Source: Teacher Development, Vol. 19, No. 2, 246–266, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study explores patterns of professional development or non-development among novice and experienced teacher
educators in a professional development community (PDC) focused on the infusion of thinking into college courses.
The participants were 27 teacher educators participating in the PDC.
The data for this research was gathered from three separate yearlong PDCs for teacher educators in Israeli college.
Data collection included several qualitative methods: interviews conducted with the participants at the beginning, middle, and end of the year to track changes over time; field notes about each session and development within the project; monitoring monthly attendance; recordings of the participants' lessons; participants' reflection about the projects; and teaching and student learning artifacts.
A four-stage trajectory model for development was used to track changes in practice among the teacher educators.
The analysis identified three distinct patterns of professional development among teacher educators: one characterizing novice teacher educators and two distinct patterns for the experienced group.
While novices exhibited openness toward learning, the experienced teacher educators were divided into one group that revealed an inquiry stance examining their practice and a second group that claimed expertise and was less willing to consider changing instructional practice.
Although all experienced participants viewed their practice as intuitive, some exhibited reflective inquiry towards their teaching while others sought verification of their current practice. While all participants enthusiastically anticipated a professionally satisfying experience in the PDC, the different expectations held by the three groups (novices and two groups of experienced educators) later affected their involvement or noninvolvement with the goals of pedagogic change.
The novices entered a moratorium stage while the experienced teachers again exhibited two modes of inaction: a re-labeling of current practice or identification of roadblocks to implementation.
Furthermore, novices implemented changes in practice. Experienced teacher educators who expressed an inquiry-based stance began to implement changes in both their practice and their disposition toward thinking education as a result of significant input from colleagues. On the other hand, those who claimed expertise either dropped out or entered a stasis of inaction.
The teacher educators in all three groups exhibited diversity of departmental affiliation, professional characteristics and gender. The findings distinguish the views and behaviors of members of each of the three groups.
These findings point to the strength of seniority as a significant factor contributing to the different views and behaviors of the members of each group. For the experienced teacher educators with similar levels of years of experience, an additional factor was the presence or absence of an inquiry stance towards their practice, an element that further split this group into two subgroups.
The experienced practitioners relied on their tacit knowledge about thinking education to satisfy their need to engage in the teaching of thinking.
The authors conclude that their decision in the PDC to withdraw, drop out, or remain in stasis is quite rational. Their stated goal is to bring their tacit knowledge to the surface and to learn the current lingo for what they already do. Whether they sought confirmation for current practice or new names to legitimize it, they used the PDC to strengthen their professional identity as self-proclaimed experienced experts.
Motivation among participants affected outcome in terms of implementation of change. Experienced teacher educators found that the innovative methods of the PDC challenge their professional self-identity as experts. Novices are motivated by a different professional identity, that of newcomer to academia and teacher education. The novices sought mentoring and support in their implementation as they actively found opportunities to infuse thinking even when their participation in the PDC ended.
Difficulty in promoting change in practice among experienced teacher educators. As expected from their role as teacher educators, all the experienced teachers in this study are considered experts in their discipline. In the first stage of this trajectory model the authors discerned that all experienced teacher educators in this study consider themselves to be intuitive practitioners in thinking education. In the withdrawal phase they found that for one segment of the experienced teachers, their self-perception as intuitive practitioners led them to see themselves as intuitive experts. Their motivation to confirm their own expertise creates dissonance when they are confronted with new and unfamiliar pedagogies. The actual activities of the PDC, including collegial discussions, feedback, and a participatory learning environment, make it difficult to escape confrontation with the new and the unknown. In this situation, intuitive practitioners may perceive themselves once again as novices specifically in the realm of teaching thinking. Becoming aware that there is still much to learn not only threatens the established professional identity, but also challenges basic assumptions which they may have constructed about themselves as expert teacher educators.
The authors conclude that these findings emphasize the importance of teacher educators’ years of experience, attitude towards inquiry, and self-perception of expertise as critical determinants of successful educational reform.