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The relationship between narratives and the development of resilience in teachers

In a society that faces rapid changes and important social inequalities, teachers and educational systems are exposed to strong tensions. In this context, the resilience of teachers is being given increasing importance; such that it is already considered an essential competence for the teachers of the future. Resilience is understood as the functional adaptation to adverse situations, often resulting in professional and personal growth. Thus, the challenge of educating teachers for resilience has become a high priority teacher education.

Although research on teachers’ resilience has identified some protective factors, especially social support, we do not have yet a response to the question of what makes teachers resilient. This project proposes a response to this question: the hypothesis is that a crucial element for resilience is how teachers explain to themselves what happens to them; i.e., the narratives that they elaborate to make meaning of the situations of their teaching practice. The hypothesis predicts that there are certain characteristics of these narratives (specifically, the level of modal contradictions) that facilitate or hinder the resilience processes. Moreover, the hypothesis assumes that the narratives that teachers use to make meaning for their practice have a socio-cultural nature; that is, they are generated basing on narrative structures that pre-exist culturally and socially. Therefore, the hypothesis predicts that it is possible to educate resilient teachers by means of the (joint) elaboration and re-elaboration of the narratives that these teachers use to make meaning of the situations they face.

From this hypothesis, the project proposes three general objectives: 1) Establishing the extent to which the level of modal contradictions in the teachers’ narratives predict their level of resilience, controlling for working conditions; 2) Comparing the narratives, resilience and working conditions of teachers in different socio-cultural contexts (sub-samples in Spain, Australia, Brazil, and Ecuador); 3) Identifying the changes in the semantic structure of narratives which are associated to improvements in teachers’ resilience, and the semantic operations which make these changes possible. We will select an international sample of 240 primary and lower-secondary teachers and we will measure indicators of resilience and working conditions by means of standardized instruments. We will collect the narratives of these teachers and, after a content analysis, will elaborate indexes of modal contradiction, and by means of statistical procedures, we will provide an answer to objective 1. Then, we will conduct several quantitative and qualitative comparisons between the four sub-samples, in order to address the objective 2. Finally, after two years, we will measure again the indicators of resilience and will identify cases that display the development of resilience. We will study these cases in depth, by means of qualitative methods in order to provide a response to objective 3.

This project will provide new insights about the importance of certain aspects of teachers’ narratives for the development of teachers’ resilience in different sociocultural contexts. The project will also permit the identification of the semantic operations in teacher narratives that enhance the development of resilience.