will
use (directly or indirectly) to improve schooling. On the other hand, teachers
produce a form of experiential knowledge (by virtue of spending time in classrooms
and interacting with students) that they overwhelmingly rely on to understand
schooling and make everyday decisions. Teachers tend to resent researchers for
positioning themselves as having answers to questions that are not the concern of
practitioners (Gitlin et al., 1999). Conversely, academics tend to criticize teachers
for not using the best and most up to date knowledge (research) to inform their
decisions and view teachers’ emphasis on experience as a conservative aspect of the
culture of teaching (Hargreaves, 1980).
In large measure, these tensions between academics and teachers are related to the
long tradition of framing educational research as a hierarchical and non-reciprocal
enterprise (Lingard & Blackmore, 1998) whereby teachers are positioned primarily
as ‘users’ rather than ‘producers’ of knowledge. In this construction, the knowledge

*Corresponding author: Education, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308,

Australia. Email: jenny.gore@newcastle.edu.au
ISSN 1354-0602 (print)/ISSN 8765-4321 (online)/04/010035-24
 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd
DOI: 10/1080/13540600320000170918
36 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

teachers produce is not valued (outside of schools) in the same way as knowledge
produced by academics (Cuban, 1998). Moreover, because the academic research
that teachers are to use often carries a corrective intent (whereby research should
lead to improved teaching and, ultimately, to advances in schooling practices or
outcomes), teachers are positioned as needing the products of research, while
researchers have historically been poor at acknowledging their need for teachers.
The power relations implied in such a framing of educational research, whereby
teachers are to use research, produced by others who are deemed knowledgeable, to
improve what they do as teachers, seem destined to maintain, rather than bridge, the
academic–teacher divide.
The divide in the educational community, however, extends beyond the framing
of educational research. The material conditions of work help shape contrasting
expectations and roles that further the distance between academics and teachers.
Teachers inhabit classrooms where their day is precisely structured (e.g. the division
of the school day into periods of 50–60 minutes) and highly regulated (e.g. the need
to get through so much curricular content to satisfy a grade level requirement, an
upcoming test, or standardized assessments) (Connell, 1985; Seddon, 1990). In
contrast, academics work in an environment that is less structured (e.g. they have
more flexibility in how they spend their time) and less regulated (i.e. they have
greater autonomy over their practices).
Furthermore, the discourse of professionalism, which legitimates work practices,
acts as a self-governing form of control and defines the type of knowledge embodied
in occupational contexts (Smyth et al., 2000), varies significantly between academics
and teachers. For many teachers, professionalism means adjusting their teaching to
address issues such as the lack of autonomy over curriculum, dependence on
detailed learning outcomes and new forms of State regulation (Goodson & Harg-
reaves, 1996). In contrast, for many academics, professionalism means adjusting
their work to seemingly inexhaustible demands for the production of new knowledge
(Cuban, 1999). While teaching plays a role in academic work, increasingly it is their
research that defines academics and the status they achieve.
Taken together, these material and discursive conditions of work help construct
differing roles where teachers stress particularistic (adapting to student, subject, age
and context) and normative (fixing problems, making things better) approaches to
educational questions, and academics stress a more generalizable (i.e. one central
purpose of research is that others can gain some understanding from the knowledge
produced) and analytic (i.e. an approach to knowledge production that stresses a
recounting, a looking again—a re-searching) approach. If the divide between aca-
demics and teachers is to be challenged, these divergent, hierarchical and, in some
ways, oppositional group identities (Davidson, 1996) shaped, in part, by dominant
discourses and work conditions must be addressed. Otherwise, Sarason’s (1971)
characterization of reform in education, that the more things change the more they
stay the same, may continue to ring true during this millennium.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the divide between academics and teachers
in order to rethink possible ways of dealing with the division. Given that knowledge
production in the form of research is a major distinguishing feature of educational
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 37

academic identity as compared with teacher identity, a focus on research provides a

distinctive site for examining the divide between teachers and academics (for
example, Coulter, 1999; Zeichner et al., 1998). More specifically, because the divide
is linked to work conditions and dominant discourses, we address the relationships
between teachers’ work and educational research and between teachers and aca-
demics. In doing so, we take an explicitly political stance by focussing on the views
of those typically left out of the public discourse on educational research; namely,
teachers. By centring our analysis on the marginalized voices of teachers, we hope to
provide new understandings of this divide, consider how relations within the
educational community can be reconfigured and [re]vision more inclusive ap-
proaches to the production of knowledge.
Our focus on academic research does not mean that we are blind to the emerging
importance of teacher research (for example, Altrichter et al., 1993). Rather, we
focus on academic research for several reasons. First, like academic research, teacher
research appears to be directed at changing teachers’ work, not academics’ work, and
so does not challenge fundamental aspects of the power–knowledge relations sur-
rounding research (Day, 1998). Second, when we talked to teachers they told us
very clearly that research produced by academics remains the dominant educational
research discourse while ‘teacher research’ is an alternate (and largely marginalized)
form of educational research. While 30% of our respondents named teachers among
those who engage in research, when asked other questions about ‘educational
research’ the vast majority of responses pertained only to academics or other outside
specialists. This finding is not surprising in light of the relative weight given to the
two discourses in most teacher education programmes, professional development
activities and publications. Furthermore, when forms of teacher research are intro-
duced to teachers they are often framed in relation to academic research, which is
taken as the standard, the norm, against which alternatives are constructed. That is,
teacher research is often explained by its differences from research produced by
academics (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). Discursively (i.e. in terms of how the
field of educational research is understood by most people), academic research
maintains a clear position of authority over teacher research. Because the teachers
who participated in this study said little about teacher research, the remainder of our
paper focuses on what they said about academic research.
The paper proceeds with a brief outline of the study conducted and a detailed
account of what the teachers said about academic research. What was most striking
was the consistent and often emphatic way in which these teachers told us that they
do not value academic research very highly, and the reasons why. In order to convey
the scope and complexity of this finding, we begin with a descriptive analysis of the
major complaints they registered against academic research. This data is treated as
a platform for considering, at length, implications of the study for understanding the
academic–teacher divide. Hence, the questions we raise about educational research
and about relations of power and knowledge are informed by, but not limited to, the
teachers’ views. One set of issues considered in the final section of the paper
concerns the very question of the extent to which and the ways in which teachers’
views might be taken into account by academics. We also raise some specific
38 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

questions about the ways in which academic–teacher power relations both consti-
tute, and are constituted by, institutional and occupational discourses and practices.
Questions of teacher education (inservice and pre-service) are then considered for
their part in the construction and possible amelioration of the academic–teacher
divide. Finally, we raise specific possibilities for rethinking how academic research is
understood and practised by academics.

