Title page for ETD etd-11597-114041

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Barrett, Thomas S. Jr.
Author's Email Address tbarret@edfacilities.org
URN etd-11597-114041
Title Exploring the Moral Dimension of Professors' Folk Pedagogy
Degree PhD
Department Teaching and Learning
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Magliaro, Susan G. Committee Chair
Billingsley, Bonnie S. Committee Member
Burton, John K. Committee Member
Lalik, Rosary V. Committee Member
Roberto, Karen A. Committee Member
Wilder, J. Edwin Committee Member
  • narrative analysis
  • moral discourse
  • higher education
  • moral education
Date of Defense 1997-12-01
Availability unrestricted
Exploring the Moral Dimension of Professors' Folk Pedagogy

Thomas Barrett


This study explores the intersection of two major conceptions in higher education:

professors' folk pedagogies and teaching's moral dimension. Folk pedagogy is the

accumulated set of beliefs, conceptions and assumptions that professors personally hold

about the practice of teaching (Bruner, 1996). When these beliefs and conceptions are

enacted as a teaching practice, they are conceivably undertaken on behalf of students as the

means to a good end. Professors, in the course of enacting their folk pedagogies, make

educational decisions -- value determinations in essence -- about what they believe are in

the best interests of their students. In so doing they have entered moral territory. To make

these decisions, issues related to moral perception, moral imagination, and moral

responsiveness are present. This moral dimension of teaching was found in this study to

be an inherent feature of the participants' folk pedagogy.

Pursuing tangible exemplars of these ideas, this study accomplished three key

objectives. First, it explored and described some key features of professors' folk

pedagogies. Second, it examines the discourse that emerged from the folk pedagogy

investigation for its moral expressions and the insights it offered toward understanding

how professors conceive of teaching as a moral endeavor. Finally, using narrative analysis

as the guiding methodology, it retold professors' personal narratives - their discursive

practices - as a unified story of moral agency and moral discourse in university teaching.

These objectives were satisfied through case study investigations of three professors,

wherein each participant professor was interviewed and observed teaching over the course

of nine weeks.

Although this investigation sought to explore moral discourse, four additional

discourses were discovered interacting with the moral discourse - the personal discourse, a

professional discourse, an academic discourse, and the institutional discourse. It was

found that rather than there being one singular moral discourse, each independent discourse

possessed its own moral substance. A full view of the moral discourse, therefore, can only

be achieved by looking across all of the independent discourses themselves.

Interestingly, the nature of the moral discourse and moral agency varied for each

professor depending upon which independent discourse dominated her or his practice. For

example, those professors engaged in professional disciplines (i.e., business and

engineering) exhibited practices dominated by what is termed here a professional discourse. In contrast, the practice of the philosophy professor was dominated by the academic

discourse. In each case, however, the moral discourse revealed itself most often when

professors' engaged in closer, more personal interactions with students and during their

consideration of students in their course planning. Moral discourse and moral agency for

the professors in this study played an important role in their overall folk pedagogy and in

many instances served as an unintentional pedagogical tool.

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