Case: teachers’ senses of self and liberty in SLC pilot and non-pilot schools

This section consists of biographies on the professional lives of three teachers, which is the body to be examined in the next section through the theoretical framework on teachers’ liberty. Moi’s narrative is used as the main data of the study, while the other two biographies are used as complementary data for discussing the liberty' in teaching within Moi’s narrative.

Moi’s biography

Structure of the biography

The description of narrative research inevitably entails the problem of the subjectivity' of the writer (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). To make room for readers to interpret the story, I have re-storied Moi’s narratives according to the following manners.

  • • I drew the figure of the structure of the major components and located each component and excerpt in the map. In doing so, readers can associate my retelling with the broader narrative.
  • • When I examine each of his ideas, I provide similar ideas from his narrative with episode numbers to show the frequency of that idea.
  • • To highlight an event or his ideas, I add relevant evidence from sources other than the narrative (my field notes and the literature) so that the reader has more sources with which to interpret the story.

Our narrative inquiry showed that the structure of the biography consisted of five sub-narratives of liberties: (1) Narrative on deontic unfreedom, (2) Narrative on breakaway from unfreedom, (3) Narrative on positive liberty held by Japanese educators, (4) Narrative on positive unfreedom, and (5) Narrative on positive liberty. The five components are illustrated as Figure 7.2. I incorporated Moi’s reflections in the earlier part into the 'Narrative on deontic unfreedom’. To restory his narratives, episode numbers were assigned for quotations.

As in the figure, the five sub-narratives have their own meaning and positioning in the whole biography; they are associated one another with the causal connections and the relationship of positive or negative reference.

Narrative on positive liberty held by Japanese educators

The narrative comprised the approach that Japanese educators adopted in the introduction of lesson study and what they learned from their thoughts. This part was often referred to in the Narrative on breakaway from unfreedom in a positive manner. The approach, however, caused confusion among the teachers, which will be discussed in the later sections on the narrative, whereas he described that he understood it positively as he participated in lesson study [Episode 6, 17,28].


Moi documented the approach that Japanese educators introduced Japanese lesson study in pilot schools in 2006. This was considered by him as the initial step to school reform.

They [Japanese educators] requested that I observe students, reflect by answering the question of: 'When did the student learn, when did they not learn, and why?’; to comment about individual student’s learning and to provide our impressions of students by examining the student’s attitude, posture, feelings, and action and analysing them.

[Episode 18]

The instruction became the model process of introduction of lesson study for him when he introduced it to his own schools (when he became vice principal) or in other provinces (as a lecturer of lesson study) [Episode 22, 23, 39,42, 44]. Second, he raised some novel perspectives imparted to him from the Japanese educator by which his eyes were opened to diverse knowledge about students.

He [a Japanese educator] introduced a vignette of a video, which he had recorded; the facial expressions and eyes of some students were projected. According to his impression, the students were showing concentrated attitudes towards the teacher. He pointed out some specific characters of each student: the girl is sitting neatly. . . . He expressed these students’ eyes with

Map of'relationships among each component in the biographyhis impression

Figure 7.2 Map of'relationships among each component in the biographyhis impression: ‘these eyes, I have observed once, but not in the school. It was in the jail, as if the eyes of prisoner were looking at prison officer’. Subsequently, he pointed out why the students showed such expressions. It was because they were participating in the classroom with discipline. . . . He continued to explain that it is a hidden curriculum that strongly influences students’ manner of learning.

... I heard his comment and immediately recalled so many students’ faces, eyes, and posture when they ‘sit neatly’ in arrays of classrooms and in my class at other times. ... I had merely recognised it as a sign of their concentration on the lesson. Even for many teachers, it is a good sign of students who have reasonable attitudes and ordered demeanours.

[Episode 45]

He assessed the Japanese educator’s comment as not a moral judgment but a novel perspective that they had never considered. In the whole biography, there were only a few specific comments from the Japanese educator, while these messages functioned as critically important for his assertions in the biography. In the Narrative on breakaway from unfreedom, he referred to the educators’ comments so that the reader of biography would recognize their own negative conventions that they unconsciously embraced.


Moreover, the Japanese educator taught him a mode of behaviour when they participated in lesson study. One passage referred to the manner of Japanese educators, as follows:

Japanese educators showed their attitude and explanation when they analysed lessons. First, they expressed their gratitude to the teacher who taught the lesson because s/he created a precious opportunity for all the teachers to learn and share about the lesson. They explained the demeanour of individual students and asked questions: how did each student learn in the lesson; how difficult was it for them and how did they understand; and why did such learning happen. However, they did not mention matters related to the teachers, such as what s/he should have done. As the Japanese educator spoke, the teachers in the school showed their obvious attention, listened carefully. ... At the same time, from the educator’s comments, we could understand what the teacher had to do and should have changed in the lesson.

[Episode 17]

These excerpts imply that he and the teachers were convinced as they listened to and watched what the students had done in the lesson during lesson study. According to the excerpt, it can be considered that the illustration provided by the educator captured the reality concretely enough to attract

Shapes of liberty 147 the teachers, or that this was possible because the explanation did not include any criticism of the teacher who taught the lesson. By contrasting the conventional Vietnamese leaders, he tried to learn the messages from Japanese educators:

I have understood why Japanese educators stated that teachers should observe and reflect on lessons by sticking with the rule 'do not propose alternative teaching methods’ in lesson study. We need to break our conventional custom of PTM and build collegiality between managers and teachers. . . . [T]hey encouraged the teachers to understand the importance of learning not only from the correctness or interesting things but also difficulties and embarrassment of their colleagues. I understood why Japanese requested those who joined lesson study to express an attitude of caring for and respecting the teacher of open lesson and to begin with the first comment of expressing thanks with esteem.

[Episode 17]

These two excerpts are from episode 17, titled 'Lesson study is a boomerang because it changes its very members’. The word 'boomerang' indicates a sort of reflexivity in teacher learning; the acts teachers undergo for others in lesson study returns to the teachers. I interpret that this title introduced his plot as describing the changing process of self-understanding of teachers in his field. The notion of reflexivity in the boomerang here parallels the experience of mutual acceptance among teachers in the Narrative of problem-solving.

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