The study
Questionnaire and interview data on teachers’ views about research were gathered in
two national contexts, the United States and Australia. While the selection of these
particular countries simply reflected our own geographic locations, looking across
countries enabled us to consider whether these issues were global as well as local in
character, and also provided some check that findings were not simply the result of
institution or programme-specific idiosyncrasies. We chose three types of teachers:
pre-service teachers who were in the first year of their teacher education pro-
grammes; pre-service teachers nearing the completion of their programmes; and,
inservice teachers from a range of grade levels and subject areas, and with varying
amounts of teaching experience. The main questions asked of these teachers were:
What is educational research? What are its goals? Who does educational research?
Does research address your concerns as teachers? How can research be improved?
While we would not claim that these data are representative of teachers in the two
countries or elsewhere around the world, the views of these 85 pre-service teachers
and 147 practising teachers do provide access to at least some of the ways in which
teachers talk about research and give an indication of common themes that cross
national boundaries.

Teachers’ concerns with academic research

From our study, it is clear that while teachers see academic research as the dominant
form of educational research, they overwhelmingly do not value this form of
research, particularly as they become more experienced as teachers. That is, while
our pre-service respondents said that research addressed their ‘concerns about
teaching’, at least ‘sometimes’ (74% of first-year cohort and 82% of final-year
cohort), practising teachers were less sanguine (8%) about the potential impact of
educational research. In trying to understand the differences between inservice and
pre-service teachers, it could be that the socializing impact of the workplace for
inservice teachers erases the perceived value of educational research. Or, as Day
(1998) reports, perhaps ‘it is only where teachers perceive that their personal
solutions are themselves inadequate that they will be moved to search for means by
which they can change’ (p. 268). Inservice teachers who have very specific concerns
about teaching might have been frustrated by research’s ‘concrete’ failure to deliver.
Simultaneously, pre-service teachers might be more open to the potential of aca-
demic research because they are regularly required to engage with it in the course of
their studies.
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 39

Despite these differences between our pre-service and inservice respondents, all
groups that participated in the study expressed concerns about the practicality,
contextuality, credibility and accessibility of academic research. In the following
section, we elaborate each of these concerns under headings that attempt to name
the fundamental challenges posed to educational academic researchers by these
teachers. Framed as questions, each heading raises issues of the relations of power
between teachers and education academics, and alerts us to underlying discourses
that shape the desires, understandings and commitments of both groups. In each
subsection, we describe the range of teacher views conveyed and identify issues to be
taken up in the final section of the paper.

‘Yes, but what should I actually do?’

Many of the comments made by the teachers raised concerns about the limited
practicality of academic research for their work in classrooms:
I have found that … very little constructive advice is given to teachers at the classroom
level. In other words, the research does not appear to filter through to classroom
practices. It also appears to favor theoretical rather than practical considerations.
(Final-year student)

Some of the teachers were particularly scathing of what they had encountered in
their teacher education programmes:
Just looking at the books that I have read [as part of the teacher education
classes] … they always mention research … and you sit down and try to apply it … How
am I going to be using it in the classroom? And, in a lot of cases, it doesn’t seem to
hit reality, what actually happens. (High school teacher)

I was just appalled at the lack of … applicability of most of the stuff that I’ve learned
in course work done through schools of education. A course that I took here was called
Teaching and Learning Strategies and I thought the professor did a good job with it
and I thought she … had her act together and knew what was what [but] I thought that
half the material was utter bunk. I mean, I couldn’t believe I had to read this stuff. I
was sharing it with my wife and with … my parents and we were laughing at [the] lack
of utility this stuff had. (High school teacher)

In these statements, a strong anti-university discourse is invoked, which, at least in

hindsight, describes much research as ‘appalling’ and ‘laughable’ ‘bunk’, that does
not begin to ‘hit reality’. These comments suggest that what teachers want from
research is not only ‘practical’ advice, but technical and instrumental advice that can
be easily ‘utilized’ at the classroom level. When asked what they wished educational
research could provide, the following additional responses are indicative of this
desire for guidance on what to actually do: ‘Solutions to problems I encounter’,
‘Research that can be applied, not just considered’, ‘Exactly what to do in every
situation. The best methods of teaching’, ‘Practical information which specifically
affects my teaching’, ‘Practical solutions to everyday problems’ and ‘How to teach
better, manage better, enhance student behavior and attitudes’ (final-year students).
Implicit in some of the teachers’ comments was also concern about the non-prac-
40 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

tical, non-school-related purposes served by academic research. One teacher was

particularly dismissive of research that is seen primarily to function in the interests
of researchers, ‘theorising for the sake of theorising’.
The kind of educational research … that bothers me the most [is] theorising for the
sake of theorising. That is lovely but I am never going to read it. If it does have a
practical application it is a distant one … Theory is not relevant to someone working in
the classroom. (Final-year student)

Here ‘research’ and ‘theory’ are tightly linked and in opposition to ‘practice’. The
notion that theory is ‘not relevant to someone working in the classroom’ takes this
position to its extreme and is indicative of the breadth of the gap (perceived or
actual) between teachers’ work and academic research.
A number of issues are raised by these comments, many of which pertain to the
nature of teaching. Given the multidimensionality, simultaneity, multiplicity and
unpredictability of classrooms (for example, Doyle, 1979; Jackson, 1992), it is no
wonder teachers desire clear advice on what to actually do. Teaching is complex,
uncertain work. However, these characteristics of teaching also highlight how
difficult it would be for research to provide teachers with such advice. In a later
section of the paper, we will return to the question of the extent to which research
can and ought to generate knowledge that can more directly guide teachers’ moment
by moment practice. We also consider the complex power relations that would place
limits on researchers’ ability to provide the sort of instrumental knowledge teachers
appear to desire. Moreover, we question the extent to which such an identification
of limits is both an important acknowledgment and an academic cop out; that is, a
rationalization for not attempting to produce ‘more practical’ research.

‘But will it work in my class?’

Another major and related concern articulated by the teachers was the failure of
much academic research to address questions pertinent to their particular contexts.
As the comments indicate, the contexts in which teachers work have a particular
configuration of individual students and teachers with particular needs. Their work
is situated in classrooms, schools and school systems with particular histories,
policies and qualities. In these contexts, teachers deal with problems, worries, joys
and accomplishments that are often seen as unique:
Because all cases are different, a research study is not going to tell me how and what
I should do with ‘Johnny’. (Final-year student)

I wish research could tell me how to get 20 Year 10 Standard kids to feel good about
themselves when they have to sit the same exam as the Advanced and Intermediate
kids. (Final-year student).

