Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Teacher Face-Work in Discussions of Video-Recorded Classroom Practice: Constraining or Catalyzing Opportunities to Learn?

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Teacher Face-Work in Discussions of Video-Recorded Classroom Practice: Constraining or Catalyzing Opportunities to Learn?

Article excerpt

Video-based professional development (PD) has generated much interest and enthusiasm in the past couple of decades (e.g., Beisiegel, Mitchell, & Hill, 2018; Gonzalez, Deal, & Skultety, 2016; Hatch & Grossman, 2009). In particular, video-based learning has the potential to integrate key elements of effective teacher learning: exploring theory in relation to concrete problems of practice; cultivating collaborative critical discussions; and making classroom practice public (Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 1999; Stoll & Louis, 2007).

However, video-based learning also involves risk--the risk of hurting one's own or a colleague's public image, or face (Goffman, 1955). Face threat may undermine teachers' willingness to share problems of practice. Moreover, extensive face-work, which mitigates such threat, may constrain critical discussion and impede learning. To what extent do teachers in video-based discussions orient toward face threats and engage in face-work? How do they manage face concerns, and what is the role of face-work in shaping professional learning opportunities? Although numerous studies have indirectly acknowledged the importance of face issues in video-based teacher learning (e.g., Borko, Jacobs, Eiteljorg, & Pittman, 2008; Zhang, Lundeberg, & Eberhardt, 2011), this article is the first to directly focus on the issue. We investigate the role of face threat and its management in 16 cases of video-based discussions in six school-based teacher teams. The investigation offers a nuanced account of the extent and forms of teacher face management in these discussions, highlighting the need to consider face-work, and both the potential contribution and methodological challenges of its investigation.

The article is organized as follows: First, we present the concept of face as discussed by Goffman (1955), shortly review the ways in which face has been addressed--and overlooked--in the literature on teacher video-based learning, and describe our framework for teacher learning. Second, we present the program from which the data have been taken and our methods of analysis. Next, we present findings about the prevalence of face-work in our data as well as accounts of various face-work strategies. We illuminate the role of face-work in shaping teacher learning opportunities by analyzing in detail one video-based discussion. Finally, we discuss this study's implications for research and practice in video-based teacher professional learning.

Face Threat and Face-Work

Goffman's (1955) theory of face and face-work is based on the premise that people care what others think about them--their public image or face--and that this overarching concern is one of the key building blocks structuring social interaction.

Goffman begins his analysis of face with the idea of a "line": one's expressed position on the situation at hand, including one's "evaluation of the participants, especially himself' (p. 5). So, for example, in a teacher team meeting, a veteran teacher might take the line of the team's resident expert, who has much to offer but little to learn from the conversation. Maintaining this line requires the cooperation of the other teachers and may be difficult to sustain if, for example, the team leader takes the line that all team members can and should learn from the discussion.

Goffman defines face as "the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken," thereby emphasizing perceptions rather than intentions. Face involves unintentional as well as strategic action: "regardless of whether a person intends to take a line, he will find that he has done so in effect" (p. 5). Likewise, participants in the interaction interpret and monitor one another's line (the line they assume has been taken) and collaborate to protect, repair, and otherwise preserve them. So, to continue the above example, other teachers on the team may act with deference to the veteran teacher, regardless of what they think of her, to prevent loss of face. …

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