Professor, The University of Nottingham
Like any other organisation ISATT has moved through a number of phases of development to where it is now. These have been partly the result of circumstance and partly in response to the influence of those who have been elected to leadership roles. What has been relatively constant is the size – though not composition – of membership. I will highlight only briefly for the purposes of illustration just a few of the critical moments of change in the life of ISATT in order to perhaps stimulate a discussion of where we might go to in the future.
ISATT was founded in 1982 at a conference in Tilburg Netherlands as an association able to present an alternative research perspective on teacher thinking to that of the dominant paradigm of quasi-experimental, behavioural psychological approaches. ISATT began to share more widely the work of members through edited conference books through Falmer Press to extend the possibilities for dissemination. The first signs of an ISATT journal appeared through special annual ‘double issues’ in conjunction with Teaching and Teacher Education. Membership was formalized with only those paying a subscription able to reap the benefits.
In the late 80s ISATT began publishing its own journal with Carfax. During this period the Executive Committee proposed a name change from ‘teachers’ thinking’ to ‘teachers and teaching’. The proposal was hotly debated and eventually approved by vote at the General Meeting. The constitution and the name of the journal were changed to reflect this broader definition of our work. This partly reflected the change in the external research environment which had become more appreciative of broader approaches to the understandings of teachers work and lives. It was necessary to fashion a different identity.
In the 90s conferences and edited books continued to be produced, journal issues continued to increase and the membership of the Executive continued to change, together with the leadership of ISATT. The post-graduate conference was initiated and limited success achieved in increasing membership and involvement through the system of National Representatives. Composition of the membership changed. Gone were many of the more ‘senior’ founding members. While the conference retained its informality, camaraderie and critical friendship ethos, it was now peopled with many who had not been involved in ISATT’s development, and who, perhaps, were not as acutely aware of its origins and purposes.
Concerns about leadership and focus now exist: the need for ‘new blood’ in key leadership roles which is so fundamental to ISATT’s continuing development has not yet been realised. The General Meeting–so often in the past a forum for real debate about research issues, the direction of ISATT and the generation of possible themes for the next conference– is now no longer the force that it once was. The quality of keynote speakers is more mixed, as Maureen Pope points out.
So what might the future hold? The short answer is ‘very little’ unless, as Chris Clark suggests, we ‘reinvigorate our mission’, revisit purposes, reformulate directions and adopt new strategies, where appropriate, in order to move ISATT forward. ISATT began as a result of the vision and persistence of a few who were willing to take risks and to present and publicly debate an intellectual agenda which marked out ISATT as different from other international associations. Should this be our priority now?