Research looks at nameless, faceless numbers, not individuals. (Final-year student)

There [is] a broad range of research topics—not all will be subjects of personal or
situational interest. A research project will be [helpful] if you are able to see the impact
on your context. (Final-year student)
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 41

These teachers believe that the uniqueness of different teaching contexts, and the
difficulties in transferring knowledge from one site to another, makes it very unlikely
that research will be helpful to their particular teaching situations. While a strong
argument can be made that classroom contexts differ, in some regards, it is also the
case that these teachers do not appear to recognize or appreciate the continuities (or
similarities) across sites. This perspective is not surprising given the lack of move-
ment by teachers between classrooms and schools (the isolated nature of their work)
(Lortie, 1975). Nonetheless, teachers’ emphasis on specificity rather than on conti-
nuity limits the types of knowledge they might consider to inform their decision-
making as well as future educational goals and ideals.
The uniqueness of the classroom, as well as its unpredictability, not only raises
teachers hackles about academic research, but even constrains the extent to which
their experiential knowledge can be used:

You know, sometimes you hit on something that plain works and then you find that it
only works the last three times that you tried it. And the fourth time, you know, same
cloudy weather or whatever and it doesn’t work. So you automatically [are] making
adjustments. You are going back, you are putting something out of the program to
make it work for the day. What works one day, doesn’t always work the next. I think
it just has a lot to do with the kids and what is on their minds and just in the way their
flow of energy is going at a particular time. (Middle school teacher)

Given these perceptions of teaching, research that positions itself or is read as

knowledge that can be transferred in a straightforward manner across contexts is
likely to be looked upon by teachers with disbelief. How can it tell them what to do
with ‘Johnny’? From these teachers’ point of view, the problem with research is not
its relative reliance on qualitative and/or quantitative research methods, or its
presumptions of objectivity (concerns characteristic of some academic discourses),
but rather its assumption that knowledge can be transferred from the research
context to a particular classroom context. When research does not reflect the
specifics of the teachers’ contexts, they view this form of knowledge as less than
While teachers want more advice on what to actually do, they doubt the capacity
of research to provide such advice in a way that will take into account their specific
teaching contexts. They doubt the relevance of research produced outside their local
contexts and convey a sense that research does not and cannot, even though they
want it to, answer questions that may be specific to a single classroom. This tension
in their expectations of research seems to arise from teachers’ acknowledgement of
the uncertainty of their work while, at the same time, wanting more certain
knowledge from research. What they appear to want is not the standard generaliz-
able ‘objective’ ‘certainty’ found in many forms of academic research, but rather a
form of instrumental certainty (their view of practical) that can spell out, in fairly
exact terms for their context, what will be needed to assure teacher and student
Later, we explore the tension between wanting certainty but feeling that academic
research cannot deliver this type of knowledge in detail. Specifically, we consider
42 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

whether research is presented to teachers in ways that doom it to fail in their eyes,
or lead them to have impossible hopes for research which it cannot deliver.

‘Who are you to tell me what to do?’

One of the most consistent, and strongly worded, teacher views concerned a
perceived distance of academic researchers from the ‘real’ work of teaching. This
concern placed the credibility of researchers into question and consequently chal-
lenged the trustworthiness of research findings. Put simply, many of these teachers
doubted that someone lacking recent classroom experience could understand ‘their
world’ and help them solve the many problems they face on a daily basis.
Every [academic] at any institution of higher learning should be required, if they teach
an education class, as a part of their job, to spend one out of three or four years, full
time, on their own in the public classroom in their field … We call it the Ivory Tower
Syndrome. We are complaining about the people at the university that they don’t know
what they are doing. It is commenting that we think sometimes they spend so much
time up there away from what is really transpiring and evolving down here … A lot of
what [researchers] think is based on the past and they are out of touch. And so we call
it the Ivory Tower. Welcome to our world. (High school teacher)

Come and eat the lunches with us. Come and experience the kid who’s crying over
parents fighting at home, the divorce, OK? Come and experience these kids. Spend
major hours with them so that you can understand the client that we’re being paid to
serve. [Academics] don’t do that. (High school teacher)

When people perceive that someone who’s just sitting at the University is coming up
with ideas and they’re not being worked with on the school level, then there’s some
resentment that they have ideas that … don’t actually work in the schools. (High school

Implicit in these comments is a resentment of the perceived nature of academic work

and of its distance from teaching work, a resentment of people ‘just sitting at the
University coming up with ideas’. As one pre-service teacher saw it, researchers are
‘people who can’t (don’t want to) teach’. These views position teaching as difficult
work, that only some people can handle, and contrast it with an implicit construc-
tion of academic work as easier. Consequently, the knowledge produced by aca-
demics who are not immersed in teachers’ ‘worlds’, who do not ‘experience the kid
who’s crying’, who do not work in ‘the trenches’, but sit in their ‘Ivory Towers’, is
called into question.
Well, I think often … it is the people in the trenches [who] really know what is going
on. It’s the people [who] do it day in and day out. Often it seems like the people who
are doing the research don’t really have the hands-on experience of knowing what really
is happening in the classroom, how populations change, how over years something
works for one group and doesn’t work for another. So, I feel that the people [who] are
doing it day in and out are probably the most knowledgeable. (Elementary school

Who are the experts? Well, I’ll rely on teachers [who] have a lot of experience … I can
trust their judgement. (High school teacher)
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 43

I think I go to teachers because I know them as people … Some Dr Jane Smith [who]
I don’t know … or if their ideas worked for them, I am less likely to follow. (Elementary
school teacher)

According to these teachers, the academics who produce research material do not
really know what teaching is like. We (speaking as educational academics) simply do
not have the same level of classroom experience, we do not know schooling as
teachers do, which, according to teachers, weakens our capacity to inform what they
do. Implicit in this perspective is a view that academics luxuriate in relatively
decadent conditions (such as higher salaries, shorter teaching semesters, lower levels
of face-to-face contact with students, high flexibility and autonomy, and with private
offices and telephones). The joint perceptions of academics as ‘out-of-touch’ and
‘having it easy’, both of which militate against the credibility of researchers, are
clearly factors in how teachers perceive research output. The accuracy of these
perceptions and the capacity of academics to do anything to alter them will be
explored in the final section of this paper.

‘How am I supposed to use research, anyway?’

