Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 7, No. 3, November 2011, 263–279
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The current self-study explores the role of collaboration in the development of the authors, three new faculty members, as teacher educator-researchers.
The authors addressed the following questions:
(1) What new forms of collaborative dialogue may support self-study research? and
(2) How does our dialogue act as a “catalyst for new perspectives, new findings and teachings, new action, and new questions – and a renewed sense of unease?”
More specifically, the authors consider the role that protocol-structured examination of artifacts of practice has played in their own professional learning as beginning teacher educator-researchers, as well as what it might offer to others engaging in self-study.
The data included transcripts of six Looking at student work (LASW) meetings, transcripts of two group-process evaluations using a different assessment tool for each meeting, 13 epistolary dialogues written after small-group meetings, and a document review.
The findings reveal protocol-structured dialogue about artifacts of classroom practice.
In addition, the findings also show that the dialogue is formally facilitated, informed by text and common understanding, non-hierarchical, and task-specific.
When group members see themselves as differently organized and self-sustaining, as our group did, the sense of collective identity establishes a more nurturing and inquiry-oriented climate that is conducive to learning.
The authors also report on the manner in which examination of instructional practices led them to important epistemological shifts in their beliefs about the nature of teaching and learning.
The authors claim that seeing the interactions amongst the components of the instructional dynamic promoted transformational shifts in views of teaching and learning.
The authors argue that their collaborative activities evolved into a five-step dialogical model for self-study that supports the development of sustainable collaboration.
Step I: Shared reading
The authors met together to discuss a shared reading on assessment.
The content from this shared reading continually resurfaced in our collaborative work, serving as the dominant technical lens through which we considered our practice.
Step II: Looking at student work
The authors met monthly to examine student work and quickly discovered that this small-group learning activity was a useful way to consider their teaching practices.
They called these meetings Looking at Student Work (LASW) Salon.
was born out of our desire to think more deeply about our shared reading: to systematically examine how we could better apply theory to practice through the use of protocols with artifacts from our practice.
They came to see protocols as a narrative interviewing process that surfaced valuable stories of context, content, students, and themselves at each session.
Step III: Epistolary dialogue
The authors found that each protocol session provided them with new questions, ideas, and perspectives to consider.
They needed a continuing dialogue between meetings, so they decided to write a letter to the group after each session.
Exchanging personal reflections extended their social interaction, increased their awareness of each other’s knowledge and skills, and contributed to their common understanding of the group’s functioning.
Sharing these reflections taught them that significant learning happened in between sessions.
Step IV: Group self-assessment
The authors decided to create opportunities to regularly assess our group process.
The protocols and assessment tools they used for this process encouraged analysis of the nature of their collaboration.
The authors argue that conducting group self-assessments in Step 4 trained their eye away from student work and onto their relationships as group-members.
They re-experienced a sense of shared purpose and came to value their relationships.
Step V: Reviewing all data
The authors say the revisiting all their data (e.g., protocol transcripts, epistolary dialogue, course documents) helped them to consider the documentation of their collaborative work as an aggregate.
They were able to consider what they had learned and to search for patterns in their thinking.
The authors conclude that this model can support and sustain rich, deep and meaningful inquiry because it attends to psychological principles of group development and best practices of professional learning.
Teacher educators of any experience level from any location could select different readings, protocols, student work samples, classroom artifacts, and analytical processes to suit their unique contexts and interests.