10 SES 13 F, Research on Teacher Educators
This paper discusses the concept of learning community (Chocran-Smith & Lytle, 1993) and how it defines, modifies and structures the model of teacher training in a School of Education (Portugal). The increasing desire to improve the quality of student learning led a group of teachers to various pedagogical experiences that converged in both intervention and research project called School Without Walls. The teaching work and the community’s activity and development process represent a significant part of the pedagogical discussion of the teachers involved in the project.
Given the increasingly complex challenges in learning processes, it becomes evident the need for schools to take a more proactive stance in supporting their students. To maximize the effect of the adopted strategies, especially transdisciplinary ones, it is intended that students become the authors of their own learning process which results in a change of practices in the schools they will be working. Then, they can give continuity to what they learn by doing in a pedagogical isomorphism process (Niza, 2009). To this end, Schools of Education need their teachers to develop a set of didactic skills that are essential to positively impact their students.
It is important that every school asks itself: (i) What do we want students to learn? (ii) How do we know the students have learned? (iii) How do we respond to the difficulties a student presents in content consolidation? (iv) How to enhance the knowledge that students possess?
It is in answering these questions that we find the gap between a school under construction, which aims to use the communication paradigm, and a school that follows the instructional or learning paradigms (Cosme & Trindade, 2010). Identifying common concerns and setting common goals also leads to the ‘learning community’, where teachers come together for training and self-training in cooperation on a regular basis. The ‘learning community’ develops a format of periodic and dynamic meetings including facilitators (or provoking agents), and uses a digital platform Moodle as a support for the developing discussions, adding materials in a repository and the summaries of the meetings.
The cooperative ‘learning community’ model emphasizes a critical approach to learning that results in direct benefits through the sharing of personal practices and further discussion looking for improvement and inter/transdisciplinary work, mapping strategies that ensure the professional growth.
According to Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002) a community is a group of individuals who share the same concern in deepening their knowledge through interaction. This community is geared by a particular interest (a domain) where teachers interact in a climate of trust; by community interests with a great degree of openness to receive the new members, concepts, strategies, products and builds valid knowledge to their professional field (a practice), which are intended to be shared.
This framework allows to train future teachers for cooperative, deliberate and systematic work, giving rise to the construction of knowledge and new practices. One of the privileged instruments used in the project is the individual students’ journals - personal writing tending to become professional writing in which students reflect about the events and the activities or the discussions held during the classes of the curricular units involved in the project. The journals give important data to understand how the students are evolving in terms of pedagogic knowledge construction and professional skills development.
The now existing community development process will dictate its future, contributing to a school with more sense and meaning, closer to the educational community and pedagogical isomorphism.
In this research we chose to use grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 2006), a method that develop theory which is grounded in data gathered from different sources and analysed in a systematic way. The data we could analyse so far were collected mainly from students’ journals and from the observation of the learning environment looking to the way people relate to each other and build their own networks. Research using Grounded Theory develops in cycles of analysis allowing theory to emerge: key issues emerge from data; categories emerge from key issues; theory emerges from categories. At this point, key issues are just coming up and categories start to emerge, allowing the ‘learning community’ to evaluate their own work and to redefine the individual and common strategies.
As part of a ‘learning community’ of teachers who act in teacher education courses, we could only tell about how it transformed our own way of being a teacher. In the course of the community development it’s clear that the knowledge created, shared, organized and reviewed within, tends to become an organic content, not crystallized in time and space, as it can be revisited and discussed periodically. But we feel it would be important to understand how it affects the students and change their ways of looking to their personal learning projects as well as their future professional attitude as teachers by their own. So, we expect to gather enough evidences to show how ‘learning communities’ can be a relevant way to work in teacher education. It becomes even more crucial when it is recognized that the knowledge produced from shared learning is vital, as evidenced in the texts retrieved from the students’ journals. The ‘learning community’ becomes an identity space. It is not a teaching team, gathered in a certain space limited in time, but rather a space where a sense of identity is built up with/by all of its members. It is a space of citizenship, democracy and knowledge construction that will raise the educational project of a teacher education school.
Cochran-Smith, M. & Lytle, S. L. (1993). Inside/outside : teacher research and knowledge. Columbia: Teachers College Press. Cosme, A., & Trindade, R. (2010). Educar e aprender na escola. Gaia: Fund. Manuel Leão. Glaser & Strauss (2006). The discovery of grounded theory. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction. Niza, S. (2009). Contextos cooperativos e aprendizagem profissional: A formação no Movimento da Escola Moderna. In J. Formosinho (Coord.). Formação de professores - Aprendizagem profissional e ação docente (345-362). Porto: Porto Editora. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press. Wenger, E., McDermott, R. A., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Boston: Harvard Business Press.
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