Even those teachers who valued research for its contribution to their on-going
learning or professional growth raised questions about how they were to use
research. Comments of this type fell into two major groups: one concerned the
difficulty of finding the time to read or otherwise engage with research given the
conditions of their work lives and the volume of material produced; the other
concerned the level of difficulty and complexity of much research reporting that
made it hard for them to understand or interpret what was being said. The two sets
of concerns seemed to combine in a ‘why bother trying to engage with research?’
attitude among many teachers.
I have left East High at 7 [p.m.] since I started … teaching. I don’t have the time to
really figure out what I am doing. I am trying to get the next day planned, I just don’t
have the energy to go look up research. I have to be prepared first before I do anything
else. I just don’t have the time. (High school teacher)

I don’t have the time. I would do it [look at research] if it were in our library or if it
was something on the Internet or if it was something that came across my desk, or over
a phone call, if I was specifically learning … Education Week and some of those things
are around the teachers’ lounge but … there’s really no time to lounge around and read
it anyway. I mean, people have like twenty-five minutes for lunch. (Middle school

The problem with educational research as far as the classroom [goes], is there’s so
much being done and it’s usually in large volumes to be read. By the time you can dig
through most of it and figure out what really applies … (High school teacher)

I wish I could just have a problem, say ‘gee, this isn’t working’. I wish I had some
information, [could] get on the Internet … type in a word … and it says ‘look, here’s
some stuff’ … But if you have to spend a lot of search time, then you have to travel,
even if it’s just close, even if it’s just up at the [university] or wherever … or you’ve got
44 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

to subscribe to … ten magazines, you don’t have time to read them all anyway. I just
think being able to find the stuff efficiently would help. (Middle school teacher)
Certainly the realities of teachers’ work lives and personal lives do not easily create
time for reading research reports. These comments suggest that research might be
used by teachers more often if simpler, shorter, more distilled accounts of research
outcomes were readily available: research ‘usually is too complex and takes too long
to figure out’, would be better if ‘it was easier to read and more straightforward to
be able to easily gather the information most relevant’, ‘straight to the point’,
‘succinct’ (pre-service teachers). These teachers were not necessarily declaring
research too difficult, but did appear to see it as unnecessarily complex, complicated
and wordy. There emerged something of a ‘why can’t you cut to the chase, give us
the bottom line, cut through the crap, give us the essence?’ concern. They would
rather ‘type in a word’ than have to ‘dig through’ large volumes of research material.
And they certainly do not have the time (that academics do?) to ‘lounge around’
reading this stuff. At its extreme, as one teacher said, she does not have the time or
energy to ‘figure out’ what she is doing in her teaching. The survival demands of her
professional life, fronting up ready to conduct lessons every day, take precedence
over the kind of understanding of her work that she might like to have (or that
academics might expect).
Despite this desire for a distillation of research findings and implications, some
teachers certainly felt that the language of research reports limited their accessibility:
I need somebody to interpret for me what they’re trying to say to you. (High school
A lot of what has been presented here at the [university] is very hard to read and very
hard for us to understand just because of the level that we are [at] right now … Most
educational research that is helpful to me, I find in bookstores [and it] is not presented
as research but maybe [as] a ‘how to’ manual. (High school teacher)
Together, these comments raise questions about the nature of academic research
and research reporting. Can and should research be more ‘straightforward’? Can
and should it be presented in ways that are more ‘succinct’? In the following section
of the paper, we begin to explore these questions as well as those raised earlier in
relation to each of the major concerns teachers expressed about academic research.

In summary, although educational research often has a corrective intent and is
designed to bring about ‘progress’, practical applicability and direct transferability to
teachers’ specific contexts is low. From what these teachers told us, it seems that
teachers want academic research to inform what they actually do in their classrooms.
They claim to want the research to be relevant, which can mean everything from
being produced in the same school to being produced in their own classrooms. They
also claim to want both instrumental certainty and simplicity from research. In
general, research fails to fulfil these desires. Teachers, therefore, are very skeptical
about the value of academic research, choosing to rely more on trusted colleagues
with experience and on their own experiences as the basis for knowledge, rather than
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 45

relying on academics and the knowledge they produce. At the same time, there is
some acknowledgment by teachers that academic research cannot produce the kind
of knowledge they seek.

[Re]Visioning the divide

Using these views of teachers as a starting point, our aim in this final section of the
paper is to tease out implications for understanding the academic–teacher divide, for
how we go about educating teachers and for rethinking academic research and, more
generally, for addressing the question of knowledge use in the educational com-
munity. In what follows, we explore the ways in which both teachers’ and aca-
demics’ views, desires and educational commitments are shaped by discourses of
academic research, the knowledge/power nexus and work cultures, and how the
relations between these views, desires and commitments might be reconfigured.

Teachers’ views
In the United States there is no question that teachers’ views are not loudly heard
in the public domain (this is less true in Australia). On some of the most important
national commissions in the United States on school reform, for example, teachers
have been either under represented or not represented at all (for example, Holmes
Group, 1990). It is even more rare to hear teachers’ voices in relation to academic
discourses on educational research. One way to address the relatively silent position
accorded teachers is to turn deliberately to listening to ‘their voices’. Such a move
would be consistent with a broader academic/social movement that attempts to
correct past injustices by giving attention to the voices of previously marginalized
groups (Harding, 1986; Foster, 1994). In this political move, the same power
relations that have played a part in the marginalization of some voices are now
activated with emancipatory intent.
Teachers’ views were critical to the understanding we wanted to develop in this
paper because they helped us to examine academic research discourse from the
point of view of those who have largely been excluded from it (Cochran-Smith &
Lytle, 1993). However, for a number of reasons we believe the voices of teachers
cannot simply be accepted unproblematically. One reason for caution is that the set
of teacher views presented here is fraught with tensions and contradictions. Con-
sider, for instance, the questioning of academic expertise on the basis of our limited
recent school-based experience. This concern appears to privilege experience over
other ways of knowing. While the appeal to experience might be fundamental in
reconfiguring the hierarchical relation of academics to teachers, it obscures the
limitations of experiential knowledge that some teachers themselves acknowledged:
Experience? I would think the more experience you had, the less you would use
research, just looking around at the staff here. The ones that have been here the longest
have no desire to learn anything. You give them ideas, ‘Oh yes. Tried it before, twenty
years ago, didn’t work’. Or, you don’t see a lot of them going back to school. The ones
you see going back to school … getting other degrees … are the ones [who] are younger
46 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

or who just got their certificate not too long ago … I think because you’re so used to
having people tell you what to do that you go out looking for it. But after you’ve been
here for so long … you’re set in your ways, you’ve got your entire classroom exactly the
way you want it. The sad thing is just people not wanting to rock the boat or putting
extra time into something that is running well. (Middle School teacher)

Similarly, teachers’ reliance on people they know and ‘trust’ can also have a
conserving effect. As one teacher said ‘I will tend to go to the teachers [who] I know
and I know their teaching methods, and when I agree with their teaching methods,
I seek out their advice’ (elementary teacher). Utilizing views with which one already
agrees as a form of inquiry clearly has its limitations and could perpetuate the
educational conservatism and intransigence that researchers, policy-makers and
some teachers themselves decry.
Another reason for caution in using teachers’ views is that views based on
experience are bounded by the context that shapes those experiences. For example,
because teachers need to make rapid decisions on any number of educational
matters, given the large numbers of students with whom they work, their views on
what is practical and relevant are likely to be shaped by this aspect of their work
context. Suggesting the limits of experience as a knowledge form does not imply that
experience is inherently flawed in comparison with other ways of knowing. Indeed,
academic research knowledge is also imbued with many inherent tensions and
limitations. Rather, we think there is a problem when teachers’ voices are elevated
above other ways of knowing as if the knowledge produced is beyond reproach.
On the contrary, not listening to teachers limits the contribution to knowledge
production of a significant group of educators who clearly have a direct impact on
students and furthers the distance between teachers and academics. In this study,
systematically and critically listening to, and attempting to understand, teachers’
views has informed our understanding of the impact of academic research, our
knowledge of what teachers ‘get’ and ‘want’ in terms of research, and, importantly,
our understanding of the academic–teacher divide. It may be that teachers would be
happier if academics simply got on with producing ‘better’ research that provided
teachers with clearer guidance for their work in schools and have little interest in
bridging the gap with academics. However, if educational research is to be more
productive, then academics need to reconsider the hierarchical and non-reciprocal
relations that have characterized our enterprise. In the next section, we consider
what types of shifts in the relations between academics and teachers are even
possible, given the existing divide and its institutional and discursive underpinnings.

