From “Telling” To “Triangle” To “Tentative Truth”: How The Use Of The Positioning Theory Triangle Enabled Multiple Layers Of Truth To Become Evident

  • Janette Allen Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University Of Melbourne
Keywords: positioning theory, performance, standards, learning, agency


Many industries in many countries use performance and development processes as a means to ensure continued professional learning and increasing professional impact. The focus of this study was to build understanding of how teachers in Victoria, Australia, perceived their professional learning within the context of their government-mandated performance and development process. This study provides insight into the application of Positioning Theory (Davies & Harré, 1990; Harré & Van Langenhove, 1991; Redman & Fawns, 2010) through the description of the research process. In particular, the focus of this paper is mapping the progression of analysis using the triangular representation of Positioning Theory (Berman, Langenhove, & Harré, 1998, p. 6), from hearing the teachers’ stories, the ‘tellings’, through the ‘triangle’ of Positioning theory analysis to understanding their perceptions as ‘tentative truths’ that they hold and which shape their actions. Exploring the teachers’ actions and words in this way enabled the multi-faceted nature of professional learning within the dynamic social environment of a school culture to be described. Individual as well as mutual positions became visible. The teachers’ ‘truths’ regarding their rights and duties within the policy framework and their local school culture became apparent and shaped the agency of the teachers to act in particular ways. Four storylines are described within one episode of conversation, illustrating how Positioning Theory can aid in understanding the multiple directions of power relationships, and positively inform further actions by teachers, leaders, researchers and policy designers to better support the learning of teachers and, ultimately, their students.

Author Biography

Janette Allen, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University Of Melbourne

JANETTE ALLEN is an Honorary staff member at the Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, and continues to work as a casual relief teacher in Victorian schools. Her research interests evolve from a desire to better understand how teachers learn, and the complexity of schools as sites for learning. In particular, how the stakeholders in education systems connect to develop their understanding and shape their impact, and how this could be further encouraged is her focus. She is currently researching reflection practices that may better support the professional learning of teachers within the performance and development process. Contact email: or