Moving in a narrative space: dental practitioners developing professionally in and out of ICT

McDonald, Julie Ann (2012) Moving in a narrative space: dental practitioners developing professionally in and out of ICT. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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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

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


Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: professional development, ICT, narrative, identity
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Hedge, Dr Nicki
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Julie A McDonald
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3632
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:09

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