Academic–teacher relations of power

As can be seen from our data, the divide between teachers and academics has been
very much shaped by both discursive and material conditions. If we accept this
divide as natural or inescapable, we accept not only that academic research will find
limited use in schools, but importantly that the knowledge teachers and academics
produce on educational issues will not inform each other in any sort of systematic
way. Such a situation seems to us untenable, particularly because of the way in
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 47

which it constrains educational reform and innovation and restricts the development
of important partnerships between schools and universities.
Trying to address this divide or [re]vision it, is not, however, a simple matter.
We have begun by listening critically to the voices of teachers. It is also important
to direct actions at the foundations upon which the divide is constructed—the
material conditions of work and the discursive ‘regimes of truth’ (Foucault, 1980)
(e.g. ‘professionalism’) that swirl within the corridors of these contrasting institu-
tions. In part, this means that any significant revisioning of the academic–teacher
divide will need to consider in some depth what alternative structures and discourses
might be constructed to enable the knowledge produced in these institutions to
inform each other. While we cannot specify these changes in any detail, it is likely
that schools would benefit from a set of material conditions and discursive forma-
tions that acknowledged the importance of inquiry and knowledge production.
Conversely, academic institutions would benefit from a set of material conditions
and discursive formations that valued both teaching and research in the formation
of academic identities and their interactions with public school teachers (Cuban,
With these types of changes as a backdrop, it is possible to return to the question
of what the teachers’ views tell us about the divide. The teachers whose views we
gathered were not telling academics to get back into schools in order to remember
what it means to help students learn. They were telling us to go back to school to
remind ourselves (or see for the first time) how difficult it is to get on with teaching
given social and emotional conditions of the teaching environment and the perceived
intensification of their work (Apple, 1986). According to them, there simply is not
the time to engage with research (in its current forms), especially given the difficult
conditions under which they work. On the contrary, the time some academics spend
‘counselling’ students, sometimes in relation to very emotional issues, is not widely
known. Nor is the fact that ‘classroom management’ issues can also be part of
academic work (especially when we lecture to large groups of students, some of
whom would clearly rather be elsewhere). The intensification of academic work
(particularly in Australia where resources for higher education have been dramati-
cally cut) also militates against any bridging of the gap between teachers and
Here, the expectations placed on both teachers and academics shape our relation
to academic research and to each other. Education academics could spend more
time in schools, assisting schools to engage in research according to their needs
(Sachs & Groundwater-Smith, 1999) and working with teachers in other ways, but,
in many instances, these well-intentioned acts would come at a significant cost in
terms of conventional markers of academic distinction. For example, in meetings on
promotion and tenure at one of our institutions, the closer research is associated
with practice, such as the analysis of an approach to teaching, the more it is devalued
in relation to other highly theoretical pieces of research that have less to do with
practice. Furthermore, spending time in school without that time leading to research
‘output’ would be seen as ‘service’, which typically garners far less institutional
status and economic rewards than academic research activities. In both these
48 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

examples, the institution ‘pushes back’ against acts that link academics with school
culture and practices.
This divide between academics and teachers is further strengthened by the
pressure placed on academics to publish in reputable and scholarly journals that
have little connection to teachers (although teachers are expected to be part of the
audience for the work). Academics very often write for other academics, precisely as
we are doing here. Educational researchers often ask questions that teachers never
ask (Bessant, 1996) and in which teachers would have little interest. Even in
(non-research) institutions where involvement in schools is more highly valued, the
broader academic community is often disparaging of such work. Similarly, teachers
are judged for their competence by peers, parents, supervisors and students not
necessarily for the extent to which their practice is well-informed, but instead for the
extent to which it ‘works’. ‘Working’ can mean everything from keeping kids off the
streets and keeping them relatively happy to ensuring high-level academic outcomes.
Such accounts point to the ‘caughtness’ of teachers and academics. While their
work differs, in some ways dramatically, at the ‘micro-level’, movement away from
conventional approaches to ‘doing their jobs’ is far from easy. The ways in which
their work is structured mitigates plans to alter conditions and reward structures.
The discourses and material work conditions that have shaped their relations during
the past century are not easily dismantled or replaced with alternative discourses and
material work conditions whereby both teachers and academics value different forms
of knowledge. For instance, despite the hierarchical relation of academics to teachers
and the general ‘authority’ of academic knowledge, power is not simply possessed or
granted to academics. Indeed, we can see that power circulates between and among
teachers and academics as both groups defend the ways of knowing that are fortified
by their work contexts.
This circulation of power also helps us to understand the enduring gap between
teachers and academics. As articulated by one of our pre-service teachers: ‘Teachers
think researchers have lost touch with reality, researchers think teachers have got it
all wrong’. It may well be that academics withdraw further and further into the
academy, where their efforts are more likely to be valued and legitimated, as they
lose touch with schools. Many education academics no longer try to address
teachers’ concerns, if they ever did. Perhaps many of us could not, even if we tried
(Jacoby, 1987). Moreover, academics and teachers seem to hold different views of
teaching ‘reality’. According to our data, the reality teachers want researchers to
acknowledge is one of continuous adjustments within contextual boundaries and
dominant normative structures. Conversely, researchers often want to address the
‘rightness’ of normative structures, advocate wholesale changes in educational
practices (e.g. the implementation of cooperative learning) and produce a form of
generalizable knowledge that has use beyond the context in which it is collected.
‘Success’ is also defined differently in the two contexts. Cuban (1998) summarizes
a whole body of research to provide this succinct account of the differences:

Practitioners bring moral and service values inherent to teaching that differ from the
technical and scientific values that policy elites possess. Practitioners accumulate expert
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 49

knowledge about students and how to teach skills and subject matter that few
researchers or policymakers plumb. From these values and expertise emerge standards
for judging success and failure that diverge from those of policymakers and researchers.
Of course teachers seek improvement in students’ performances and attitudes but what
teachers count as significant results are seldom test scores but attitudes, values, and
actual behaviour on academic and nonacademic tasks in and out of the classroom.
What becomes especially important to teachers is how they can put their personal
signature on the mandated reform and make it work for their students and themselves.
(p. 459)

