THEORETICAL ORIENTATIONS OF SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE TEACHERS: AN ANALYSIS
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An exploratory-formulative study was conducted to inquire into the nature of method theory for the social work classroom. Knowledge, action, and outcomes were considered the three reciprocal, symbiotic, and interdependent components of method theory.;The primary method of the study was interviewing through an instrument called the Identification of Teacher Responses (ITR). The ITR was an adaptation of an instrument developed by William Schwartz for the analysis of social group work practice. A second instrument was used to gather background data. Twenty social work educators were interviewed: four in a pilot and 16 in the formal study. Process records of teachers' classroom practice provided raw data for the ITR as well as for the open-ended exploratory interview. Content analysis was used as the primary data analysis tool.;Findings fell into three areas: (1) the generation of an analytic schema, including ten basic categories which identified components of a teacher's theoretical orientation, (2) the creation of teachers portraits based upon this analytic schema, and (3) the creation of teacher typologies based upon a comparative analysis of our 16 educators.;Teacher typologies clustered around two major educational traditions: the Pragmatist and the Rationalist/Empiricist. Sixty three percent of our group work educated teachers were part of the Pragmatist tradition with its existential emphasis, its belief in here and now experiences, and the role of feeling, process, and spontaneity in the educative experience. All teachers believing in the essential integration of content and process within the classroom, were either group work educated or in one instance casework educated but a teacher of group work. All Pragmatist teachers valued group experience highly and thought of the class as a group. Casework educated teachers more often than group work educated, saw their primary role in the classroom as the director and chooser of content and of the process of inquiry. Teacher belief in the nature and source of knowledge was the critical dividing concept between the two traditions. Findings suggest that the teacher's view of the nature and source of knowledge is the critical variable in shaping the theoretical orientation of the practice teacher. The paucity of attention to, or lack of consciousness with regard to one's theoretical orientation suggests a need for further systematic investigation of this issue.