For decades, neo-liberal education policies in the United States have promoted accountability and standardisation as the remedy for the so-called failing public schools. Such market-driven efforts, especially the proliferation of high-stakes testing, have narrowed curricula and contributed to teacher burnout and demoralisation. Teacher research, educators’ systematic study of their practice for the sake of improvement, is a more bottom-up approach to transformation, aligned with the democratic vision for public education. However, as a critical counterweight to top-down neo-liberal education reform throughout the United States, teacher research is not guaranteed. Rather, its endurance depends, in part, on who teacher researchers are and how they come to be.
To explore these themes, this chapter presents insights from a study of three long-term teacher researchers, each nominated by teacher educators who recognised the stance of inquiry they have devoted to continual, self-guided change. Scholarship is rife with theoretical discussion of the inquiry stance construct as a lifelong quality, as well as guidance for introducing teacher research to pre-service and in-service teachers. Taking the long view, this study sought empirical evidence of inquiry’s endurance in the face of increasing neo-liberalism, specifically by identifying the dispositions that enable educators to develop and maintain an inquiry stance.