Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Collaboration and Teacher Development: Unpacking Resistance, Constructing Knowledge, and Navigating Identities

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Collaboration and Teacher Development: Unpacking Resistance, Constructing Knowledge, and Navigating Identities

Article excerpt

Research has shown that quality professional development can change teachers' practices and positively affect student learning (Borko, 2004; Darling-Hammond, 2000). It is widely accepted that such professional development should be anchored in teachers' reality, sustained over time, and aimed at creating peer collaboration (Chan & Pang, 2006; Richardson, 2003). Grounded in the assumption that teacher growth does not happen in isolation, current professional development seeks to create learning communities where participants engage in meaningful activities collaborating with peers to co-construct knowledge about teaching and learning (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005; Shulman & Shulman, 2004). Nevertheless, there is still need for more research that explores the complexities of teacher learning in these redefined professional development contexts (Borko, 2004).

This article presents a study of the Collaboration Centers Project (CCP), which is a pseudonym for a three-year, federally-funded program that focused on helping in-service teachers better address the needs of English language learners (ELLs) in their classrooms. The CCP is important to study because of its clear intention to integrate real teachers--their understandings, voices, selves, and practices--into professional development by providing an experiential, collaborative and school-centered context for ongoing reflection on teachers' practice.

It is important to understand the complexities of teacher development in the context of a project that sought to break with the short-term transmission model that Richardson (2003) described as the still dominant approach to in-service professional development. By investigating the ongoing collaboration created by the program, we seek to provide a multi-layered understanding of how collegial and collaborative professional development affects teachers and how teachers affect professional development. Therefore, our purpose is to add to the existing research that explains the complexity of teacher collaboration by uncovering the meaning of teacher resistance and by providing an in depth look into how a group of teachers co-constructed knowledge and negotiated their identities over time.

Theoretical Framework

In recent years, collaboration has been the focus of extensive research across disciplines, especially from the perspective of the co-construction of knowledge in the context of shared enterprises (John-Steiner, 2000) and learning communities (Wegner, 1998). As John-Steiner stated, "a collaboration bears the complexity of human connectedness, strengthened by joint purpose and strained by conflicting feelings" (p. 91). Collaborative learning is at the core of communities of practice involving co-construction of meaning and mutual relationships through a shared enterprise (John-Steiner, 2000; Wegner, 1998). Accordingly, collaborative practices have been defined as central to professional development because they further opportunities for teachers to establish networks of relationships through which they may reflectively share their practice, revisit beliefs on teaching and learning, and co-construct knowledge (Achinstein, 2002; Chan & Pang, 2006; Clement & Vandenberghe, 2000; Hargreaves & Dawe, 1990; Little, 1987). Likewise, Shulman and Shulman (2004) positioned teacher development in the context of learning communities in which teachers as learners create environments that integrate a common vision and their reflections on learning processes and practices.

Fundamental to understanding the implications of collaborative practices in teachers' professional development are the discursive concepts of knowledge and identity. Knowledge is produced through social interaction and is historically and socially situated (Britzman, 1991; John-Steiner, 2000; Wenger, 1998). As we learn and develop, we grow from absolute dependence on others to interdependent relationships that allow us to become autonomous and independent as we internalize different abilities and knowledge (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996). …

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