These opposing ‘realities’ and versions of ‘success’ do not shut out possibilities for
[re]visioning the divide between academics and teachers. Despite teachers’ criti-
cisms of research knowledge, there are some teachers who see their own colleagues
as the root cause for their abhorrence of research. One pre-service teacher explained
such a perception as follows: ‘[Teachers] say, on the one hand, [research] is not
valid because [academics] haven’t got any practical experience and they’re up in
their ivory towers … but mainly it’s because they don’t understand what is written’
(final-year student). While teachers are ‘blamed’ for their own failure to understand
in this example, as we shall argue shortly, academics in teacher education have some
responsibility for producing deeper understanding.
Another perspective that runs counter to the academic–teacher divide concerns
teachers’ views on expertise. While teachers readily reject the knowledge that
academics produce, in many situations teachers defer to academics and expect them
to have the answers to a myriad of educational issues. Even though they might well
discount what we say, it seems teachers often want us to declare our position first,
lest they be seen as misinformed. Such deferral to academics is linked to a complex
set of events, structures and ideologies that includes a long history of having teachers
come to academic institutions to ‘develop’ their teaching, that has generated ‘teacher
proof’ curricula (Apple, 1979) and that understands research as fundamental to the
‘professionalisation’ of teaching (Guthrie, 1988).
While such alternative perspectives might be exploited to [re]vision the relation-
ship between teachers and academics, such a possibility is greatly diminished
because so little of what they think of each other is made public. We know that there
is a divide, that some teachers tell novices to forget all that they learned at university,
that teachers value some of their colleagues as the best source of knowledge, that
academics are occasionally horrified at stories they hear (or observations they make)
of poor teaching and so on. But we do not confront these issues directly. The power
relations are such that each group is hesitant to speak in the other’s domain. Such
hesitancy may well stem from the different bases for speaking authoritatively in the
two domains; recent experience and immediate contact with students count in
schools, while publishing articles in the ‘right’ places and theoretical sophistication
count in universities. If the circulation of power is to work in ways that reconstruct
the academic–teacher divide, it is clear that views that reinforce and counter this
divide need to be made public and critically assessed by both groups as they attempt
to rethink their relations.
However, making these views public and critically assessing their import in
50 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

forming the current academic–teacher divide provides only a partial move in

[re]visioning this relationship. As we have noted, work conditions also need to be
restructured. One aspect of that restructuring is the reward structures found in
schools and universities. At this time, these reward structures reinforce the divide
and isolate each group from the other. Teachers are not rewarded for keeping up
with current thinking on educational issues and researchers are penalized in many
ways for associating themselves with practice and spending time in schools. How-
ever, teachers could be rewarded for not only becoming critical consumers of
research and producing knowledge in the form of teacher research projects, but also
for sharing their knowledge with other teachers and faculty. Similarly, we can
envision academic reward structures that maintain a focus on research, given the
entrenched imbalance between teaching and research in universities (Cuban, 1999),
and yet still reward work done in schools, such as working with teachers on
producing new educational insights and sharing research findings with teachers,
administrators, parents and students.
Even if such reward structures could be instituted, however, the more fundamen-
tal issue of time must be addressed. While teachers’ work is clearly intense and busy,
academics also have to work long hours, especially in times of budget cuts, if they
are to keep up with the exploding educational research literature, as well as teach,
write, supervise, advise teachers and do the required committee work. If the
academic–teacher divide is to be challenged, work must be restructured such that
the extra time involved in establishing different relationships or working in different
ways is not simply added onto the already busy schedules of both teachers and
academics. Change inherently creates more work (Fullan, 1991). Without account-
ing for this extra work, teachers and academics will have a built-in incentive to resist
any efforts to alter the current divide.

The education of teachers

Part of the responsibility for how teachers and academics see each other and each
other’s work lies with how we go about educating teachers at both pre-service and
inservice levels. Teachers come to understand what they do and to hold the values
they have about research, in part, from what we teach them. Teachers seem to
receive grand messages about the potential of research that doom the promise of this
knowledge form. One reason for such reception probably relates to the sanitized and
certain form in which much academic research is presented. The use of the phrase
‘the research says’, without specifying the researcher/s quoted, is one strategy
academics sometimes employ to add credibility to their perspectives and to silence
debate. This phrase gives its speaker an authoritative stance that sets up a relation
with others as one who knows. No arrogance or conceit has to be voiced, simply a
reliance on a particular way of knowing.

The process of knowledge production. Similarly, academics provide prospective teachers

with limited, if any, access to the process of knowledge production or knowledge
representation. These teachers typically receive the published form, not the drafts,
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 51

or even the copy sent out for peer review. And when they receive this copy, the form
itself, the politics of the paper’s organization, its language and even the structure of
the argument are rarely examined and scrutinized. Furthermore, pre-service teachers
are rarely exposed to the ‘slippery slope’ on which researchers tread while developing
research questions, entering the field and assessing results, especially when the
organization funding the research has a particular point of view or interest in the
project. The alternative of presenting research in all its messy, fragmented, manipu-
lated reality may simply further undermine its credibility and give teachers even less
reason to use it. Or, it might function to demystify the world of academics in a way
that makes them seem more like teachers than they are currently taken to be: ‘I don’t
think [teachers] see the people doing research as being like themselves’. The divide
may be lessened, and the possibilities to work across our epistemological differences
enhanced, if we begin by seeing the limits and strengths of our own and each other’s
ways of knowing. By doing so, it is possible to imagine a more inclusive model where
teachers and researchers are not stuck within approaches to the production of
knowledge that work against each other.
Furthermore, in teacher education programmes (pre-service or inservice) we give
teachers some knowledge and skills in reading research, but not enough for them to
engage confidently with it. A recent policy statement in Australia on expected
attributes of graduates from teacher education programmes provides a view of what
teacher education might provide in relation to research but, in general, does not.

Graduates should have an active sense of themselves as part of the education research
community. They should be practitioner-researchers for whom research is a normal
part of teaching practice. They should be explicit and analytic about their practice.
They should have the capacity to assess, evaluate and incorporate research findings into
their work. They should be open to informal and formal collaboration with teaching or
academic colleagues in research activities—including designing, developing, carrying
out, communicating and applying research. They should be familiar with the major
education research traditions, and should be able to critically examine the nexus
between a body of research and educational policy-making and practice, and have an
appreciation that the findings of much research are, or appear to be, contradictory or
uncertain. (Australian Council of Deans of Education, 1998, p. 10)

Such an orientation to teacher education, however, would require a basic shift in the
common assumptions of most programmes. In particular, the urgency with which
teacher educators expect students to know about everything from classroom man-
agement, to curriculum mandates, the cultural characteristics of students and the
implications of teaching in different school systems would need to be modified such
that more time could be spent on the relation between knowledge/power, decision-
making and practice. If successful, such a foundation could provide teachers with an
approach to decision-making and practice that utilized both research and experience
and challenged some of the limitations inherent in both forms of knowing.
While such a goal statement might appear impossible in the context of most
pre-service teacher education programmes we know, without it what we do is akin
to inviting someone to a meeting at which they have access to the agenda but none
of the background, the nuances, the politics of the committee and so on. At such
52 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

meetings, where we do not have an adequate grasp of the terrain, we are effectively
silenced. If teachers do not feel that they really know how to access useful material,
how to assess its merits and how to translate it for their own purposes, they are
essentially excluded (and exclude themselves) from participation.

