Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

The Teacher Education Conversation: A Network of Cooperating Teachers

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

The Teacher Education Conversation: A Network of Cooperating Teachers

Article excerpt

This study investigated a professional learning community of cooperating teachers and university-based teacher educators. To examine our roles and perspectives as colleagues in teacher education, we drew on frameworks in teacher learning and complexity science. Monthly group meetings of this inquiry community were held over two school years in a suburban school district in British Columbia. Participants' current and prior experiences in the role of cooperating teacher provided rich topics for conversation. Our analysis illustrates how aspects of complexity thinking both enable and promote teacher learning, in this instance, the professional development of cooperating teachers. The study highlights (a) key tensions that allow for deeper exploration of issues, (b) the need for flexibility that is open to contingency, (c) the importance of reducing hierarchical structures to enable networks to develop, and (d) improvisation as a key ingredient for teacher learning.

Key words: cooperating teachers, teacher inquiry, professional learning, complex system, practicum

Cette etude a porte sur une communaute d'apprentissage professionnelle reunissant des enseignants associes et des professeurs de pedagogie en poste dans une universite. Pour analyser les roles et les points de vue des uns et des autres en tant que collegues dans la formation a l'enseignement, le groupe a utilise des cadres de reference dans les domaines de l'apprentissage chez les enseignants et de la theorie de la complexite. Les reunions mensuelles de cette communaute de chercheurs ont eu lieu durant deux ans dans une commission scolaire d'une banlieue en Colombie-Britannique. Les experiences actuelles et anterieures des participants dans leur role d'enseignant associe ont foumi un riche terreau pour leurs echanges. Cette analyse illustre comment des aspects de la theorie de la complexite ont favorise l'apprentissage des enseignants -- dans ce cas, le perfectionnement professionnel des enseignants associes. L'etude met en lumiere (a) des tensions importantes qui meritent d'etre explorees plus a fond, (b) la necessite d'une certaine souplesse vis-a-vis des imprevus, (c) l'importance de reduire les structures hierarchiques afin de permettre aux reseaux de se developper et (d) la place cle de l'improvisation dans l'apprentissage chez les enseignants.

Mots cles : enseignants associes, recherche sur les enseignants, perfectionnement professionnel, systeme complexe, stage


Based on results from previous research with cooperating teachers in British Columbia, teachers called for a more substantive and sustained dialogue for their work with student teachers (1) (Clarke, 2001, 2006, 2007). In response to this call, we gathered school and university teacher educators into a dialogue group which we named The Teacher Education Conversation. As we entered into Conversation with one another, as we called our method, we were mindful of Gadamer's (1989) caution about the difference between a genuine conversation versus a contrived conversation:

We say that we 'conduct' a conversation, but the more genuine a conversation is, the less its conduct lies within the will of either partner. Thus a genuine conversation is never the one that we wanted to conduct. Rather, it is generally more correct to say that we fall into conversation, or even that we become involved in it. The way one word follows another, with the conversation taking its own twists and reaching its own conclusion, may well be conducted in some way, but the partners conversing are far less the leaders of it than the led. No one knows in advance what will 'come out' of a conversation. (p. 385)

Gadamer's rendering of a conversation moved us away from postulating a priori understandings or a posteriori consensus as goals of communicating. The call for a genuine conversation between the field and the academy, and the emergence of complexity science in educational research as an alternative way to think about 'collectives' was timely because both sought to challenge traditional notions of professional learning (Collins & Clarke, 2008; Nielsen & Triggs, 2007). …

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