The Third Voice


The German idiom contains a great expression: ‘Der Dritte im Bunde’,  which literately means something like: “a third party involved”;  but as with many expressions the German saying comes with an implicit meaning  which in this case is referring to an, in  general, positive force acting in between two other parties. A kind of bridging or mediation, so to speak. Another layer of meaning is that it is considered to be a hidden, silent voice. There would be certainly an interest in making such a third voice explicit or known. Now, enough about expressions. Let’s talk about relationships. Mediating forces can do a lot of good provided they are overt in aims and knowledgeable in actions (1).  Consequently they need to be certified, or at least warranted. Imagine if the third voice would be flawed; damage is beyond repair. Moving away from mediational voices in areas like marriage, or legal and public affairs one might wonder how a third voice operates among teachingaffairs and on educational arguments. More specifically, could research claim to be a mediator in the discussions among teachers?

Anything to say about this matter has already been said, to be honest (2). Still, it remains worthwhile to bring in some research findings on the matter. An empirical study gauged the use of research findings by teachers and as it turned out teachers made (sparsely) use of the conceptual underpinnings of research that they knew about in the debates among their colleagues. It was meant to strengthen their way of arguing and their position in defending or promoting a stance on teaching

Who had expected otherwise. Research as a ‘Dritte im Bunde’. It may not seem much to some (e.g. 2) but it truly is a privileged and influential locus a mediating force can occupy. It honors the position of teachers as professionals in action.  It adds to the arguments in situ, not by overruling them, but, as a closely connected voice, making arguments more reasonable (not justified though). Research is frankly a searchlight to professionals.


Tim Cain (2015) Teachers’ engagement with research texts: beyond instrumental, conceptual or strategic use, Journal of Education for Teaching, 41:5, 478-492,

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