ERG SES D 10, Workplaces and Education
Teachers have been increasingly being encouraged to be engaged with research. Numerous claims have been made about the beneﬁts that can accrue to teachers when they engage in research (Burns, 2003; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). Many researchers have examined teachers’ conceptions of research and teachers’ research engagement. Allison and Carey (2007) have commented upon the Canadian contexts, Jurasaite-Harbison and Rex (2006) have done the work in the United States, and Borg (2009) has explored the issue cross several countries. However, this line of research has rarely examined how teachers learn to do research, especially in their daily practice within the context of their workplace. The study draws from a larger ethnographic study that explored how a group of EFL teachers in a Chinese university engaged and experienced research activities when research performances had become an important part in the appraisal of their work. We delve specifically into interactions and relationships that manifest teacher learning and their immediate context.
The study is situated broadly following the socio-cultural perspective that views professional learning as contextually situated. The research aims to explore how the workplace creates opportunities and constraints for teachers’ research learning from a network perspective. It is also informed by Wenger (1998)’s conceptualization of learning in the community of practice.
A social network perspective on teachers’ interaction
A social network perspective views an organization as existing “in the interrelationships between activities of individuals”(Hubbard, Mehan, & Stein, 2006, p. 263). It is the interactions among members that construct the culture and structure of an organization. Network theory is principally concerned with the ways in which people are embedded in social relations (Granovetter, 1985) and focuses on the configuration of interdependent relationships between people (Scott, 2000).
A network perspective on teachers’ interaction draws attention to the social structure of a teacher community, including positions and roles of network members, centralization and density of a network, and reciprocity of members (LeCompte, Schensul, Singer, Trotter II, & Cromley, 1999)
Network theory also posits that resources and expertise are embedded within social networks and it is through the social ties that one gains access and can use resources to facilitate certain actions (Lin, 2002).
Access to legitimate participation and economy of meanings
To understand how members learn in a community of practice, Lave and Wenger (1991) postulate that the access to legitimate participation is essential for an individual to become a full participant in social practices. The access refers to a wide range of resources, expertise, information, members and participation that a member can have.
Wenger (1998) further proposes the concept of “economy of meanings” when investigating learning as a process of negation of meanings. The production of a range of meanings is distributed in different locations and each meaning competes “for the definition of certain events, actions, or artifacts”(p. 199). The value of meanings is mediated within the “economy of meanings” where some knowledge and meanings have more currency than others because of the different power relationships between those who produce them.
To summarize, the framework highlights teachers’ situated learning at their workplace of which the culture and structure exist in the interrelationship and interactions among teachers. These social interactions shape and are shaped by power relations which formulate the access to legitimate participation and negotiation of meanings. Based on this theoretical framework, the data collection and analysis are guided by the following questions:
- What is the social structure of and the resources embedded within teachers’ research interactions? What meanings about research exist within these interactions?
- How do teachers negotiate with these meanings in their research activities?
.Allison, D., & Carey, J. (2007). What do university language teachers say about language teaching research? TESL Canada Journal, 24(2), 61. Borg, S. (2009). English Language Teachers' Conceptions of Research. Applied Linguistics, 30(3), 358-388. doi: 10.1093/applin/amp007 Burns, A. (2003). Collaborative action research for English language teachers. New York Cambridge University Press. Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1999). The teacher research movement: A decade later. Educational Researcher, 28(7), 15-25. doi: 10.2307/1176137 Granovetter, M. (1985). Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91(5), 481-510. doi: 10.1002/9780470755679.ch5 Hubbard, L., Mehan, H., & Stein, M. K. (2006). Reform as learning. New York: NY: Routledge. Jurasaite-Harbison, E., & Rex, L. A. (2006). Taking on a researcher's identity: Teacher learning in and through research participation. Linguistics and education, 16(4), 425-454. LeCompte, M. D., Schensul, J. J., Singer, M., Trotter II, R. T., & Cromley, E. K. (1999). Mapping social networks, spatial data, and hidden populations. California: Altamira. Lin, N. (2002). Social capital: a theory of social structure and action. New York: Cambridge University Press. Scott, J. (2000). Social network analysis: A handbook. London: SAGE Publications. Trotter, R. T. (1999). Friends, relatives and relevant others: conducting ethnographic network studies. In M. D. LeCompte, J. J. Schensul, M. Singer, R. T. Trotter II & E. K. Cromley (Eds.), Mapping social networks, spatial data, and hidden populations (pp. 1-49). California: Altamira Press. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. New York: Cambridge university press.
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