Teacher–academic distance. Many teachers see academics as ‘off in fairy land’ (pre-
service teacher), ‘sitting in our Ivory Towers’. Part of this construction certainly
relates to our distance from the world teachers inhabit. But part of it also pertains
to the distance we maintain. We exclude teachers from the world of educational
research by not fully inviting them in. In ‘educating’ them, we provide minor and
artificial research experiences (just as we provide artificial teaching experiences in
borrowed classrooms). The research tasks we set for students, including anything
from keeping a journal to conducting some kind of experimental research, are set for
students, imposed by their ‘teachers’, often to be assessed or otherwise required for
course completion. They are often conducted in very short time frames and produce
very small data sets. Given the structure of most teacher education programmes,
organized around semester blocks of time, it would be hard to provide more realistic
and meaningful research experiences. But it could be otherwise. For instance,
throughout a year, or even longer, of a pre-service programme, undergraduate
students could be ‘attached’, as observers and assistants, to on-going research,
conducted by academics and/or teachers. Without engaging teachers more fully in
academic research, it is no wonder that they turn to peers with experience for advice
on how to act, rather than to ‘the literature’. As one of our teachers said, research
often ends up in the ‘too hard basket’, especially when they do not believe they have
the skills to judge what they are reading. Day (1998) provides the more sophisticated
view that ‘teachers change or do not change according to whether they perceive a
need, diagnose a problem and conceive of a response to the problem that is both
within their intellectual and emotional capacity, and appropriate to their personal,
educative and ideological perspectives and the context in which they work’ (p. 270).
If academic research is to be useful to teachers, we argue that teacher education
must educate teachers about research and not simply train them. The commonly
heard refrain that we want teachers to be producers and critical consumers of
research is not sufficient to narrow the distance between teachers and research.
Teachers need to be exposed to the politics of research, to the dilemmas involved in
research, such as the relation between culture, researcher and the research focus, or
the complex and compromising processes of entering the field and determining the
role of theory in data analysis. We need to work with teachers to explore the limits
and possibilities of research for their work as teachers. Simply providing them with
some basic skills in how to conduct and/or read research (academic research or
teacher research) is inadequate, as our interpretation of the data indicates. Continu-
ing to teach teachers about different forms of research and different ways of
conducting research risks maintaining a situation where the academic research in
which many of us invest a great deal of energy and good intention is ineffective
precisely at the classroom level where we hope to make a difference. Alternatively,
we can teach teachers in ways that end up replacing one research regime with
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 53

another. For instance, teacher research with its own set of norms and disciplining
processes can take priority over academic research without [re]visioning the aca-
demic–teacher divide or providing an approach to knowledge production that is
reflexive about its own limitations (see also Day (1998) for common criticisms of
action research).
Instead of simply introducing novice teachers to research, or promoting a particu-
lar approach to research, such as teacher research, exposing teachers to the politics
of research requires not only a first-hand experience with research, but also
significant discussion about the power relations surrounding research. Taking such
an approach requires, at the very least, that we problematize research and the
teacher–researcher relationship, that we expose students to issues in the production
of knowledge and that we work at developing greater acceptance of the uncertainty
and complexity that characterize teaching and research, rather than continue to
construct unrealistic desires for certainty and simplicity.

Rethinking academic research

From the presented analysis it is clear that maintaining current relations of power
and educating teachers about academic research solely by utilizing this research
within teacher education programmes is to assure that this type of research will have
limited use or impact within school-based contexts. Ironically, this limited impact
may be of little concern to most academics, given that their attempts to distinguish
themselves from others within the academy has little to do with the use-value of
research in schools (Ladwig, 1996), and of little concern to teachers who continue
to view research as largely irrelevant to the daily work of teaching. Indeed, distinc-
tion within the academy is based on a notion of use-value that is in many ways
oppositional to the view of use-value voiced by teachers. But, if educational research
is to have an impact on teachers (and be worth including as part of teacher
education programmes—is it worthwhile if it is rarely used?), then we need to sort
out which aspects of our research is for teachers and attempt to make it more
relevant for them in terms of their interests and needs. Certainly, we will want and
need to continue doing basic research, and research that is designed to have an
impact on our academic colleagues or on policy (Labaree, 1998). However, at the
same time, academics in education who seek to bridge the gap between teachers and
academics will need to think more about doing research in teachers’ interest, and to
think about how research is presented to teachers.
If we take each of the key issues we identified in the data collected, there are a
number of points in which, despite existing power relations and institutional and
discursive regimes, there are ‘spaces of freedom’ as Foucault (1988) called them;
that is, opportunities to exercise power differently. For instance, on the practicality
of research, while we would not presume that we could tell teachers what to do given
the complex nature of teaching, we could consider to what extent research agendas
can be [re]formed to be more useful/valuable to teachers. We could also consider
ways to enter into discussions with teachers about the questions they might want to
pose about their classrooms, so that the agenda for the research emerges from the
54 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

