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Adaptive agency: some surviving and some thriving in the 'interesting times' of English teachingPurpose This paper aims to introduce the concept of adaptive agency and illustrate its emergence in the field of English teaching in a number of countries using England over the past 30 years as a case study. It examines how the exceptional flexibility of English as school subject has brought many external impositions whilst its teachers have evolved remarkable adaptivity. Design/methodology/approach It proposes several models of agency and their different modes, focussing finally on adaptive agency as a model that has emerged over a 30-year period. It considers aspects of this development across a number of countries, mostly English speaking ones, but its chief case is that of England. It is principally a theoretical paper drawing on Phenomenology, Critical Realism and later modernist interpretations of Darwinian Theory, but it is grounded by drawing on two recent empirical projects to illustrate English teachers' current agency. It offers a fresh overview of how agency and accountability have interacted within a matrix of official policy and constraint. Findings Adaptive agency has become a necessary aspect of teacher expertise. Such a mode of working creates great emotional strains and tensions, leading to many teachers leaving the profession. However, many English teachers whilst feeling controlled in the matrix of power and the panopticon of surveillance, remain resilient and positive about the future of the subject.
Classroom-based action research with secondary school students: a teacher-researcher's reflectionPurpose: The purpose of this paper is to reflect on some of the professional and practical challenges which emerged during the process of carrying out a small-scale action research project into different approaches to teaching English Literature in a Year-9 secondary classroom, completed in part-fulfilment of the requirements for a higher degree. Design/methodology/approach: The author narrates an account of some of the difficulties faced by one emergent researcher whilst carrying out educational research in a comprehensive school in England. Findings: The author suggests that even within a research-supportive environment where “research” is encouraged or expected, there is often limited effort from management to articulate the practicalities or evaluate its effectiveness. Despite this, the author emphasises the benefits to teachers and students of undertaking small-scale action research projects into issues of contemporary professional concern in the classroom. The author argues for the involvement of school administrators and universities in supporting teacher-researchers. Originality/value: The value of this research lies in acknowledging some of the challenges that emergent researchers might face in conducting research in the context of the classroom, which might enable other teacher-researchers to anticipate and avoid similar problems in their own research, and circumvent criticism from those who believe that educational research should not be carried out by teachers.