Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Interactional Dimensions of Teacher Change: A Case Study of the Evolution of Professional and Personal Relationships

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Interactional Dimensions of Teacher Change: A Case Study of the Evolution of Professional and Personal Relationships

Article excerpt

Introduction

Educators generally acknowledge that relationships are critical to teaching, yet many overlook some of the relationships most influential in their work--those with their teaching colleagues (Shapiro, 2007). Mentoring is often the means through which the new teacher learns about the school community and his or her work within it (Crasborn, Hennissen, Brouwer, Korthagen, & Bergen, 2011; Hansford, Ehrich, & Tennet, 2004; Harrison, Lawson, & Wortley, 2005). When productive, it can be an instrumental relationship that supports the new teacher in development and practice of teaching skills. However, not all mentoring relationships are equal; the selection and pairing of mentor and novice differs across individual schools and districts, and the programs implemented may not result in growth and improvement, regardless of how beneficial the material and guidance may be in theory. In 2010, researchers Musanti and Pence stated that when it comes to collaboration and change, "relationships trumped knowledge" (p. 87), and concluded that there is a need for future research to study the interactional dimensions of teacher change. Seeing this binary as quite plausible, we attempt to respond to that need by investigating the evolution of a relationship between two middle school teachers in a mentoring situation. We attempt to identify the interactional dimensions that may have influenced the change in teaching practice.

The original design and purpose of this study was to determine the strength of an intervention on teacher--student relationships when conducted by a peer rather than a researcher. Although there was noted change in teacher practice, after the first round of analysis, we were so struck by the evolution in the relationship between the two teachers that we wanted to investigate the personal and professional interactions in which the teachers participated that influenced those changes. We therefore had to step back from our original design to take on a more interpretive lens and look at the social interactions between the two teachers described, noted, or reported in the data collected and to try to make sense of their meaning for the relationship and teaching practice. First, we review the types of relationships that are typical in the teaching profession, highlighting the missing elements that make each kind of relationship less effective. Next we present the study, narrowing in on the interactions that fortified and nurtured the relationship between the two teachers. Finally, our discussion attempts to flesh out the influence those interactions, and the resultant relationship, had on the professional changes for both teachers. The research question guiding our study was, What are the interactional aspects or features of teacher professional relationships that may influence teacher change in professional development situations?

Literature Review

Most traditional professional learning communities, mentoring relationships, and teaching seminars are grounded within our understanding of how adults learn and develop professionally based on Bransford, Brown, and Cocking's (1999) How People Learn framework. Harris, Bransford, and Brophy (2002) articulated four overlapping lenses that are frequently used to examine the success of such adult learning interactions: (a) learner centeredness or the attention to the individual in the learning process to ensure that the intended learning is tailored to fit the specific needs of each individual (e.g., Clark, Schoepf, & Hatch, 2017); (b) assessment centeredness, which is the need to measure and assess the learning and growth of the individuals (e.g., Podhajski, Mather, Nathan, & Sammons, 2009); (c) knowledge centeredness, which ensures that the content being taught is rigorous and supported upon empirical evidence (e.g., Mather, Bos, & Babur, 2001; Moats, 1994); and (d) community centeredness or the coming together of professional communities, such as classrooms, schools, and organizations, around a common program, way of thinking, or approach (e. …

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