Professions are defined in part by the presence of communities of practice which share knowledge and monitor standards (Shulman, 1998). However, beginning with Lortie's (1975) seminal description of the American teacher, teachers have been found to be autonomous and isolated. Despite sustained critique of these norms of isolation, subsequent research has suggested that little has changed in actual school structure or practices over the last thirty years (Little, 1990; Darling-Hammond, 2005). The purpose of this study was to understand and improve a collaboration of six English teachers which defied these traditional norms of isolation in the teaching profession.
Set in the large suburban high school where I taught for ten years, this collaborative team was comprised of three veteran and three early career English 12 teachers including myself. As such, this project was most closely aligned with the epistemology of action research, but employed multiple interpretivist tools such as narrative inquiry, discourse analysis, and activity theory to examine the product and processes through which our team accomplished its work.
The research explored multiple aspects of our collaborative practices: the curriculum created, the language of team meetings, the norms of time and labor, and the evidence of teacher learning apparent in our work. It also attends to the importance of affective relationships within collaboration. This research found that like many teacher collaborations, multiple tensions existed and complicated our work. The most salient tensions included: the relationships between the veteran and early career teachers; the relationships between dual purposes of curriculum development and mentoring; and the relationships between individual autonomy and community practices. However, despite such challenges, the study evidences the benefits of collaboration for teacher learning, particularly when in concert with inquiry into our own practices. As such, this research offers an alternative view of teachers' professional development as embedded, enduring, and empowering; and of teachers' professional practice as striving for the ideals of a democratic learning community.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2009. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Dr. Timothy Lensmire. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 246 pages, appendices A-C.
Lloyd, Rachel Anne Malchow.
Questioning the tensions: action research within a teacher collaboration..
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