teacher but is critically assessed (for example, Ladwig & White, 1996). We could
also consider what it would mean to work side by side on a project that utilized both
experiential and research knowledge and assessed the relation between the two. In
this scenario, research is no longer a corrective for teachers’ practice but part of a
relational analysis that tries to understand classroom practices and school policies
from two differing points of view. The fundamental assumption of those involved in
this process is that neither form of knowledge necessarily has ‘it right’, yet both
might have strengths that can add to our collective understanding of a situation.
Finally, we could consider ways to make research practical, not in terms of certainty,
but by sitting down together (academics and teachers) and debating what to make
of data such that it takes into account the different positions academics and teachers
occupy in the educational world. Any practices that are put into action will need to
be assessed to determine how they restructure and/or reinforce the academic–
teacher divide.
In terms of contextuality, academics need to understand the difficulty teachers
find with research that on the surface appears to take a great deal of translation and
adaptation in order to make it usable. On the contrary, academics need to resist
giving teachers a type of ‘recipe’ orientation to research, an instrumental certainty,
that will not only work against the interests of teachers by reinforcing the hierarchy
between those producing knowledge and those using knowledge, but also misrep-
resent the realities of producing educational research. As opposed to these dualistic
alternatives, it would be interesting to consider the possibilities of having teachers
conduct informal studies of their context utilizing experiential knowledge and then
having researchers bring in research knowledge that they believe addresses the
contextual realities of the classroom. The challenge would then be to look across
these differing ways of knowing to consider what each might add to the other or how
one approach may raise doubts about the other. We are clear that this sort of
discussion is extremely difficult given the historic relations of power between
academics and teachers. However, given that there are always spaces of freedom
within any relationship, we also believe that if both groups approach the process with
the view that ‘their’ knowledge is uncertain, but valuable, it is possible to see how
coming together across differences can help shape relations of power that are not
simply reflective of wider structures that inform the divide between teachers and
The issues raised by teachers on accessibility and clarity point to an ironic
contradiction. While we (academics) cannot even find the time to read what we
would like in terms of research reports and journal articles, academic research in
education seems to be premised on the assumption that teachers can find time to do
this sort of reading. Looked at from this group perspective, it is apparent that we
have not sufficiently considered what it means to have an impact on classroom
practices by producing knowledge that can be utilized within the confines of the
school context. One way to confront the issue of limited access to research (at least
in countries like Australia and the United States) would be to put more of our work
in the form of electronic journals that can be accessed over the Internet, but teachers
would need to be given time to ‘surf the Web’, and incentives for such efforts.
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 55

However, even increasing access in this way might have limited impact on teachers’
use of research unless the form of the reports is reconfigured. Producing research
reports specifically for teachers, that highlight results, implications and conceptual
questions in a professional brief, as is required by some major funding organizations,
might save teachers some time and enable them to access the reports’ usefulness
without having to initially engage with the entire texts. Such a task would require
extra effort by academics and, ideally, would be supported by funding agencies.
Academics also need to attend to the language we use in the dissemination of our
work. However, attempting to distill and communicate clearly our research has
certain risks, as Bourdieu and Passeron (1994) point out:
The lecturer who foregoes the marvels of professorial language and gives methodical
and explicit presentations risks appearing as a primary school teacher who has strayed
into higher education or as a non-conformist who will also find the institution turned
against him [sic], even though he has answered real needs and unacknowledged
expectations. (p. 14)

Nonetheless, at the very least, our students (and the teachers who we hope will use
our work) should be able to understand what we are talking about. Blaming them
for their lack of understanding could well be a function of our own insecurity over
the processes of communicating clearly with audiences we no longer ‘know’ well.
Attempting to communicate more effectively, while likely to produce greater num-
bers of teachers and students in schools who can benefit from educational research,
might have the additional benefit of helping us come to a better understanding of
our own work and assumptions. Certainly in our teaching, the process of distilling
ideas for the benefit of students has helped fortify those ideas. In any case, we
certainly need to consider which of our writing and communicating practices are
necessary for disseminating research to multiple audiences, and which are part of
discipline-specific and/or institution-specific cultures and traditions that might be
Finally, in terms of our own credibility, we do not advocate mandatory ‘school
time’ for all educational researchers. But we do advocate a repositioning of some
academics and academic research that debunks a few of its myths. An approach by
researchers that conveys the message ‘what “we” can do for “you” ’ (Gore, 1992)
may well be rejected, particularly for its failure to acknowledge or apparently
understand the realities of teachers’ work. Naturally, there are massive ramifications
in debunking myths of academic research against ‘our own interests’, but it could be
that enhancing accessibility and modifying expectations actually makes academic
research more rather than less useful and palatable.

While we share much as partners in an educational enterprise, such as a focus on
learning and a valuing of knowledge, the tensions between academics and teachers,
sustained as they are by institutional and discursive practices, appear not to be
diminishing. Unless material conditions in schools and the academy are altered, and
56 J. M. Gore & A. D. Gitlin

unless academics and teachers want to revision the divide, there is unlikely to be any
significant change in the relationship between these groups.
Several developments in education have been directed at changing the power
relations that have historically been characteristic of teachers and academics. The
teacher research movement in all its manifestations, professional development
schools and related initiatives, and collaborative research endeavours have required
teachers and academics to work together in new ways. Nonetheless, if the teacher
views we collected are any indication, the potency of the discourse that sets
academics and teachers in opposition to each other in terms of the production and
use of knowledge remains high. Indeed, developments like the teacher research
movement may position academics and their ideas as even less necessary or helpful
to the real work of schools and further alienate the two groups.
If the divide is to be revisioned, and the ethical commitment by academics to
make a difference at the level of practice provides one possible rationale for so doing,
then there are a number of strategies that academics, in association with teachers,
might explore. We can be more aware of how we present research to teachers, both
pre-service and inservice, so as not to set unrealistic expectations for what it can
deliver. Such a strategy would require greater humility on the part of many
academics, more honesty about the limits of our own activities in the production of
knowledge and significant time devoted to in-depth experiences with the research
process during teacher education programmes. We can also focus more acutely on
what our specific research endeavours can really offer teachers, and orient some of
our dissemination efforts to communicating clearly and succinctly with them. Such
a strategy would require academics to find greater balance between our concerns for
academic distinction and our concerns for educational impact. Such balancing
would require work within our institutions to bring these two measures more closely
into alignment and would require closer relations with teachers to allow impact to
be gauged.
Underpinning all of the suggestions to revision the divide between teachers and
academics is the need to confront the divide itself. In this paper, the views of
teachers have shown us, starkly, that neither academic research nor academics are
valued highly by people in schools. Confronting as such denunciation is, and
tempting as it is to trot out all kinds of reservations about teachers’ views, the fact
of the divide remains. The divide has a long history, which today is fortified both
by the discourses academics and teachers employ to sustain and explain existing
arrangements and by structures that govern our working lives and relations
with each other. If the divide is to be altered, we would argue that when teachers
and academics come together to learn about, conduct, or discuss research, part
of our work must address the issues of power and knowledge raised in this
paper. Moreover, if such work together is to be effective rather than harmful,
teachers and academics alike need to remain open to new understandings of each
other and each other’s work, and to work for material conditions that will allow for
knowledge from various segments of the educational community to inform each
[Re]Visioning the Academic–Teacher Divide 57

Notes on contributors
Andrew D. Gitlin is a professor in the Department of Education, Culture and
Society at the University of Utah. His writing focuses on issues of social justice
within areas of teacher research, pedagogy, and curriculum. Recent books include
Power and Method: political activism and educational research and Becoming a Student
of Teaching (with R. Bullough).
Jennifer M. Gore is a professor in the Faculty of Education and Arts at The
University of Newcastle, Australia. Her current interests include pedagogy, power,
and teacher education reform. Books include The Struggle for Pedagogies: critical and
feminist discourses as regimes of truth and Feminisms and Critical Pedagogy (edited with
Carmen Luke).

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