10 SES 09 B, Programmes and Approaches: Learning communities and professional dialogues
This presentation reports on an Action Research study to explore whether participating in a collaborative debriefing of a team teaching experience improves the reflection skills of student teachers. Action Research is often referred to as Practitioner Research (Koshy, 2009) since it is undertaken by practitioners who wish to improve their professional practice or seek to find a solution to a specific problem. As university tutors to we seek to improve our students’ experience on teaching placement through their improved ability to reflect on their practice.
For several years we have organised for our students to visit a local college in order to team teach a series of mathematics lessons. This is undertaken at the beginning of the course of initial teacher education and before the students embark on their first teaching placement. Student feedback has always been very positive regarding this experience and they appreciate it as a gentle introduction to classroom teaching. The team teaching experience is used in our university teaching sessions as a focus for discussion on effective lesson planning, deep learning of mathematical concepts and pedagogical content knowledge, amongst other issues and thus extra advantages can be gained from the experience.
With previous cohorts of students they had collaboratively planned and delivered the lessons and the debriefing took place with all students in a university session. We decided to modify this experience by building in opportunities for group debrief of the team teaching which requires group discussion and reflection, with the aim that each individual would further develop their own reflective skills. Students working collaboratively in small groups to give each other support and feedback could be thought of as a community of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Wenger (2011), gave the definition of a community of practice as a group of people who engage in a process of learning together and described three characteristics.
The Domain (a shared domain of interest e.g. learning the skills needed to become an effective teacher).
The Community, (whose members work collaboratively on joint activities, which requires discussion and sharing of ideas to make these work).
The Practice: members of the community share practices, ideas, resources, ways of working, etc.
Clearly dialogue and discussion is important in making these communities of practice work. A number of studies identify positive developments in student teachers working collaboratively and this is often facilitated by a shared dialogue (eg Nokes et al., 2008, Gardiner and Robinson, 2009). Additionally Baeten and Simons (2014) conclude that team teaching encourages the development of professional skills and emotional support and this is especially important for student teachers who need to develop their confidence and teacher persona in the classroom.
Another model which may be used to describe what we try to achieve with our students is that of the Learning Circle, a form of Learning Community. Le Cornu, (2009) uses this term to describe groups of student teachers who experience the same school placement, although not necessarily team teaching of the same classes, and who are expected to engage in discussion of professional issues. Relationships within a Learning Circle are reciprocal and all members must contribute support to others in the group. Clearly there are challenges for the members of a Learning Circle in that each member needs to be committed to the group and to its endeavours (teaching the college class).
Students participating in Learning Communities generally have also been noted to be more prepared to take risks with teaching styles, perhaps because they know their peers are close by to provide support when needed (Beck and Kosnik, 2001, Nokes et al, 2008, Gardiner and Robinson, 2009).
Baeten, M. and Simons, M., 2014. Student teachers' team teaching: Models, effects, and conditions for implementation. Teaching and Teacher Education, 41, pp.92-110.Dudley, P. (2008) Improving practice and progression through Lesson Study. London: DCSF. Beck, C., and C. Kosnik (2001) From cohort to community in a preservice teacher education program, Teaching and teacher education 17: 925-948 Gardiner, W. and Robinson, K.S., 2009. Paired field placements: A means for collaboration. The New Educator, 5(1), pp.81-94. Koshy, V., 2009. Action research for improving educational practice: A step-by-step guide. Sage. Lave, J. and Wenger, E., 1991. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge university press. Le Cornu, R., (2009) Building resilience in pre-service teachers, Teaching and teacher education 25: 717-723 Nokes, J.D., Bullough, R.V., Egan, W.M., Birrell, J.R. and Hansen, J.M., 2008. The paired-placement of student teachers: An alternative to traditional placements in secondary schools. Teaching and teacher education, 24(8), pp.2168-2177. Thomas, G., 2013. How to do your research project: A guide for students in education and applied social sciences. Sage. Wenger, E., 2011. Communities of practice: A brief introduction.
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