Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Teachers as Architects of Transformation: The Change Process of an Elementary-School Teacher in a Practitioner Research Group

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Teachers as Architects of Transformation: The Change Process of an Elementary-School Teacher in a Practitioner Research Group

Article excerpt

This process of meeting with you has opened me to a different side of teaching. I've taken on a leadership role at school and as a result they [teachers] see me differently because I'm presenting at conferences. I'm stepping out of the teacher box. It's opened my eyes to a lot of things that I wouldn't have seen before. This year my research taught me more about the people I teach with. I learned that I can't change the world. I can't even change 13 teachers. I can introduce it [writing strategies], support them, and then let it go. (Teacher research group meeting, March 2009)

Lasting change in teacher practice is difficult because it expects that teachers challenge and reconstruct deeply embedded practices and beliefs (Borko & Putnam, 1996; Pennington, 2005). For Grace, a third-grade teacher, practitioner research with the Triad Teacher Researchers (TTR) provided a space for her to change beliefs and practices about being a teacher. As stated above, Grace said that the group helped her to step outside the teacher box and take on a leadership position in staff development about writing at her school. In the TTR group, she implemented a year-long study that examined how to execute homegrown (i.e., teacher driven) professional development. This new position changed how she perceived her staff, how they perceived her, and writing instruction at her school.

As a member and facilitator of this practitioner researcher group, I was intrigued by Grace's change process as it related to both becoming a teacher leader and improving writing instruction. For Grace, the opportunity to be a teacher leader occurred when her principal approached her about leading staff development on writing instruction. Although passionate about writing and eager to share her new knowledge from an M.A. degree in literacy, Grace initially resisted the idea of situating herself as a leader because she was fearful of the consequences. She spent several practitioner researcher group meetings imagining and contemplating what that new position might mean for her. Specifically, she asked herself, "How will I behave differently? How will people perceive me differently?"

Despite her hesitancy, Grace viewed this new leadership position as a challenge to improve teaching and learning. Every year she and several other members of the group engaged in research projects that purposefully pushed them outside their "teacher box" and into unknown territories with the goal of student success. After working with teachers in this group, I wondered why educators approached current professional development from the perspective that teachers either needed to be changed or resisted change. Recently, Cochran-Smith and Lytle (2009) proposed that practitioners must be central to the "goal of transforming teaching, learning, leading, and schooling" (p. 119). In order to situate practitioners in that way, educators must view teachers as change agents rather than passive entities who need to be transformed by other professionals. To do this, professional development should be a constructive and supportive space that fosters teachers' drive to improve learning and instruction. Much research has advocated for these spaces to be critical, supportive, and reflective (MacLean & Mohr, 1999; Zeichner, 2002). Less research, however, has examined teachers' change process to better understand what professional spaces foster teachers as they construct their own transformation. To address those issues, this qualitative study examined the following research question: What was the change process of one teacher researcher as she engaged in a year-long practitioner researcher group?

Related Literature

Teacher Change Research

Building on teacher education research that addresses teacher change I focus on three central theorists, Dewey, Schon, and Kegan, because of their focus on professional experience and critical reflection. In Dewey's (1991) philosophy of education and experience, he advocated for educators to engage in methods of intelligent action or teacher inquiry that began with a puzzling situation, led to a generation of questions and formulation of solutions, and ended with an evaluation of possible lines of action. …

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